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Trump and the Consequences: Democracy at a Crossroads

by Albrecht von Luecke Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 at 9:07 AM

What appears here is another form of democracy, without the constitutional state and without opposition. Trump could operate with enemy declarations. Today Donald Trump is a radicalized Nixon. Democracy is always endangered and never given as a present.


By Albrecht von Luecke

[This article published in Blaetter 12/2016 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

November 8, Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election, represents a historical turn of an era whose great extent could not be foreseen. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton's defeat also marks a turn of an era – the end and breakdown of a long liberal cycle.

This cycle began nearly a quarter century ago, after the 1989/1990 turn, right after the epochal world climate conference in Rio – and with Bill Clinton's victory in the presidential election on November 3, 1992. The cycle continued with Tony Blair's regency from 1997 to 2007 and Gerhard Schroeder's term in office from 1998 to 2005. It also includes the term of office of Francois Hollande that obviously has failed today. All these politicians stand for the attempt of a twofold liberalization – in a cultural and economic regard, the society and the economy, particularly the financial markets. While social liberalization in the form of extensive human rights was very fruitful, economic liberalization fundamentally failed. Whether Clinton's banking law that freed the money-houses from annoying regulatory fetters, Blair's New Labor policy or Schroeder's and Steinmeier's Agenda 2010 including Hartz IV (drastic German welfare reform that combined unemployment insurance and income support and was ruled in violation of basic human rights by the German Constitutional Court), the expansion of the financial sector and the deregulation of the labor markets together with an enormous low wage sector always stood at the end. The model of the cherished capitalism in Europe of the social market economy or Rhine capitalism belongs to the past for increasing parts of society. A "descent society" came out of the former ascent society of the postwar era [1]. The consequence is an increasing division of society into an open-liberal metropolitan elite and an increasingly degraded lower class while fears of descent spread upwards intensely and ensure a growing panic in the middle-class (Theodor Geiger).


This breakdown of the social-democratic left in its own claims signifies a new division of the left as on the right and the newly rising right-wing populists. So politicians of the left-middle governed in 12 of the 15 EU-member states in 1998, including the most important states France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy. Today this is only still true for Italy and France.

With Hillary Clinton's victory, this era that stands for the dominance of the 68ers could have continued (perhaps for the last time). However, Donald Trump had plans for thwarting this continued dominance.

Trump and his followers described themselves – with clever calculation – as a movement, not as a party. We certainly face a genuine "backlash" with a cultural and political counter-revolution from the right, a new "clash of cultures." This is carried out between the representatives of an open society ready for change and the protagonists of a radical separation and exclusion culture that ultimately promises a return to a homogeneous society.

Trump set out to become its global forerunner. With his recent election campaign against the multicultural modern age, he opposed the left-liberal ideas of the 1960s and 1970s. Like Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, Heinz-Christian Strache and the AfD (anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany), he stands against the inheritance of the "yucky 68ers"(Jorg Meuthen).

Three central dimensions, Trump's great promises, can be identified today even if his future government program is not known.

Firstly, the policy of the US will be much more nationalist and more self-centered, loyal to Trump's guiding slogan "Make America Great Again." Defending national interests stands in first place in each of his measures. Nothing comes after that.

This radical nationalism could accompany an intensified isolationism. The American 20th century ends with that. Many US crimes from Iran 1953, Vietnam 1964 to 1975 and Chile 1973 to Iraq 2003 were characterized by the US penchant for building a world community. This community began with Wilson's 1917 idea of the League of Nations and the United Nations after 1945 to the "New World Order" idea under George Bush senior after 1989.

George Bush junior militarily rejected this idea and plunged the United Nations into the most serious crisis of his history (that continues today). By canceling the Paris Climate agreement, Trump may now undergird this rejection in a programmatic-ideological way.


Secondly, this means a fundamental rejection of the universalist values and traditions of the US. International obligations, literally the "alphabet salad" (UN, NATO, EU) mean nothing to Trump America.

"The project of the West as we know it – supported by the vision of a universalist values-community with the United States as forerunner – also ends with Trumpism. The "divided West" (Jurgen Habermas) spreads more dangerously today than ever. On this background of a completely absent value-orientation, "black box" Trump will have to develop his policy in a completely new way. This policy is obviously torn here and there between a classical conservative current personified by Trump's designated chief of staff Reince Priebus, the most interlinked party leader of the Republicans, and a radical, racist, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic wing embodied by Trump's future chief advisor Steve Bannon who was principally responsible for the radical friend-enemy ideology and slandering of whole groups of the population.

