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Donald Trump as the Antithesis of Liberal Politics

by S Ehmon and J Freedland Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 at 6:23 AM

Was this a victory of a show over substance? Was this a triumph of anti-intellectualism rampant for years? Trump capitalized on the economic plight of a very concrete section of the population. Today the US is a source of fear for the rest of the world


By Simon Ehmon

[This article published on 11/9/2016 is translated from the German on the Internet, The original title was "I don't want to live on this planet anymore." What comes after the instinctive cynicism to the success of the populist thug?]

Trump is elected. Raise your hands, who would rather be on Mars?

"I don't want to live on this Planet anymore," grumbled the cranky Professor Farnsworth from Matt Groening's cynical humorist animated cartoon series "Futurama" after a creationist Orang-Utan told an applauding crowd the evolution theory is a humbug. All the resignation and lack of understanding bubbling up in our world are reflected in these nine words.

After Pegida, AfD, Orban, Erdogan, Brexit and now Trump, one might emulate the professor. I am out of here, to hell with it. Bye, see you. If it were only so simple!

But we don't live in a simple world. What are our alternatives? Resignation and cynicism seem enticing but don't change anything. What really happened and why did it happen?

The picture of an election victory of Donald Trump spreads like a road accident of history. A racist billionaire thug who despises women wins the election to be the most powerful man in the world. His program reads like the wet dream of every right-wing populist. Taxes down, borders up, abortions prohibited, water-boarding allowed and care of the environment dismissed. All this is presented in a style somewhere between a feebleminded teleshopping moderator and a used car salesman with a Korsakov syndrome. This is all amazing, great, beautiful, fantastic but not for loser Mexicans. The last eighteen months seemed more like Trash TV than an election campaign, more scripted reality than a political contest. Facts were irrelevant. Trump had to win as with a home game.

Is this true? Was this a victory of a show over substance? Was this a triumph of anti-intellectualism rampant for years? In any case, the political map speaks a clear language. The west coast and the northeast went to Clinton and the Bible belt and the Midwest went to trump. The creation narrative defeated evolution theory there. What about political education? Political education didn't have a chance. Churchgoing and the nuclear family, weapons and football determine the worldview. One can't catch more votes here with gay marriage and care of the environment.

Trump capitalized on the economic plight of a very concrete section of the population. The large group of low-skilled whites remained loyal to the billionaire and graduate of an elite business school, those who had lost the most in economic power and social respect. The dissatisfaction of these people flowed into contempt for "corrupt liberal elites" who allegedly worry more about minority rights than average voters. The policy of progressive forces was linked directly with their own social crash.

The Trump voters overlap. On one side is a broad structurally conservative front that longs for the times of the Reagan era and if necessary tolerated the liberal social policy of a Barack Obama. On the other side are the globalization losers of the lower class who see themselves entangled in distribution battles and blame the social progress of the last two decades for their own decline.

This conflict situation is found in nearly all western industrial nations. National conservatives fraternize with the uncoupled of the lower class into a broad front far right of the middle. For some, ideology is uppermost. For others, the reversal or turn-around of their economic descent is crucial.

Right-wing populism finds a place in a vacuum of trustworthiness created by the failure of established politics. On the other side of the Atlantic, the executive and the legislature have blocked each other for years. At the same time, all the representatives are massively dependent on third-party funds to finance their election campaigns and thus are at least suspected of being influenced.

On the old continent, the technocracy of an Angela Merkel separates ideology from the political. Human rights, equal rights, care of the environment and climate protection are always downgraded to dogmas, only to be sold off again in the bazaar of everyday politics. No one can be convinced with such a policy, not even those who have the least from the status quo.

Francis Fukuyama's assumption at the beginning of the 1990s that an end of history would occur with the end of the race of the systems between East and West did not come true. Today democracy, pluralism, and liberality are in retreat internationally and even within democratic nations.

In the past 25 years, established politicians were sure the idea of an open and democratic society in the framework of capitalism was convincing. They were wrong. Economic dislocations enabled a voter group to arise that follows the simple solutions of national conservatives. Who can be surprised when politics is more a poorly functioning administration than a contest of ideas?

We need a politics that communicates and stands by its values, especially when it costs something. One's own value system must oppose the ideological challenge of right-wing populism. Whoever only talks down and backs out agrees with the Trumps, LePens, and Orbans of this world and makes his own values into something to be negotiated.

