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The Opinion Pages | CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER

America Hasn’t Gone Crazy. It’s Just
More Like Europe.
Ivan Krastev APRIL 14, 2016

Sofia, Bulgaria — FOR most Europeans these days, traveling to America is like
landing on Mars. Even the most sophisticated political analysts can’t make head
or tail of what is happening in the country. They are offended by the rise of
Donald J. Trump, puzzled by Bernie Sanders’s democratic socialist appeal to
young American voters, and confused by President Obama’s unsentimental,
risk-averse foreign policy that decided against punishing President Bashar
al-Assad of Syria for crossing Mr. Obama’s own red line on chemical weapons.

I stand in marked contrast to my fellow Europeans’ mystification. As I
witness the anger of the middle class, the arrogance of the unloved elites, the
shared disbelief in the effectiveness of military power and the pervasive fear of
the future — perhaps for the first time, I feel I understand exactly what is going
on in America.

Take Mr. Trump’s insurgency, built on barking out the basest and craziest
comments. His success, making even Ted Cruz look mainstream, baffles many in
the United States and abroad, who are used to seeing American politicians walk a
careful line between red-meat populism and mainstream respectability. The
center, until now, has always held.

But Mr. Trump would be at home in Europe. Mainstream parties barely get
half the vote in national elections. What wins instead are the visceral appeals of
political resentment. When I enter a cafe here in Sofia or in Warsaw or
Amsterdam, I hear groups of women and men calling for foreigners to be bused

1 of 3 15.4.2016. 10:01

. Berlusconi is secretly coaching him from the sidelines. it’s Americans themselves. and great-grandparents’) class war. Most of the young Europeans I know view capitalism as a rigged and unfair system.. and often dream out loud of revolution (though.America Hasn’t Gone Crazy. despite the university degrees they may have earned.” and that has surprised and frightened America’s allies in Europe. It’s Just More Like Europe. Perhaps we are all on Saturn together. almost half of the young people are unemployed. He says he has thrown out the “Washington playbook. real socialism — and not just German-style.. Americans are no longer from Mars. In countries like Greece. 2 of 3 15.4. They speak on behalf of majorities who see themselves menaced by the loss of their political power and the rapid diminution of their economic prosperity. out of the country. of a nonviolent kind). They judge globalization as an unmitigated disaster and loathe the idea of free trade.com/2016/04/15/opinion/america-hasnt-gone-crazy. neo-liberal “social democracy” — is hardly a dirty word.The New Y. and Europeans are no longer from Venus. 10:01 . more European. trying to keep the dirty rabble from sullying our beautiful rings. has been the sole organizing principle of Europeans’ foreign policy for years now. to them. Obama’s sharp turn to foreign policy realism perplexes me. Obama’s infamous policy dictum. his lack of charisma is one more sign of his integrity and authenticity. “Don’t do stupid” things. Spain and Portugal.. http://www. thankfully. Bernie Sanders should be familiar to Europeans as well. They feel cheated by the demographic revolution that is underway around the world — one that threatens to make them minorities in their own countries. Not even Mr. Mr. Muslims to be barred from coming in and walls to be erected on our borders.. They see themselves as the biggest losers of the status quo. Sanders is no Jean Jaurès or Leon Trotsky — I find him about as exciting as a cucumber sandwich — for many of the new radicals in America and Europe. For them the war between generations is the new version of their parents’ (and grandparents’. Mr. If anyone is failing to “get” America these days.nytimes.2016. And while Mr. He’s simply making explicit something that we’ve known a long time — that America is becoming more cautious in its foreign policy. Trump’s crude directness and his unrivaled skill in manipulating the news media so strongly resemble the political style of the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi that I sometimes wonder whether Mr.

It’s Just More Like Europe. the land of common sense. Americans prided themselves on the fact that “It can’t happen here” — namely. They don’t see that their country is rapidly becoming “normal. but that elects a black man president. http://www.nytimes. We are already missing it.com/2016/04/15/opinion/america-hasnt-gone-crazy. but also its promises.America Hasn’t Gone Crazy.. a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and a contributing opinion writer.” unable to rely on infinite.4.. when the “normalization” of America unfolds before our eyes. but to be one. “It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies. but not in America. I have the feeling that many Europeans are getting nostalgic for the America we never really understood. European socialism and European fascism.” the American historian Richard Hofstadter once said. . but that was once passionate to change it.. This is the America that keeps so many of its young black people in prison. widely shared economic growth and splendid geopolitical isolation. An America with its blemishes. But after the last years of extreme polarization and dysfunctional governance. but also protects the rights of immigrants. An America that doesn’t simply try to order the world. In comparing themselves with Europe. 10:01 . It viewed itself as immune to the pathologies of democracy: Crowds can go crazy in any other place in the world. © 2016 The New York Times Company 3 of 3 15. An America that was more ambitious.2016. Ivan Krastev is the chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies.The New Y. are Americans still convinced that their democracy cannot be upended? Now.. An America that may still countenance the death penalty. and less ambivalent.