- His threat to democracy is nothing to laugh at.
PARIS — Think of postwar European institutions as an elaborate shield against fascism. The European Union diluting nationalist identity; the welfare state cushioning the social divisions dictators may exploit; NATO transforming the United States into a European power and the ultimate protector of democracy against totalitarian ideologies.
This was Europe’s collective response to its double suicide in the first half of the 20th century. It was not just Germany that had to resurrect itself from the rubble of “zero hour” in 1945, but the whole continent. Europeans owed it to the myriad corpses beneath their every step to build societies and institutions that were fascism-proof.
No wonder President Trump, whose dictatorial inclinations are as hard to suppress as Dr. Strangelove’s Nazi salute, hates these European institutions so much. His itch is to undermine, or even destroy, them. “I’m a nationalist,” he once said. Yes, he is — flags, military flyovers, walls, monuments and all, in exaltation of “the greatest, most exceptional and most virtuous nation in the history of the world,” as he put it on July 4.
Since arriving in France, I’ve heard a couple of French people describe Trump as “funny.” For Europeans, the novelty of America’s showman has worn off. He’s a loudmouth. He’s a fool. These observations have emerged from societies that have settled their painful scores with history and found a middling security. The United States, however, has not. In fact, I think Trump has just entered the most dangerous phase of his presidency.