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Universidad de Navarra

“Populism won’t win in France or in Germany”

Former U.S. Senator Mel Martínez said that the populist wave in the United States and Europe “feeds on itself”

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22/03/17 12:19

“Populism in the United States and Europe feeds on itself”, said former U.S. Senator Mel Martínez at the University. “Trump was brilliant at anticipating the populist wave that seems so obvious to us now”, said Martínez, who highlighted Trump's role in “identifying and building up that wave until it influenced Europe”.

But Martínez said that Europe would not ultimately succumb to populism. “This is just a moment in time and it will pass. As we saw in the Dutch election, populism did not win. It won’t happen in France or in Germany”.

In his visit to the University, the former U.S. Senator spoke to students in the Schools of Law, Economics and Business Administration, and Communication about the scope of the new American administration in national and international scenarios, as well as the politics of Donald Trump, the new U.S. President.

Mel Martínez discussed the similarities between Trump voters and those who voted in favour of Brexit in the United Kingdom, given that both share “a concern for immigration, their average age is over 65, and they have no university studies”. He went on to say that “Trump has a real problem with millennial and women voters”. According to data from the Pew Research Center,28% of young people born between 1990 and 2000 and 33% of women voted for Trump. However, he added, “people’s impression of Trump is increasing favourably”.

“He broke the political rules in the electoral campaign and, now that he’s in power, he’s breaking the rules about communication, national security, staff members and diplomacy”, said Martínez, “and that’s why he’s constantly in the media”. Trump’s appearances in the media have earned him an estimated $2 billion in free advertising, despite his hostility towards the media. “Trump was aware of many people’s negative perception of the press and used that dissatisfaction to develop his public personality even more”.

The former Senator from Florida analysed the voting in the most recent U.S. presidential election, which Donald Trump won with 306 electoral votes compared to Hillary Clinton’s 232. He said that the government system “is designed to ensure the executive branch does not acquire too much power. This is done through checks from the judicial and legislative branches”.

Relations with other countries

Martínez also discussed international diplomatic relations with Russia, Germany and Mexico. He said that, although current relations with some countries “may be complicated, they will get better”.

On the first House Intelligence Committee hearing about Russia’s interference in the U.S. Election that will be held this week, the former Senator denounced Russia's attempt to “disrupt American democracy”. He said that for both Republicans and Democrats it represents “a serious offence that deserves a strong reaction from the United States”. When asked about Trump’s possible involvement, Martínez said, “It’s still early”, but if such collaboration were proven, “it could potentially become a new Watergate”.

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