After a long-winded, divisive campaign, the reactions from world leaders to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, ranged from enthusiastic congratulations, diplomatic courtesy and outright disapproval. The election has caused both hope and fear in America and brought divisions in society to the forefront. These divisions in values were revealed around the world. Pro-Brexit, far-right British politicians, like Nigel Farage, have been congratulatory of Trump whereas left wing politicians have generally voiced their concerns. The reactions of the far right reveal the influence of a transnational far-right movement. Whereas the reactions of the left reveal a fear that the racist, sexist, xenophobic rhetoric of Trumps’ campaign will become reality.
The presidential race revealed a deep-seeded division among the American public. For Trump supporters, the election result posed an opportunity to welcome in a new, prosperous age for America. For Clinton-supporters, the result provoked fear and anger for an America in regression, abandoning the values of liberty and tolerance. President Obama called for national unity in a speech after the election. He stated that ultimately ‘we all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy.’
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan congratulated Trump and called his victory, ‘the most incredible political feat I have seen in my lifetime.’ Conversely, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders condemned the President-elect for his bigotry and fearful rhetoric. ‘I am very worried that a President Trump may take us back to where we were before, and we in the progressive community are not going to allow that to happen. We have travelled too far to descend back into racism and sexism.’
Interim leader of UKIP Nigel Farage, arguably one of the most openly involved foreign leaders in Donald Trump’s campaign, voiced his enthusiasm and congratulated the President-elect. The pair has become quite close since Brexit – a referendum, which Farage strongly supported, that voted for the departure of the UK from the EU. In June, Trump visited the UK and called Brexit a ‘great thing.’ The next month, Farage joined Trump at a campaign rally in Mississippi where he was introduced as ‘Mr. Brexit’. Farage is the first British politician to meet with Trump, ‘upending the diplomatic order to the embarrassment of the UK’s ruling Conservative Party.’ This comes at a time when the UK wants to establish strong trade ties with the US while preparing to depart from the EU. Farage offered to be a liaison between Theresa May’s government and Donald Trump. Downing Street has denied that Farage could act as a go-between.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who has ‘been careful throughout the presidential election campaign not to express a preference for either candidate,’ congratulated Donald Trump during a phone call the morning after the election. According to reports, the President-elect made references to the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher ‘as a hopeful aim for their ties.’ A majority of comments from British politicians are mostly optimistic or diplomatic. From an economic standpoint, many are optimistic about rebuilding a strong trade relationship. As Lord Marland, David Cameron’s former trade envoy stated in an interview, US-UK trade relations have not been as strong as they have in the past, due to the ‘onslaught they [America] had against our banks and against BP’. Now is an opportunity to rebuild relations, which is critical at a time when Britain prepares to leave the European single market.
Contrary to the English response, Nicola Sturgeon congratulated the President-elect, but did not hide her disappointment with the result. ‘It is normal in any election for those on the losing side to feel disappointment, but today, many in America and across the world, will also feel a real sense of anxiety.’ Like Senator Sanders, Sturgeon made the point to progressives ‘to speak up loudly and clearly for the values we hold dear.’ When she was criticised for voicing her disappointment, Sturgeon responded in a session of Parliament that she found many of Donald Trump’s remarks throughout the campaign ‘deeply abhorrent’ and that she is ‘not prepared to be a politician that maintains a diplomatic silence in the face of attitudes of racism, sexism, misogyny or intolerance of any kind.’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s message to Trump set conditions for cooperation between their two countries. ‘Germany and American are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views. … I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.’ Merkel’s vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, stated that: ‘Trump is a warning to us […] He is the harbinger of a new authoritarian and chauvinistic international movement.’ With Germany’s history of fascism, the election of Trump resonates with the German public and its leaders.
French President François Hollande’s reaction revealed his longstanding criticism of Donald Trump, saying that Trump’s electoral victory ‘opens a period of uncertainty.’ On the contrary, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right anti-immigrant, anti-EU Le Front National did not hesitate to congratulate Trump tweeting, ‘Congratulations to the new president of the United States Donald Trump and to the free American people!’ With France’s own presidential election occurring this spring, many are worried about Le Pen’s chances of winning. Although polls reveal it is currently unlikely, there has been a pattern of populist victories this past year; first with Brexit and second with Trump. Many are worried that a Le Pen victory could follow. As Marine Le-Pen’s father and founder of Le Front National, Jean-Marie Le-Pen tweeted: ‘Today the United States, tomorrow France.’
Donald Trump’s victory revealed deep divisions in American society. The election results even reverberated across the globe, revealing divisions internationally. While it is the role of world leaders to be diplomatic, many showed their disappointment or their enthusiasm for Trump’s victory. While some like May prefer to focus on the opportunities of trade partnership and security alliances, others like Merkel and Sturgeon, are not willing to forget the disparaging remarks made throughout Trump’s campaign. As Trump has not officially begun his term it is logical to remain hopeful and optimistic about the future of his term. Despite this optimism, many have voiced the importance to hold on to progressive values. As for the challenges ahead, only time will tell.