Americans may be divided between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, but the rest of the world isn’t. A recent WIN/Gallup International global poll conducted in 45 countries shows Mrs. Clinton decimating her opponent. She wins by a landslide almost everywhere — including Melania Trump’s native Slovenia — with two telling exceptions: Russia and the Palestinian Authority.
That Russians are cheering for Mr. Trump is not difficult to explain. With Russian-American relations at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, Mr. Trump went out of his way to make it clear that he sees Russia as an ally and President Vladimir V. Putin as a friend and role model. For Russians not to support the Republican candidate would appear as a betrayal of their own president, or worse — a lack of good manners.
As for Palestinians, support for Mr. Trump is also uncomplicated. Mrs. Clinton is recognized as a stronger ally of Israel than Mr. Trump is, whatever he may say to the contrary, so the lesser of two evils gets their backing.
That said, the interesting question is why Mr. Trump is so unpopular among non-Americans, even as they embrace his brand of populist politics? Why do many of the people who vote for angry, anti-establishment, wall-building macho candidates in their own countries seem reluctant to give a chance to Mr. Trump? Why would Austrians, say, on the verge of electing a president from the far-right Freedom Party, back Mrs. Clinton, 78 percent to just 9 percent? Why would Italians, with their two-decades-long love for Silvio Berlusconi, or the Dutch, where millions support the anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders, likewise reject Mr. Trump in similarly lopsided terms?
I’d like to suggest two hypotheses. The first, which I’ll call “the airline pilot” hypothesis, is simple enough. There are some people who will get drunk on whiskey and then volunteer to drive their friends home, but will be aghast if they learn that the pilot of the plane they are boarding has had even a sip of beer. In the same way, many of the supporters of populist parties in Europe, Latin America or Asia believe that making wild choices is acceptable in small countries like theirs, but they are terrified at the prospect of Americans’ going rogue. And it makes sense: The difference between a Trump-like candidate’s being elected in a place like Bulgaria and Mr. Trump himself being elected in the United States is like the difference between a conventional war and a nuclear one.
Let’s call the second the “it’s your world” hypothesis. A revolt against globalization is at the heart of Mr. Trump’s message. It is also a common feature of the different populist movements around the world. But Mr. Trump’s anti-globalism, because it comes from an American, simply isn’t persuasive to the rest of the world.
While populists outside the United States decry globalization as being governed by America’s rules and serving America’s interests, Mr. Trump declares that it is America, in fact, who is the great victim of globalization. While outside of the United States free-trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are usually opposed because they are viewed as rigged in favor of the multinational companies born in and loyal to the United States, Mr. Trump calls these same treaties a betrayal of America’s political and economic interests. While in the rest of the world globalization is synonymous with Americanization, Mr. Trump claims that it is conspiracy against the United States.
Stephen Holmes, an American political philosopher at New York University, suggested to me that if we want to grasp the Trump phenomenon, we should be ready to recognize that for a majority of Americans, everything they once saw as an advantage they now view as a strategic vulnerability. Globalization no longer means new markets for American products, technologies and ideas; it now means lost jobs, terrorism and migration. What Americans have also learned is that people who vote in American-style elections will not naturally support American interests and that the spread of democracy can bring not only friendly governments to prominence, but also conflicts and disruption.
Americans, for Mr. Holmes, are even starting to be anxious about the global spread of the English language. Some time ago, the philosopher Philippe Van Parijs argued that a special language tax should be imposed on native English speakers because they reap such large unearned benefits from having been raised with English as their mother tongue. But it is not how Americans feel today.
In our increasingly Anglophone world, Americans have become nakedly transparent to English speakers everywhere, yet the world remains bafflingly and often frighteningly opaque to monolingual Americans. While the world devours America’s movies and follows its politics closely, Americans know precious little about how non-Americans think and live. Americans have never heard of other countries’ movie stars and have only the vaguest notions of what their political conflicts are about.
This gross epistemic asymmetry is a real weakness. When WikiLeaks revealed the secret cables of the American State Department or leaked the emails of the Clinton campaign, it became a global news sensation and a major embarrassment for American diplomacy. Leaking Chinese diplomatic cables or Russian officials’ emails could never become a worldwide human-interest story, simply because only a relative handful of non-Chinese or non-Russians could read them, let alone make sense of them.
Mr. Trump’s problem is that while many Americans are ready to believe that America is a prime victim of globalization, the rest of the world is unwilling to go along. After all, the world that many Americans today resent is the world that the Americans made. Populists all over the world will not unite.
Ivan Krastev is the chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.