12172017

Rationalism

Despite Europe’s mass hysteria about the U.S. president, American democracy rests on firmer foundations than that of Germany, explains Daniel Killy…

 

We are still alive. We survived. It truly is a miracle. We were preparing for the worst, those who are religious and even those who are not called for their rabbi, priest or pastor respectively – the others called for mercy in that last hour of civilization approaching. What is the issue here, Irma or any other major natural disaster? No. We are talking about an election and its outcome – the victory of Donald Trump. However, has destiny struck or are we just hysterical over here in Germany? Let us have a closer look on what really changed during the last nine months …
As a German-American who already personally is torn between Europe and the U.S., the worst nightmare has come true for the author. Having spent all his life in building bridges across the pond, defending the United States among his friends in Europe has even become harder. Everyone among those slick liberal German friends had fallen in love with the all so refined and intellectual Barack Obama – finally some wit in the White House again. While his second term was ending and the campaign turned rougher, people here got more and more hysterical. Nobody liked Hillary, and nobody ever imagined that a ridiculous figure like Donald Trump could possibly make it to the White House. Well, he did – and no, it was not fake news or a manipulated election after all. Trump won the majority of the electoral votes. Blame it on the ballot system that Hillary Clinton got more voters, but do not blame it on Trump. By the way, all of the author’s American friends and acquaintances denied knowing anyone having voted for Trump – except one geologist from Houston, a Democratic base voter who openly expressed his disappointment with the Democratic establishment.
The whole of Germany seemed to suffer from a collective hangover the morning after – TV-anchors and other colleagues projected the worst scenarios. In addition, all of them seemed to be right when the great Trump show kicked off. Weird rightwing creatures in the White House’s situation room, family business in the Oval Office, erratic tweets from the Commander in Chief – it felt like the end of the world as we know it. The reign of intellect made way for the terror of oversimplification.

Ignoring democratic results
Like American democracy, the Liberty Bell has weathered threats, and it has endured (c) John D. Cardinell/Wikimedia/Public Domain

Like American democracy, the Liberty Bell has weathered threats, and it has endured
(c) John D. Cardinell/Wikimedia/Public Domain

Of course, Obama was more charming; of course, he made it more comfortable for Europe and the Germans to close ranks as one big family of man. However, outside of the intellectual comfort zone of world peace and understanding, Obama’s foreign policy record was one of the worst in modern history. His political legacy is still hazy and although he might be the unsung hero of postmodern political romanticism, it was his policy and the Democrats’ failure to nominate a valid candidate that made Trump possible. In a democratic system, voters punish failure. In addition, the lack of consistency of the Obama administration – aside from all the international obstacles he had to face – was the luck of Trump. In the multidimensional charade called politics, the one-dimensional bluntness of the candidate was refreshing for a good amount of voters disappointed with Washington’s divorce from reality. Therefore, Donald Trump was not just a product of the Rust Belt’s redneck revolution – he was the logical consequence of a presidential system running on its own.
That being said, Germany remained in total shock. Losing all of their diplomatic distance, politicians of various colors expressed their disgust and disappointment over the election’s outcome – totally ignoring the democratic result of a free and fair election. No one gave Trump the benefit of the doubt, and doubtlessly, the president behaved like a bull in a china shop. Chaos in the White House, the Free West without a leader, Merkel as the new leader of the free world, there were zillions of premature headlines in German and European papers. If Trump’s first year in office were a movie, a proper title would be “The Rage of the Clichés.” Nearly all of public Germany was paralyzed by the bluntness and the lack of manners Trump consistently showed. However, no one ever considered the fact that American democracy is resting on a firmer foundation than Germany. No one is able to leverage these structures; the court verdicts and other legal decisions against Trump’s government are already legion. Democracy is working seamlessly, although the White House permanently seems to be throwing wrench in the works. But apart from all the Flynns, Bannons, Spicers, Sessions’ and Scaramuccis there is something you might call a government; considering the fact that most of the experts’ jobs still are vacant, the administration is working.

A welcome demon

Moreover, some of the decisions Trump has been announcing during his first months are not even that farfetched. Deploying more troops to Afghanistan and Africa might be a wiser decision than having withdrawn them. Using some explicit language towards North Korea sounds more feasible than declaring red lines every second month and not acting when somebody is crossing them and it was high time to come clear with the United Nations. Furthermore, at least the Democrats seem to have finally comprehended the Trump principle – first articulating a maximum demand, be it concerning Obama Care or a legal foundation for the “Dreamers,” and then starting to negotiate a realistic outcome. After all, once you have adjusted to this way of thinking, it is a pretty predictable way of doing politics. As mentioned before, the Democrats finally seem to have gotten the message as they are currently sitting down with Trump negotiating a legal successor for the Obama-era executive order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Trump had previously criticized DACA as executive overreach, but the President has also expressed his empathy for the young immigrants it protects. In addition, a deal might not even be too far away. “We thought we had an opportunity to get something good done, and let’s see what happens. We’re very hopeful that they will keep their word. I’d like to see it within the next little while. Look, I don’t want to set a date. Soon. Soon is the right word,” the New York Times quotes Charles Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader.
Other maximum demands like building the “beautiful wall” between Mexico and the USA and exiting the Paris Agreement seem to have evaporated into thin air for now. The harshest political enemy Trump is facing is called reality, the second fiercest answers to the name of democratic structures. It is about high time for Germany and Europe to understand that Donald Trump might be one of the worst and poorest educated presidents in modern American history but that he is by no means a monster or supernatural destiny bringing the seven plagues into the world. For many a complacent German, Trump is a highly welcomed demon to reinvigorate their anti-Americanism barely buried by Barack Obama. You can only counter irrationalism with rational behavior. So let’s give it a fresh start, Germany – the earth is still turning …■


Daniel Killy is a renowned Jewish-
German journalist

Photo Credit: (c) John D. Cardinell/Wikimedia/Public Domain

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