Europe shudders at the thought of Donald Trump winning the US presidential election. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, stands for transatlantic consistency. That is the consensus at the heart of the EU in Brussels.
The only building in Europe that bears Donald Trump's name stands in the European part of Istanbul. The popularity of the high-rise towers has, however, fallen dramatically since 2015, when the Republican presidential candidate made a campaign issue of barring Muslim immigrants from entering the United States. Since then, Turkish politicians have sought to have the Trump name removed from the towers.
The Trump Organization also operates golf courses in Scotland and Ireland. These are pretty much the only two points of contact between Donald Trump and Europe. The golf course, near Aberdeen, which Trump praised as if "made by god himself" because of its painterly location, has been the source of numerous court cases and headaches for investors and even the Scottish government. The Trump Organization never actually invested the amount of money it had promised to, and the number of jobs created was also far lower than projected. But that didn't keep Trump from claiming that he had "conquered Scotland," during a June visit. He said he would do the same in the US presidential election.
In good times, and bad
German EU parliamentarian David McAllister, who has Scottish roots himself, summed up the Republican thus: "Donald Trump is a big unknown here in Europe. We don't know much about him. We don't know much about his foreign policy, because he rarely speaks about it. And frankly, when he goes into detail it sounds frightening." McAllister chairs a parliamentary group that deals with US relations. "Naturally, we know Hilary Clinton much better. She believes in strong transatlantic relations. No doubt we could accomplish a lot with her." Many of Europe's current politicians know Clinton from her tenure as US secretary of state.
To date, most Democrat and Republican presidents have been firmly committed to supporting NATO's role as an anchor of stability. But Donald Trump has been questioning the relevance of the military alliance. He says that he will only maintain it if Germany, for instance, pays for its own security. David McAllister tries to formulate his expectations diplomatically: "The EU and the US have strong, close ties. We should concentrate on strengthening them further still, no matter how the election turns out. We have to be prepared for good times as well as bad times."
Not running for pope
But there are Trump fans in Brussels, too, especially among right-wing populists. British EU parliamentarian Nigel Farage has even appeared at Trump campaign rallies. Farage was the victorious champion of the Brexit vote. He wanted a more independent Great Britain and emphasized nationalism just like Trump has done in the US: Britain first, America first. Farage thinks Trump's sexist comments and macho demeanor, both of which are alienating female voters, are forgivable sins.
"At least there's an honesty about Trump," Farage said in an interview with Fox News. "Whether you like it or not, he is what he is. And - you know what - he's not running to be pope, he's running to be president of the USA - a human being. Every human being is flawed."
The British politician continued by saying that no one knows what secrets Hillary Clinton may still be hiding. Donald Trump cheered Great Britain's vote to leave the EU. He sees the Union as outdated, and Germany as a safe haven for terror and violence.
'God help us'
The shrill tone of the US election, which shows no apparent need for facts or even substantive issues, has evoked unusual reactions in Germany - even from long-serving government ministers. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble mentioned that he had watched the second televised debate between Clinton and Trump, when talking to reporters after a meeting of European finance ministers in Luxembourg. During the debate Trump threatened to have Clinton jailed should he be elected president. "I watched the debate on TV. I just sat back and enjoyed the era of post-factual politics. If that becomes the guiding principle of how we make political decisions, god help us all when it comes to democracy and the rule of law," warned Schäuble.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also abandoned his usual reserve, calling Trump a "hatemonger," and even building him into stump speeches. Steinmeier puts the Republican candidate, who is convinced that the US election system is "rigged," in the same category as rightwing and leftwing populists here in Europe. "Look at that loudmouth Donald Trump in America. These groups all have one thing in common, they prey on people's fears," decries Steinmeier at market squares around Germany.
Lack of substance
Conservative European parliamentarian McAllister has been watching the election very closely. He even got up in the middle of the night to watch the debates live. He says afterwards he was astonished by what the candidates were actually talking about. Emails, affairs and strong language? When so many problems in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Russia need to be addressed? "In my view, the subjects they talked about were irrelevant. I would rather they spoke on serious political issues during presidential debates. Some of the things that come out of the Republican candidate's mouth are truly cause for concern."