The news that Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States has left many shocked and outraged with Twitter hashtags such as #NotMyPresident starting up and protests in 25 US cities, including New York. Those who have witnessed the recent rise of rape culture, unchecked male entitlement and media fueled racism and Islamaphobia however, are not so much shocked, as devastated at the direction in which society seems to be heading. Here at GEA, our executive members work within fields that research rape culture, gendered violence, sexism and racism and, much like the despair felt when Brexit happened in the UK, have watched the election of Trump with a sense of foreboding and fear of what is to come. Several of our executive committee have put into words what this election result means for them and we start with Andrea Peto, a professor in the Department of Gender Studies at the Central European University whose research areas include European Comparative social and gender history, gender and politics, women’s movements, qualitative methods, oral history and the Holocaust.
Andrea Peto and Weronika Grzebalska: Trump a boost for illiberial regimes in Europe
For Central Eastern Europe, Trump’s victory is a green light for the consolidation of illiberal majoritarian regimes which promise people a sense of existential security at the cost of individual freedoms, minority rights and checks and balances.
Trump’s election will definitely strengthen the neo-conservative, fundamentalist networks and shift the global political balance in the direction of familialism, nationalism and further away from human rights and an open society. Weak states such as Poland and Hungary in which democratic transition privileged free market measures over social and cultural ones are all the more vulnerable to the loss of a strong, democratic, pro-human rights voice.
Clinton’s defeat might also serve as a wake up call to the last of the hard-headed supporters of the neoliberal status quo in Central and Eastern Europe. Those who still believe illiberal turns in Poland and Hungary are just a local, provisional backlash, who think it is still possible to go back to the political solutions from the pre-illiberal era will have to rethink their position.
With the victory of Trump, human rights supporters are pushed into a doubly difficult situation. Not only do they have to protect the little provisions there are left and create a space of resistance but also at the same time reformulate their message. This message should be different from going back to the pre-Trump era, which has been the prison of technocratic, quasi-rational policy discourse for way too long. Instead it should revive great ideologies and offer an equally captivating political vision capable of re-enchanting voters.