The Cable

Tsipras Expects Trump to Govern Differently Than He Campaigned. Tsipras Would Know.

Alexis Tsipras is living proof that populism doesn't always translate into policy.

At a joint Tuesday press conference in Athens, U.S. President Barack Obama and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke about — what else? — the implications of Donald Trump’s election.

Obama noted America is not alone in the popularity of its populists. In Europe and America alike, “people are less certain of their national identities or their place in the world,” he said. “It starts looking different and disorienting. And there is no doubt that has produced populist movements, both from the left and the right.”

And Tsipras noted, as Obama did at his press conference Monday, that though Trump had an “aggressive manner” during the campaign, the U.S. president-elect is likely to act differently once in office.

Tsipras would know. His party, SYRIZA, is a self-described coalition of Greece’s radical left. (SYRIZA is not to be mistaken with the country’s radical right, Golden Dawn. That party boasts a symbol that bears a striking resemblance to a swastika and hailed Trump’s victory for “ethnically clean” nation-states). In the July 2015 throes of the Greek debt crisis, Tsipras held a referendum urging his citizens to stand up to the European Union and the “northern European elite” by voting “no” to the terms and conditions of the bailout. And they did — 61 percent voted “no.”

And then Tsipras signed the EU agreement anyway, telling his parliament that keeping Greece in the eurozone was most important.

Even a prime minister — or president — of the people can learn popular support is not enough.

Photo credit: YORGOS KARAHALIS/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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