Thirdly, this radical domestic political orientation may lead to the most excruciating problem. Trump could be the spearhead of a new form of democracy that is understood as ethnic-homogeneous and no longer pluralist-diverse. Viktor Urban summed up his election by telling stories of the victory of "true democracy."

What appears here is another form of democracy, without the constitutional state and without opposition: an identity democracy as a vulgar Rousseauism in which the will of the people is firmly realized in a charismatic leader, against the parliamentary democracy but entirely in the spirit of the old NS watchword "One people, one Reich and one Fuhrer." [2]

The Turkish president has long uncoupled from Europe's constitutional-parliamentary projects. What the EU proposes in the question of the death penalty does not matter to Erdogan. He only does what the people want. This idea of an "ethnic" but always controlled democracy corresponds exactly to Vladimir Putin's conception. With Trump, a brother in the spirit has now arisen in this charismatic, anti-democratic leader-figure.

In the election campaign beyond his declarations of sympathy for Putin, Trump already showed a liking for this form of "democracy" when he threatened not to acknowledge a defeat. This absolute indifference toward central preconditions of parliamentary democracy also implies the danger that Trump could operate with enemy declarations against the opposition in future election campaigns with "Othering," the struggle against others as Naomi Klein described. The inner and outer enemy threaten to become the general legitimation formula for intensified repression as in dictatorial-authoritarian states. Politics in the state of emergency would also become the normal case in the West.


What will be the reaction of the liberal left to this fundamental crisis of western democracy and its values?

Firstly, let us analyze the situation and gain insight into our historical failure and in the search for its causes.

Hillary Clinton's candidacy actually stands for a fundamental misjudging of the historical situation and for the enormous division of US society. On one side, Clinton embodied the Washington Establishment and on the other side a fashionable metropolitan left that lost sight of the impoverishment of rural regions. While Clinton entirely supported the rights of minorities in the sense of the culturalist left, no one – after Bernie Sanders' exit – represented precarious whites. On the contrary, the left – verbally and politically – set itself above the alleged "white trash." Since they had no leftist advocates anymore, Trump's racism against Mexicans and Muslims was completely supported as in Europe against refugees and Muslims.

Therefore trump's victory is also the "revenge of the Fly-over-states" (Volker Perthes) over the culturalist east coast left. The left forgot [3] to address the real social problems – in large parts of Europe and not only in the US. Even if democratic forces are still in the majority, the elections next spring n the Netherlands and France may give fresh impetus to right-wing populists… In short, the right-wing is also on the advance in Europe and welcomes Donald Trump's victory.

On the other hand, the democratic left must finally understand the seriousness of the situation. Nearly everything is at stake – for America and for Europe. The idea of a social democracy based on the individual equality of everyone falls more and more to the defensive with the liberal western left. The central question is whether the western societies have the backbone to really defend their democracy.

In the United States, many forces like David Resnick, the editor of the liberal "New Yorker" [4], already fear the advance of a new fascism after trump's victory. As an irony of history, America is exposed far less than Europe to the neo-fascist temptation. In the past, the "new world" was entirely immune from the totalitarian danger. At the same time, it had the ability to successfully withstand phases of isolationism to turn more intensely to global questions.

Europe, geographically considered, is the soft flank for all anti-democratic efforts. The "old world" is the neighboring region of the hottest conflicts of the Middle East with its war regions (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan) and of the African continent with its enormous flight movements. A US isolationism as a half "island continent" can be afforded temporarily thanks to its fracking but is completely impossible for Europe.

America's foreseeable withdrawal represents a completely new geopolitical situation for Europe. The multi-polar world now dawns including the final sovereignty and independence of Germany and Europe. Many leftists (and right-wing persons) have long yearned for Europe's necessary emancipation from the US.

Nevertheless, this new independence will fundamentally challenge Europe and will not be pleasant by any means. European democracy will have to prove itself in a twofold way: outwardly against the authoritarian leader in the near environment and inwardly against the populist challenge. The term "core Europe" has a completely new meaning in this way. Concentrating on the crucial core tasks – outward and inward security like strengthening European cohesion through a stronger political and social union – is commanded.

