More covfefe: is the world ready for a second Donald Trump presidency?

Republican's re-election would be a 'nightmare' scenario for Europe, Ukraine and the West

Donald Trump spinning a globe on his finger
Hilary Clinton has warned that a second Trump term could mean the end of the US 'as we know it'
(Image credit: Illustrated / Getty Images)

New polling shows Donald Trump leading President Joe Biden, raising the spectre of a second term for the Republican that could have widespread consequences across the globe. 

Trump is facing 91 charges in four criminal cases, has been impeached twice and left his presidential office "under ignominious circumstances after his supporters violently stormed the Capitol, egged on by his claims of a stolen election", said The Hill

And yet recent polling, including those by NBC News, Yahoo News/YouGov and Quinnipiac University, shows Trump ahead of Biden in key battleground states and nationally. 

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While there is no guarantee that Trump will win the Republican nomination for the 2024 election, the US – and the world – is waking up to the possibility of a second Trump presidency.

What the papers said

Hilary Clinton, who lost to Trump in the 2016 presidential election, has little doubt what a second Trump administration would mean for the United States: "I think it would be the end of our country as we know it."

Speaking on the ABC talk show "The View" this week, Clinton warned of historical precedents where world leaders were legitimately elected before terminating free and fair elections. "Hitler was duly elected," said the former secretary of state. "All of a sudden somebody with those tendencies, dictatorial, authoritarian tendencies, would be like, 'OK we're gonna shut this down, we're gonna throw these people in jail.' And they didn't usually telegraph that. Trump is telling us what he intends to do," she added. 

Indeed, the "rising fear among liberals is being stoked by what Trump has publicly said he will do if re-elected", said Ben Wright in The Telegraph. This includes taking a more isolationist "America first" approach and disregarding long-standing alliances.

Closer to home, "the version of Trump that Europe gets would likely be far more unhinged and outrageous than the one they knew", said Politico. Most worryingly for the EU, threats to leave Nato could – this time – be seen through. As could his recent vow to strike a so-called "peace deal" on Ukraine with Russian president Vladimir Putin, which would be done "over the heads of Ukraine and the EU".

And while some in Europe – such as Hungary's far-right leader Victor Orbán – "would love to see such fireworks", for most the dominant sentiments over a Trump return are "dread and anxiety". "Trump is a nightmare," said an anonymous European diplomat speaking to the news site. "This is not something you can really prepare for." 

Europe has several consequential elections looming next year, said Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian. But "none of these European elections will be as consequential for Europe as this American one", he continued. A second Trump presidency is not only a "disaster" for the US, but a "catastrophe for Ukraine, an emergency for Europe and a crisis of the west".

What next?

"Trump, notorious for eschewing the politician's dog whistle in favour of a megaphone, has been characteristically transparent about his intentions in a second term," said David Smith in The Observer.

In March, Trump framed the 2024 election as the "final battle" for America. The Washington Post has reported he is considering using the Justice Department to investigate or prosecute perceived enemies, and has plans to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy the military domestically to prevent protests on his first day in office. 

Axios has also reported on his plan to dismantle the "deep state" by purging potentially thousands of civil servants and appointing ideological loyalists, while The New York Times has said he wants to appoint loyalists to the White House and government agencies in order to expand his presidential power. He has also promised to pardon 6 January insurrectionists should he win a second term.

Such plans would mean the US would resemble an "autocracy", said Martin Wolf in the Financial Times. "This would not be the US we have known", but "more like Viktor Orbán’s Hungary or even Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey", he continued. 

And for the world, the US backing a man and a Republican Party that have "openly repudiated the central norm of liberal democracy would dishearten those who believe in it and encourage despots and their lackeys everywhere", continued Wolf. "It is hard to exaggerate the effect of such a betrayal by the US."

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