America makes a lot of questionable decisions, and when we do, the world is quick to call us out on it. For example, remember that time we impeached our president over an extramarital affair and countries lined up to express their amusement over the fact that we'd take such drastic steps over a relatively minor thing?
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Yeah he is!
We drew a similar number of chuckles over our collective decision to elect George W. Bush to a second term, which makes perfect sense. That guy was a total doofus. In fact, with us seemingly well on our way to ceding power Donald Trump, you'd think that the overseas "How can you be dumb enough to elect that idiot?" crowd would be back in full force. Except they're not, and the reason for that is really simple. For years now, people who preach the exact same brand of hate as Trump (sometimes worse) have been winning elections and gaining power at an alarming rate all over Europe and other parts of the world. We talk about a few examples on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Vanessa Gritton and Cracked art dictator Randall Maynard. It's also what I'm talking about in this column today. Here are a few overseas political leaders who make Donald Trump seem like just another thing America ripped off from the rest of the world and made our own.
#5. The Golden Dawn Party (Greece)
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Things have to get seriously out of hand in a country before the people start considering Nazis a viable solution to their woes. Hitler hung around on the fringes for a long time in Germany before the masses got desperate enough to consider letting him act on the crazy shit he'd been preaching all those years. Unfortunately, things have gotten precisely that out of hand in Greece, as evidenced by the rising popularity of the genuinely terrifying Golden Dawn Party.
Their roots trace back all the way to the early '80s, but they weren't recognized as a legitimate political party until 1993. They participated in a few elections back then, and never gained more than one percent of the vote.
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Still enough to beat Jeb!
That poor showing can be blamed on the fact that, from the very beginning, Golden Dawn has been labeled a group of fascists and/or neo-Nazis. Understand, those labels shouldn't be taken as the typical "unfair comparison to Hitler"-type of stuff we so commonly hear in political arguments today. No, this is just a straight-up hate group, and they've got the perfect logo for the job.
Bask in the subtlety.
No, it's not a swastika, but it certainly wishes it could be. It looks like the kind of thing you'd see in a movie where the filmmakers want to imply that Nazis are involved without being too on the nose about things.
Seeing as how members of Golden Dawn have been accused of a whole slew of hate crimes over the years, sometimes of the full-on murder variety, it seems improbable that a group as radical as this could ever gain any real power in the modern world. But poverty is a powerful force. Greece experienced one of the most dramatic economic collapses in history a while back, and the longer it takes them to recover, the more traction Golden Dawn gains as a legitimate government entity.
Their days of winning less than a percentage point in elections are long gone. In 2012, they won seven percent of the vote in the general election in Greece, enough to earn them 21 parliament seats. They repeated that success in 2015, except in a much more troubling way. You see, at the time of Golden Dawn's strong showing in that election, most of the party leaders were in prison. See the guy on the right in this picture?
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Yes, the one annoying the shit out of the guy in the middle.
That's Ilias Kasidiaris at a swearing-in ceremony for a city council position he'd just won. He was granted a temporary leave from prison so he could attend. Something else important happened for Golden Dawn in 2015. That's the year they released their Hitler-esque 15-point plan for rescuing Greece from its economic crisis. I know what you're wondering, and yes, of course it says all immigrants should be expelled from the country.
While we're on the subject, as if having one huge problem (the financial crisis) to exploit for political gain wasn't enough, the flood of refugees pouring into Greece has given Golden Dawn another talking point to work with.
Greece just had an election last year, so for the next few years at least, Golden Dawn will remain a relatively minor player in their affairs. Here's hoping things get vastly better by 2019. If they don't, we could have a newfangled Nazi party running its own country very soon.
#4. Marine Le Pen (France)
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Golden Dawn may still be a few years and a couple more catastrophes away from taking power for real in Greece, but things are significantly more dire in France. That country's National Front (FN) party has been around for a similarly brief amount of time (founded in 1972), but they've been a force in French politics since the '80s, to the point where election rules were amended in 2004 in an effort to put a halt to the momentum the party was gaining.
That worked for a while, but that all changed in 2011, when Marine Le Pen, the daughter of former FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, took over control of the party. She promptly set about repairing the National Front's image, hoping to make their message more palatable for a mainstream audience.
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So far, so good!
Or as palatable as "kick out all immigrants and don't let any new ones in" can be, at least. She also wants to bring the death penalty back and increase prison capacity in France, both as a means to control the raging crime problem that she blames on -- you guessed it -- immigration. Her stance on that issue is such that The New Yorker actually labeled Donald Trump "America's Marine Le Pen."
In that same article, they discuss her rising popularity, which includes a terrifying third-place finish in the 2012 presidential election. It's mentioned that her rise pre-dated the terrorist attacks that happened in Paris in November 2015. That's exactly the kind of tragedy that a candidate who runs on a platform centered around fearing foreigners can capitalize on, and sure enough, in the first round of polling since it happened, Le Pen leads the race to become the next president of France.
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Protest harder, you casual bastards!
That would certainly mean disaster for any immigrants living in France currently, but it would also quite likely spell bad times for the United States as well. Turns out Le Pen isn't a fan, claiming we dragged her nation back into the NATO fold as a means to force them into participating in our misguided wars. She's driven that point home by buddying up to Vladimir Putin. You can argue all day as to whether we really need France's help fighting our wars, but there's no debating the fact that the last thing this country needs right now is another enemy.
#3. Silvio Berlusconi (Italy)
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Le Pen isn't the only European politician who's drawn direct comparisons to Trump. Way back in September of last year, The Washington Post was imploring Americans to not treat the Trump campaign as a joke, lest we suffer the same fate that befell Italy when they somehow managed to let renowned fuckup Silvio Berlusconi become their longest-serving Prime Minister.
Berlusconi arrived on the scene at a time when the people were fed up with "the establishment" and yearning for change of some kind. He was an outsider -- a successful businessman (he owns the AC Milan football club, among other things) who promised to do for his country what he'd done for his own personal finances.
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Use them to buy a boredom franchise?
His campaign was built on insults, harsh language, and anything else that would keep people from focusing on the irrationality of his ideas. It worked so well that not only did people not pay attention to the details of his plans, but they laughed off the idea of him winning entirely. Does any of this sound familiar so far? What if I mention that Berlusconi is also a vehement sexist and misogynist? This was most famously displayed the time he referred to German chancellor Angela Merkel as an "unfuckable lard ass."
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Don't ask how he got elected. Ask how he got elected three separate times.
However, all of this pales in comparison to the actions he took in an effort to make Italy great again. Despite campaigning on the promise that he'd bring his vast business skills to the Italian government, he was eventually forced to resign after failing to make the slightest dent in the country's mounting debt. By the time he finally left office, Italy was $2.6 trillion in the hole. This from a guy who, unlike Trump, has never filed for bankruptcy once. Buckle up, America!