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5/10/16

EU-USA: Cult of Personality: How Trump Uses the Playbook of Europe's Far Right - by Emily Cade

For months, pundits dismissed Trump’s candidacy, arguing that once voters started paying attention, his lack of substance would crater his support.

Now that he’s the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, it’s clear the early naysayers sorely miscalculated. The lesson from th

is race: A strong cult of personality can trump ideology. And that’s been proved by generations of demagogues. The support behind Italy’s Benito Mussolini was “more about the leader than...about the party or the ideology,” bypassing or even upending the traditional party structures, says Arfon Rees, a specialist in Soviet and Russian history at the U.K.’s University of Birmingham.

There are other parallels, says Joseph Sassoon, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. When Trump says he’s his own best adviser and has no speechwriters, “this is really a prototype of Saddam or Qaddafi or Nasser...the wanting to control the language of their speeches,” says Sassoon, referencing former leaders of Iraq, Libya and Egypt. An essential component of the cult of personality is it cannot be shared with anyone.”

German philosopher Max Weber coined the term charismatic authority to describe leaders whose power is built on their “exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character,” as opposed to the rule of law or simply brute force.

Many may not regard Trump the candidate in an admirable light, but to his followers, his business success and his personal wealth — which freed him from the unseemly campaign fundraising dance of his primary rivals — make him inviolable. American politicians are “all bought and paid for by somebody,” 62-year-old Trump supporter Nick Glaub said outside the suburban Cincinnati Trump rally.

“The only person that isn’t is that man right there,” said Glaub, gesturing to the community center where the real estate mogul had just spoken.

Trump’s charismatic authority stems from this belief that he is above politics-as-usual, says Roger Eatwell, a politics professor at Britain’s University of Bath. And it goes beyond his reality-TV fame. “Celebrity...tends to be a fairly passing phenomenon, and it doesn’t tend to be a very emotional phenomenon,” Eatwell explains. But Trump’s campaign offers something deeper: “a sense of identification.”

There is, however, one glaring difference between the Republican front-runner and Europe’s right-wing leaders in 2016: Trump’s conspicuous wealth. While he flaunts his billionaire lifestyle, Europe’s populists play up their everyman credentials. Nigel Farage, head of the right-wing U.K. Independence Party, “loves to be photographed in an English pub” having a beer, says Eatwell.

It’s a show of solidarity that’s important on a continent where class remains a salient divide and austerity’s bite is deep. Americans, in contrast, embrace capitalism far more openly and aren’t necessarily turned off by Trump’s gilded excess.

Note EU-Digest: It is interesting to see that many voters in the US and the EU have not learned from the past .....in politics and economics, nationalism has always turned into a disaster when it was applied by politicians in power as a national state policy

Instead, politicians seeking unity and cooperation among political parties and nations have usually succeeded in creating peace and prosperity at home and abroad.

The rise to the top of far-right politicians in Europe and the US  is a guaranteed recipe for political and economic turmoil.

 Cult of Personality: How Trump Uses the Playbook of Europe's Far Right

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