Illustration by Joaquin Kunkel

Global Response to the Election of Donald Trump

What did the governments of the world have to say about this shocking result?

Nov 26, 2016

Nov. 9 was a strange day. I woke up to the news that Donald Trump was leading in the U.S. elections. Obviously, it had to be because of the way in which the individual states were counted, and not because the majority of the people actually wanted Trump to become president. I headed to the dining hall and then to class, where everyone was erratically refreshing their phones as more and more states went red. The news fully struck me when my professor confirmed it: Donald Trump, the President-elect of the United States of America.
As the day progressed I kept thinking about what happened. People chose a person who, as Seth Meyers so eloquently put it, is known for making many contentious and controversial statements, including but not limited to calling Mexicans rapists, bragging about committing sexual assault, claiming that global warming was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and mocking a disabled reporter.
I was quite upset, to say the least. But I also wanted to know what everyone else was thinking. I knew my friends shared similar sentiments, just like my professors and my dad — but what about world leaders? What did the governments of the world have to say about this shocking result?
The reactions were compelling indeed. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said “Mexico and the U.S. are friends … who … will continue to strengthen their bonds of cooperation and mutual respect.”
I couldn’t help but think — mutual respect? Trump called the people of Mexico rapists and, throughout his campaign, constantly berated them. I was amazed that the leader of a country could accept such criticism and not issue some kind of warning.
As an Australian, I wondered what our Prime Minister had to say. I hoped that he would offer a different perspective on the victory — one that didn’t accept a racist in the White House. I was, yet again, quickly disappointed. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his country would work “as closely as ever” with the U.S. under Trump’s new administration.
This was another example of global leaders simply accepting what had happened, like a pat on the back for Mr. Trump. The rest of the world seemed to offer the same opinion. Every leader congratulated Trump as if nothing had changed. There were of course different ways of saying it — some, like France, offered a more skeptical approval response. French president François Hollande said that Trump’s win, “Opens up a period of uncertainty [...that] must be faced with lucidity and clarity”.
Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel won my utmost respect with her handling of Trump’s victory. Merkel, while being subtle, also took a dig at Trump when she addressed the outcome of the election in a statement released shortly afterwards. She held strong Germany's foreign policy but at the same time issued a warning. Certainly, Germany is allies with the U.S. — but, as Merkel puts it, “On the basis of these values,” which include, “democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for human dignity irrespective of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political conviction.”
She knows that Trump doesn't carry the same values, so she will wait and see what this unpredictable president-elect will do. The reason I appreciate her statement so much is because it was the only obvious challenge to the status quo. It is acknowledging what a Trump presidency might mean for the world and saying that Germany won’t simply accept what has happened.
The question still remains, however, of why global leaders other than Merkel responded with such weak statements. By that, I don’t mean that congratulating the president-elect was weak. My point is that no one really acknowledged the potential danger with Trump. No one said that they won't accept Trump’s aggression, racism, sexism, etc. As for why that was so — in a global economy, that might well be a difficult stance to take. U.S. relations with several countries have taken years to develop. It's true that presidents come and go, but countries hope to keep the relations that they have built relatively friendly. So yes, it is difficult to take a stand, but I just thought more of us would. I really thought the Trump presidency would change the status quo entirely, and that several nations weren't going to have it.
I was wrong. And perhaps there's not much for me to do about it other than write this article. I hope that those reading this, however, recognize what my argument is and take a look at their leaders to see what they've said. Discussion is the only way to move forward.
My final thought on this matter is that we should never normalize something like Trump’s victory. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve heard people say that the situation is not that bad after all. Human beings have this uncanny ability to be optimistic in the face of great danger. It’s wonderful for people to be able to look at the bright side when nothing's going right. What I never want to see, however, is optimism turning into passive acceptance. What if, one year from today, racism is accepted as a part of our daily lives? We would be undoing nearly 100 years of civilization. We cannot back down and must always remember to defend those who need help. The first step in dealing with any problem is recognizing that there is one.
Taj Chapman is a staff writer. Email him at
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