Desperation for America is easy. Firearms, racism, pride, the missionary, the death penalty: how can a society that tolerates or promotes such a thing be so successful? One third of Americans believe global warming is the invention of scientists, the government and journalists.
A quarter believe vaccinations lead to autism. Two thirds are convinced that there are angels and demons. The songs are by Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire.
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The tendency to predict America’s decline and decline has intensified since Donald Trump was elected president. A liar and demagogue, gamer and polterer, manipulator and polarizer had come into office.
He had managed to get nearly half of the voters to his side. He talked about women and made racist statements. From then on, a walking disgrace represented the most powerful country in the world.
But is Trump America?
Elections will take place in a few days and all doom prophecies about the end of American democracy should be silent for a while. Because it is alive, this democracy. And how! Early voters flock to the polling booths en masse and record numbers, sometimes in the rain and for hours on end. It’s taking place, this election, in spite of Corona, in spite of Trump, in spite of legal proceedings and with all those shortcomings that America’s right to vote brings.
No comparison with the Weimar Republic
America’s democracy is alive. It sounds strange to have to emphasize that, but because people often try to give the opposite impression, the balance after four years of Trump cannot ignore these simple sentences: The separation of powers has not been touched, there is still an independent press, the president has never defied court rulings.
Indictment proceedings were initiated against him. Everything according to democratic rules and parliamentary practice. Comparisons with the Weimar Republic, Spain in the 1930s or pre-revolutionary Russia are prohibited.
Trump’s critics accuse him of his harsh words, his unscrupulousness, his swear words against a so-called “deep state”, his disdain for institutions, his attacks on the right to vote. But most of it was “only talk, no action”.
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He couldn’t crush the fortress of checks and balances. The three centers of power of the political system – president, congress, and supreme court – continue to control each other. Trump made a noise like a hamster in the running wheel at night – and was just as effective with it, namely not at all.
America has always been more than Trump. The basic certainty guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence, that you are born free, have inalienable rights – to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – remained intact.
Completely untouched by the radical White House activist, inventors and entrepreneurs, visionaries and gamblers have increased the US’s global supremacy in almost all areas – in the military, business, digital industries. Whether Tesla, SpaceX or artificial intelligence, Facebook, Google or Amazon, fixed ideas had become lucrative industries that continued to grow under Trump.
Basic social conflicts broke out
Because another pillar of the American system is the strong position of the 50 states. In California’s Silicon Valley, no one has to worry about Trump’s erratic tweets. Washington DC is a long way off and competences at the regional level are great.
Whether it concerns euthanasia or marriage for everyone, the legalization of hash or the age limit for alcohol consumption: that is decided on the spot. The states of America are much sovereign – and more independent – than the states of Germany.
What actually broke out under Trump are fundamental social conflicts that have long remained unresolved. It’s about control, pride and tradition. Should monuments be demolished, memories erased? How many dissonances can be tolerated in an honorable commemoration designed to create identity?
Woodrow Wilson, the racist, founded the first world peace organization; Abraham Lincoln, who was responsible for a civil war that killed more Americans than died in World War II, ended slavery; Thomas Jefferson, the slave owner, was a co-founder of democracy; Theodore Roosevelt, the imperialist, fought against the excesses of capitalism.
The past has been devalued. Whites lose their majority status. Culturally liberal values dominate. The language is changed by decree. A “globalized class” blurs the boundaries of the national.
Those who are part of these upheavals, or even promote them, often do not understand where the resistance is coming from. Trump imposed conditions on this backlash. He felt why people despise an alleged “elite”, an “establishment”. Because America is more than Trump, these fundamental conflicts will last longer than his presidency. Would it have been better if they never left?
Why would a strong in ten weak ones get involved?
Americans are freedom-loving, optimistic and pragmatic. These are their basic properties. Her love for freedom makes her feel suspicious of higher-level institutions and any form of paternalism. Their aversion is directed against central government as well as international treaties.
Within the framework of the global community, you feel like a fox being asked by ten geese to agree on a joint meal plan. Why would a strong out of ten weak ones be involved?
America is more than Trump. The way the country deals with its failed president is reminiscent of the story “The Canterville Ghost” by Irish writer Oscar Wilde. The ghost Trump lives in Canterville Castle, where an American family moves in.
It wants to spread fear and terror, leaves blood stains on the floor, rattles its chains. But the family remains calm. The father asks the ghost to lubricate his chains, the children slide him on butter traps.
Desperation for America is easy. Should Trump be reelected in a few days, this temptation threatens to become irresistible. If not, the country has won a victory on its own.