Many don't want to live in a world where racism and hostility to foreigners are tolerated and equal rights and care of the environment are negotiated.


By Jonathan Freedland

[This article published on 11/9/2016 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Donald Trump's success gave the blueprint for an international shift to the right. Will Trump restore the former privileges of the whites?

We thought the US would withdraw from the abyss. We believed – and the polls lulled us into security – that Americans at the end would not put the most powerful office in the world in the hands of an unstable fanatic, sexual offender and pathological liar.

People all over the world sat back and watched this horrific election campaign and expected the Trump nightmare would finally end. However the United States – the land that since the hour of its birth understood itself as a leading nation that inspires the world, a society representing "the last great hope," a nation that seemed to bend the arc of history toward justice as Barack Obama formulated eight years ago – looks out over the edge of the abyss today.

Today the US is a source of fear for the rest of the world, not a source of inspiration. Instead of acclaiming its first female president, Americans have handed the power of the highest office to a man who with pleasure wallows in his own ignorance, racism and hostility to women. One who knows him well describes him as a dangerous "sociopath."

The incredible power that this man will soon wield is mind-boggling. The Republicans lied about nearly every projection and prediction and won the presidency. They also won the House of Representatives and a majority of the Senate seats so Trump hardly has to fear a counter-wind from these chambers. An impulsive man who doesn't have control of himself will hardly be subject to any restrictions. The power of a military and economic superpower will largely be at the disposal of his ego.

The most immediate effects will obviously be felt in the US. One only needs to think about all his promises. He wants to introduce a kind of deportation police to round up and expel the eleven million migrants who stay in the US without papers. He spoke of a refused entry for Muslims which he later boiled down to "extreme tests" for everyone who journeys from a suspect country. He wants to build a gigantic wall to tighten the border to Mexico. Women who abort should be punished "in some form." Trump wants to imprison the woman he defeated in the election.

Many will say all this is only gossip. But that was said about the whole election campaign. Trump will do an about-face to a more moderate course and become "more presidential." He has never done that. He will certainly consider his election victory as confirmation that he was always right and can trust his instincts. For him, there is no reason to become more moderate. The office of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy is now his playpen. He can do and allow what he wants.

Everyone will be affected even if the US will suffer first and foremost. A reality-TV star without any political or military experience will decide over American nuclear weapons. During military briefings, this man asked several times why the US should not use nuclear weapons. This is the man who declared he "loves war" and his strategy against IS was "to bomb them to hell" and secure the oil…

In the summer, Trump declared to the New York Times he did not believe in the essential principle of NATO that an attack on one member state triggers an alliance case. Rather he views NATO as a Mafia gang. Small nations should not enjoy any protection if they do not pay. Vladimir Putin may have understood this reference.

A trade war with China threatens. Introducing tariffs could endanger the whole trading system. America will orient itself inwardly and establish protectionism. The markets have spoken – and crashed.

What will happen to our planet? Trump regards climate change as an invention of the Chinese. He will do nothing to reduce the expulsion of emissions. He simply does not believe they exist.

In addition, the terrifying decision of the American people has another consequence that is not less depressing. Trump's success inspires white nationalists and racists all over the world. His victories in contested states were celebrated by the former Ku-Klux-Klan bigwig David Duke. "God bless Donald Trump," he wrote on Twitter. "It is time to reclaim America." The Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders was in similarly high spirits. "We also will do this." Marine Le Pen may be in a similarly good mood like all other populists and nationalists who make politics with hatred.

You have now seen the power of a message based on fear and hatred. Reducing this fear to the economically uncoupled is not enough – even if that was certainly a factor in the Rustbelt states. This explanation is incomplete because Trump did not only win these voters. He had the votes of 63% of white men and 52% of white women. Many of them felt drawn by the message – only very thinly coded – that Trump would restore the whites' former privileges.

Who is to blame? The list is long, from the Republicans to the media, from opinion pollsters to Clinton's election campaign team that held former democratic strongholds to be secure to Clinton herself. But who worries about the question of blame or responsibility? The most powerful land of the world is led by the most dangerous man that has ever governed it. The man who during the war held the office that Donald Trump will occupy in January once told Americans "they had nothing to fear but fear itself." This is not true today. America and the rest of the world have much to fear – beginning with the man who is now at the top of the US.

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