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May 24, 2024

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Trump Is No Kaczynski
But They’ve Got A Lot
In Common

Poland and America more similar than ever

By Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent

WARSAW–“Poland and America are now almost the same,” one communist-era anecdote went.  “The US has 50 states and we now have nearly as many voivodships (provinces) – 49. ‘Mięso’ in America is meat, and in Poland it is also a ‘mit’ (pronounced ‘meat’ but meaning ‘myth’). And the złoty (Polish currency) isn’t worth anything in America nor is it worth anything in Poland.”

But, joking aside, the political scene of Poland and the US have never been more similar since Donald Trump’s fiercely protested presidential victory last November. The October 2015 landslide election of Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party had triggered a similar backlash by the formerly ruling camp who for more than a year have been protesting in the streets against the new government. Like America’s noisy anti-Trump faction, Poland’s hitherto liberal-leftist pace-setters are acting as if they would forever enjoy the prestige, perks and profits of power.

In America, the Washington-New York political elite, their Ivy League pundits and  academic, corporate and entertainment-industry allies had ruled the roost and imposed their “politically correct” agenda on the rest of the country for far too long. In Poland, similar know-it-all elites are additionally riddled with former communist-era secret-police agents and paid informers. Until late last year,  those who had beat and tortured Polish patriots under communsit rule were still entitled to pensions several times greater than the victims they had oppressed. Under Law and Justice their benefits will be downsized to an average level.

“It’s a whole new beginning,” Polish prime Minister Beata Szydło summed up Trump’s victory. “Certainly policies in the United States will change, but politics around the world are changing before of our very eyes. His election win is part of a larger phenomenon that we have been observing for some time.”  Some analysts have called it a grass-roots revolution against ruling establishments.

Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s longest-serving prime minister, was among the first to protest against the European Union’s excessive meddling in his country’s internal affairs. Poland’s Law and Justice government, which came to power over a year ago, is in favor of international cooperation but not at the expense of national sovereignty. Those two countries could be called precursors of what was soon to follow.

Last June, British voters voted to leave the intrusive European Union, and later that year, Trump’s election shocked America’s overconfident liberal establishment. Grass-roots support for conservative and right-leaning groups is gaining momentum in Germany, France, Holland, Austria, Italy and elsewhere. The hordes of Middle Eastern refugees pounding on Europe’s doors and sporadic terrorist incidents have helped entrench that general mood.

Although he is a man of modest habits and not especially well-to-do. Law and Justice’s short, rotund, gray-haired leader Jarosław Kaczyński is regarded by friend and foe alike as Poland’s most powerful politician. His party stands for God, country and family and is determined to spread the fruits of Poland’s liberation from communist rule to the majority of Poles who have so far not greatly benefited. Whether out of genuine empathy for the average American family or simply to prove himself in a new and different challenge, flamboyant, multi-billionaire real-estate mogul Trump has voiced a similar people-friendly program.

How Trump performs in practice remains to be seen, but Poland’s conservative camp has already carried out an extensive reform program benefiting many hitherto ignored and neglected segments of Polish society. Each legislative act has triggered a fresh wave of attacks by the opposition. But, so far, the endless protests have failed to bring down the government. But, however loud its opponents rant, chant and pound the pavement, the anti-Trump and anti-Kaczyński demonstrators seem to be forgetting history’s single most important lesson: that nothing lasts forever and no one elite can rule indefinitely!