The world is alternately amused and alarmed at Donald Trump’s rise to political prominence in the United States.
One of the best analyses of what Mr Trump is doing to Brand America comes from a German political theorist Yascha Mounk, who is currently at Harvard. Vox wrote a rather good piece on it.
Mr Mounk recently explained in an article for a German newspaper that Mr Trump seemed so utterly the “typically American rogue” he might almost be a pitch-perfect product dreamt up by “a communist propaganda ministry” in concert with “a gifted cartoonist”.
Mr Trump, wrote Mr Mounk, “embodies the wealthy, boorish philistine, from his self-important attitude to the way his hair is folded this way and that, and someone for whom nothing is sacred — other than money, bosoms, success and power.”
For Germans, Mr Trump is the “symptom of a distinctly American disease…voters so openly motivated by greed, show(ing) so little concern for less-privileged fellow citizens and so politically ignorant.”
He is, let’s face it, absolutely right. As Mr Mounk says, Donald Trump seems to fit the stereotype of the ugly American – loud, privileged, crass, threatening.
That’s not just for Germans. The stereotype exists in many parts of the world. At the weekend, I heard from a charming Nigerian-American who is currently living in the UK that it was a stretch to adjust to British views of Americans. They were patronizing to her, she said, indicating that she must surely be uncultured and unaware of the more subtle refinements of civilization – books, ideas, the arts, manners.
In India, Americans are thought to have money but only the British have class. And good taste.
Eleven years ago, a Pew survey of 16 nations found that most people thought Americans were “greedy” and “violent.”
Just to be clear though, non-Americans don’t dislike Americans per se, but they’re always pleasantly surprised when the stereotype is disproved.
Donald Trump, however, seems to exemplify the stereotype. It’s not just his appearance. It’s his proposed plans for governance as well.
Brand America is weakened every time Mr Trump opens his mouth.