Europe’s bemusement at the rise of Donald Trump has switched to concern as his presidential campaign has gained ground in what observers said was a warning to traditional parties about ignoring populists.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier this week spoke about the “politics of fear” in the US campaign in a thinly-veiled reference to Trump and drew parallels to the rise of European demagogues.
“In Germany and in Europe, something is gaining momentum in our domestic politics.
And to be honest, I am also seeing it here in the United States during the campaign: it’s the politics of fear,” he told university students during a visit to Washington.
European commentators have also issued increasingly stark warnings in recent days as the once-improbable prospect of the billionaire clinching the Republican presidential nomination is looking ever more likely.
Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf said it would be a “global disaster” if Trump became president, calling him “grossly unqualified” and “a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe and an ignoramus”.
Mr Wolf drew possible historical comparisons with the end of the Roman Republic and even the rise of Adolf Hitler, warning: “American ‘Caesarism’ has now become flesh.
It seems a worryingly real danger today.”
Other commentators looked closer to home.
“In his own way, Mr Trump is a whistle-blower,” French daily Le Figaro said in a front-page editorial.
“He has reminded European political elites that it is dangerous to forget the language of those who vote for them,” the newspaper said on Tuesday.
“Populist’ leaders can rally those beyond their political base and it is dangerous to reduce them to their caricature,” it said, adding: “We have entered a time when we must be wary of the ‘impossible’.”
The Parisian newspaper said: “In France we love to mock Donald Trump, his crazy hairdo, his plastic wives, his tirades out of a low-budget western.
“If it is good to laugh, it can also be useful to open our eyes,” it said.