Both Americans and Europeans have trouble identifying President Donald Trump’s political doctrine because it doesn’t fit well into the local political landscape. Trump’s ideology is a hybrid between American and European traditions. From the American side, he has capitalism, guns, and religion. From Europe, he has borrowed traditional labor policies, which many in America might view as left-wing.
Guns, God, and Capitalism
European countries are mostly secular, and they have no First and Second Amendments. Although capitalism was born in Europe, the intellectual elite was never happy about it and managed to subvert it over time.
Therefore, Europeans who look at the Republican Party’s focus on guns, anti-abortion, capitalism, and reference to God in public decorum find nothing comparable in European politics. It is easy for them to dismiss this aspect of Trump’s Republican Party as “far-right.”
The Working Rich
However, Trump has adopted certain aspects of social democratic labor parties in Europe. Trump calls this concern for the “ordinary American” and “the middle class.” In Europe, these are called the laborers or the working class.
Until the 1960s, the Democratic Party marketed itself as the defender of “the little guy,” while Republicans were viewed as defenders of the rich. Democrats radically departed from this strategy with increased immigration and shifted toward identity politics and ethnic tribalism. By the time Trump came onto the scene, the Democrats had thrown the middle class under the bus. The Republicans were still the party of open borders, trade with China, and a free pass for global corporations.
However, the voting base had changed. Democrats increasingly had become the party of both the poor and the ultra-rich. Trump appealed to the broad majority of people in the middle who could be labeled “the working rich”: people who are prosperous but have to work for a living.
These make up the working class of America.
European labor unions are not like their American counterparts. Strikes are rarely about wages. Instead, during the 1990s and 2000s, labor unions were mainly concerned with protecting against cheap labor from developing nations. In Europe, this is called “social dumping.”
In Trump’s language, protection against cheap foreign labor translates to “build the wall.” He says that he wants legal, controlled immigration because illegal migrants push down the wages of unskilled, low-earning Americans. The words and the policies are slightly different, but the goals are the same: to protect the worker.
A Level Playing Field
European labor unions have also equally focused on combatting outsourcing to developing nations, especially China. They have not complained about global trade as such but have demanded a level playing field. They have noted that third-world countries’ environmental and labor standards are much lower, thereby giving polluting, corrupt, oppressive virtual slaveowners an unfair advantage over Western workers.
Just like Trump, they are not against competition, but the game must be fair.
The American Labor Party
Finally, just like traditional European labor parties, Trump incessantly talks about jobs rather than welfare. A typical labor party slogan in Europe is “work for everyone.” The idea is that prosperity, empowerment, and meaning is achieved through work. By combining these elements with capitalism and traditional conservatism, Trump has created a third party alternative: an American labor party.
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