How did Trump win? By taking lessons from East European leaders?

Another Brexit moment where several elites and polls got a hiding from people. The outcome was even worse for elite economists who appealed to public against Trump’s bad economic policies, but to no avail.

There will be several pieces in future looking at reasons for the unexpected win. This one by Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg provides some initial food for thought.  He says Trump mixed populism with anti-corruption pitch, something which has shown success across Europe (even India actually):

Trump probably won because, by the end of his campaign, he wasn’t just a nationalist populist, like the kind that has recently achieved increasing success in Europe, without, however, winning commanding heights. He was also an anti-corruption crusader. He was smart to pick up on the opportunity given to him by WikiLeaks, which tweeted on Tuesday night, “The American people don’t like corruption.”

Anti-corruption parties saw major electoral success in Central and Eastern Europe, joining or leading governing coalitions in a number of countries — Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Bulgaria — in the 2000s. Far from all of them, however, survived their second, not to mention their third election. The most successful of them — Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) — runs the country today because it has artfully combined an anti-corruption agenda with nationalist populism.

This combination has tempted many post-Soviet politicians, too. Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili honed it after his country’s 2003 “Rose Revolution,” and then, when he was swept out of power after significantly changing his country, he brought it with him to Ukraine. This week, he resigned as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region to build a strong party and fight for an early parliamentary election. He announced his resignation in a Trump-like self-pitying, vindictive speech. He blamed corruption in President Petro Poroshenko’s administration and cabinet for his failure to reform customs and public services in the region. He said the president personally supported corrupt “criminal clans” in Odessa, and he vowed to “begin a new stage of the struggle.”


By winning a presidential election with a distinctly Eastern European recipe, Trump has shown that there’s not that much difference between, say, Americans and Poles or Americans and Georgians. It’s as easy to appeal to their national pride, tying it in with their economic discomfort, and their understanding of official corruption is quite similar. 

Obviously elites thought US is different and cannot be compared to countries elsewhere:

The U.S. is never compared to the young democracies of Central and Eastern Europe because the same arrogant U.S. elite that failed so miserably this year has been so proud of the U.S. political tradition. As the tradition collapsed, some members of the pundit class have had to admit they didn’t really understand the country. “America, we hardly knew ye,” economist Paul Krugman tweeted. “Certainly I misjudged the country.”

It’s time to give up the hubris. The U.S. is a country like many others in most important respects. Everything that can happen elsewhere can happen here. Trump has just happened.

Those times when despite differences there seems to be some similarities as well.. Just that we are not looking..

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