Optimists hope for a united European Union in view of this tremendous challenge. But this is not likely. The EU obviously finds itself in the most grievous crisis since its founding almost 60 years ago. With the Brexit, Great Britain leaves the alliance. The centrifugal nationalist forces also threaten to spread in other states from Hungary and Poland to Austria and France.

In this way, Europe's East threatens to be forerunners of a new nationalist anti-democratic movement. How the basic question of 1989 and 1990 is answered must be decided in the next years: back to authoritarian nationalism or forward to a democratic open European Union as an important democratic player in an (increasingly confused) world community.

Democracy and Human Rights: The liberal, social democratic left failed by not fulfilling the promise of 1989/1990. Today we stand in the ruins of this failure. Given this situation, the cooperation of all democratic forces is imperative. This goes beyond the left but concerns the left in a special way. In the 1930s, the democratic left in Europe actually marked out of the game because it did not understand how to stand solidly against new totalitarian movements like fascism. That democracy could catch-on and gain a foothold was owed to Americans at that time in Germany after 1945. Today we cannot expect this support from the US. With the Donald Trump government, the US has become part of the problem from being part of the solution. The Western left faces a similar challenge today as in the 1930s.


As the second irony of this election, at least there is a change since the election's fatal ending. The candidacy of the anti-politician Donald Trump has contributed to a tremendous politization even if in the form of an unbearable incitement. Trump has awakened the sleeping civil society and promotes the political contest. The change for a new democratic polarization analogous to the 1960s results. At that time, the Vietnam War and the "liar Nixon" politicized a whole generation… This leftist-socialized generation from Bill and Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair to Joschka Fischer came to power in the 1990s and ultimately failed in this historical task of a modern union of democracy, market economy, social state and ecology.

Today Donald Trump is a radicalized Nixon and far more dangerous than a globalized Franz Josef Strauss. Who if not Trump could politicize a generation? This election teaches one thing. Democracy is always endangered and never given as a present. It is not too late to understand this.


[1] Oliver Nachtwey, Marktsozialdemokratie. Die Transformation von SPD und Labour Party, Berlin 2009; ders., Die Abstiegsgesellschaft, Frankfurt a. M. 2016.
[2] Vgl. Strache gratuliert Trump – FPÖ-Fans schockiert,, 10.11.2016.
[3] Didier Eribon, Wie aus Linken Rechte werden, Teil I und II, in: „Blätter“, 8 und 9/2016.
[4] David Remnick, An american tragedy,, 9.11.2016.

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Happy New Year Post-Materialistis!

by marc Monday, Jan. 16, 2017 at 3:35 PM

On BookTV, Jean Twenge, author of “The Narcissism Epidemic,” warns that the cult of specialiness was thought to be the ladder to corporate success and turned out to be anti-social.

Possessions can possess us more than we possess them. The car is not only a metal box but a way of looking at the world and an encouragement to narcissism. Football and politicians push cars nonstop while cities become gridlock. We become examples of disconnection when we deride community and sociality and degrade nature into a free good, external or sink.

The future should be anticipated and protected in the present, not extrapolated from the present. Hope distinguishes us from the rest of creation. We can go beyond everything past and present in the power of the coming, the power of the promise. (Jurgen Moltmann)

Dostoevsky, a great admonisher of the West, warned we would surrender our freedom to the Grand Inquisitor for his promise of happiness. The ego must die for the self to be born. The state must represent the public interest and not be a bonus pot for special interests and self-enrichment. Maybe the Good News is that Trump could be impeached within a year so his damage would be contained. How are democracy and language possible when the leader is a cross between Al Capone and King Midas?

Don’t let fear-mongerers destroy the “unaffordable” social state while building 2440 F-35 fighter jets for $291 billion! Don’t let fear-mongerers like Paul Ryan force us into a spiritless 2-inch world where only the rich enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

Thanks Dr. Martin Luther King for your unending inspiration and encouragement! Time for the human race to gain priority over the arms race! Time for a people-society to replace the things-society and the people-logic to replace the things-logic!

Eliminating the $118K cap on social security taxes would make the system solvent for 75 years. Access could replace excess; enough could replace more; exchanging roles and digital cloud workers could make sorrow more distant than a star!

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