How Does the World See Donald Trump?

A March 2016 editorial in one of China’s state-owned newspapers used the rise of Donald Trump in America as an example of the inherent failures in democracy. Much of American media seems obsessed about Trump’s run for the White House and the rest of the world is also keeping a close eye on the coverage of the 2016 presidential election.

So, just how does the world see Donald Trump?

Well, for many non-Americans, Trump embodies a popular stereotype of the United States as viewed from abroad. Many believe he personifies qualities like vulgarity, ignorance, superficiality, materialism, and narcissism. According to a Politico interview with a sociologist, Trump is essentially a candidate that people love to hate, who makes other countries feel good about not being American. In fact, he seems to be so widely reviled that half a million residents of the United Kingdom signed a petition attempting to ban him from their country.

Even Harry Potter author, JK Rowling compared Trump to Lord Voldemort in a tweet. The candidate is also frequently compared with unpopular regional far right politicians, for example, France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, or Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. The former National Front leader, Le Pen, actually endorsed Trump, who shares nationalist views against immigration. At the same time, despite earning the ire of most world leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said of the candidate that he is a “brilliant and talented person”, and that “he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race”.

And while many Europeans are terrified of a Trump Presidency, many people in Latin America are furious. Early in his campaign, Trump described Mexicans as being “rapists” and criminals. Mexican officials responded, calling the comments profoundly ignorant, and social media in the country ridiculed him as “attention seeking”.

In some countries, Trump is even used as an insult. When the Venezuelan president moved to close the country’s borders, he was ridiculed as being too Trump-like, with internet memes showing the President with Trump’s trademark hairstyle.

But although Europeans are frightful, and Latin Americans are insulted, perhaps the most worrisome aspect of Trump’s perception abroad is in the Middle East. One security expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies told Newsweek that Trump’s statements work to validate groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. By painting the US as anti-Muslim, Trump creates a black and white, us vs them a narrative that appeals directly to potential terror recruits.

The security expert compared violent Islamic extremism with Trump’s populist, partisan political extremism. As controversial as Trump’s statements are, he is still receiving support in the US, as shown by his success in the primary elections. And with just a few months until the general election, Trump’s popularity has many worried about the effects of a Trump presidency. But across the board, one thing seems clear: with the exception of far right European groups, President Vladimir Putin, and a growing proportion of the American public, the rest of the world is not particularly excited to see Donald Trump in the White House.

And while some may be using Donald Trump to challenge the idea of democracy, there’s more at play than meets the eye.

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