When Donald Trump landed in London on July 13, he was greeted by about 250,000 protesters in Trafalgar Square--one of the largest such gatherings in that city since 1 million people turned out of the largest such gatherings in that city since 1 million people turned out against the Iraq War in 2003. Their message--on a sign spoofing Mary Poppins with "Stupid, callous, fragile, racist, narcissistic POTUS," face masks declaring "#trumpstinks," and a giant banner reding, "Build Bridges Not Walls"--Was clear: The American Pesident was not welcome in the United Kingdom.
Opposition to Trump throughout Western Europe is well established, bolstered by his summer trips to Brussels, where he questioned the usefulness of NATO; Helsinki, where he subjugated himself to Russian President Vladimir Putin; and London, where he criticized Prime Minister Theresa Mays plan for exiting the European Union. In 2017, the Pew Research Center found that favorable views of the United States are on the decline in all but one of the thirty-seven surveyed countries; Russia is the odd one out.
And while Trump has shared awkward embraces with May, France's President Emmanuel Macron, and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, the lack of love between these three European leaders and the American one is obvious to all.
Yet such observations mask another trend: the rise of the right across Western Europe. Capitalizing on the Islamophobia and xenophobia spurred by a series of terrorist attacks and the wave of migration that began in 2015, rightwing parties have been gaining ground. The issues they have long focused on--immigration and Euroscepticism--have become more resonant.
In June 2016, a majority of British people voted yes in a referendum asking whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union (E.U.), the goal of hardline Euroscepticism. In April 2017, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far right National Rally (formerly known as the National Front), finished second out of eleven candidates in the first round of the presidential election, progressing to the final round for only the second time in the party's forty-five-year history--a history that is perhaps best defined by the blatant anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine's father.
In September 2017, Germany's Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany became the third-largest party in the country's parliament. Meanwhile, Sweden's far right Democrats this September received the third-largest vote share in the country's election--besting its 2014 tally by almost five points--with a platform based around ending migration and calling for a referendum on leaving the E.U. Other resurgent far right parties include the Netherlands' Party for Freedom, Italy's Northern League, Austria's Freedom Party, and Belgium's Flemish Interest.
What we're missing, then, in this common narrative of Europe's distaste for Trump--referring to both his policies and the man himself--is how well the U.S. President is aligned with the growing forces that make up rightwing populism and nationalism in Western Europe. It is, of course, not a perfect match, but taken as a whole, Trump does not stand out too glaringly against the current political landscape in many European countries.
Max Jewell was about sixteen and living in Portsmouth, on England's southern coast, when he decided...