Unusual self-doubt in America - Europe must become more dynamic


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There is no doubt: those of Vladimir Putin The Ukraine crisis for which we are responsible is currently overshadowing all other political issues in Europe. What is Putin planning? Will he risk attacking Ukraine, triggering the heavy regime of sanctions announced by the West? 

It is about preserving peace in Europe. I dare not make any predictions. The media documented the crisis and above all the intensive diplomatic efforts to ease the tension in detail.

In today's article, I am dealing with a development in the USA that is hardly noticed by the general public in Germany. Important personalities in America, for example the former President Jimmy Carter, worry about the survival of democracy in America. Should Donald Trump If the president were re-elected in 2024 and the country slides towards autocracy, the effects would also be devastating for Europe. The EU should prepare for all eventualities.

Unusual self-doubt in America - Europe must become more dynamic

There are dates in recent American history that are cited again and again when speaking or writing about one of the political or social problem areas in the USA. When it comes to gun violence - one could also speak of gun madness - April 20, 1999 is often mentioned, the day on which the Columbine High School  near Denver, CO two juvenile gunmen killed 12 students and two teachers. Such mass shooting are now part of the sad everyday life in the USA. 

January 8, 2011 is cited as an example of deadly violence in politics. That day became the Democratic congressman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, AZ  shot by an assassin on the street and critically injured; several people died. Another bad date for violence in the field of politics is November 22, 1963 when the President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, TX was killed; June 6, 1968, when his brother Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles, CA fell victim to an assassin and April 4, 1968, when Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN was killed. The American President Ronald Reagan was born on March 30, 1981 in Washington, DC shot and injured in an assassination attempt. Finally, especially when issues of race and the treatment of ethnic minorities are involved, May 25, 2020 has recently been cited as the day when African Americans George floyd in Minneapolis, MN died under the knee of a white police officer. His last words: "I can't breathe' have now become an often-cited outcry. A date that impacted and still impacts the world was September 11, 2001, when Islamist terrorists hijacked two airplanes and the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City brought down the assassins attacked it with another plane Pentagon in Washington, DC

A completely new category of black dates in recent US history was added a few years ago: On August 12, 2017, a young woman died, Heather Heyer, and other people on the fringes of a march by right-wing extremist organizations in Charlottesville, VA. Finally, the next date in this category was January 6, 2021, when a crowd of Trump supporters instigated by the President stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC stormed and tried to find out the official choice of Joe Biden (Joseph R. Biden) to prevent the new President of the USA by force. 5 people died in connection with this; there were over 150 injured. 

This new category of violence represents an almost irreconcilable friend-or-foe mentality in American politics and society, and the division of America into "good guys" and "bad guys." January 6, 2021 sparked a discussion in the US about whether American democracy could fail. A year after the storming of the Capitol, it is evident that right-wing violence was and is not only fueled by the President, but is also played down, reinterpreted and accepted by large parts of the Republican Party and its electorate. "The Big Lie" -- and with it loyalty to Trump -- has largely become the yardstick of Republican politics. 

Thomas Greven from the FU Berlin has described the current dilemma of the Republicans as follows: “A growing number of Republicans are letting Trump and other right-wing agitators incite them into an ever more apocalyptic fear of the alleged “left-wing fascism” of the Biden government. At the same time, the majority, which is actually threatened by authoritarian political violence, continues to behave as if normal congressional elections were coming up in November. The polls are unequivocal: Two-thirds of Republicans believe the lie Trump reiterated at his rally in Arizona last Saturday that the election was stolen from him. Worse still, more and more Republicans now deem lawbreaking and violence legitimate and necessary "to save their country." Yet this attitude is precisely the threat. Greven is moving from after the first year of the presidency Joe Biden the dramatic ending: “The attempt to reconcile American society has failed miserably. Biden simply cannot reach the supporters of the Trump cult. And they are dangerous - both to American democracy and to the life and limb of anyone who opposes them. But who does that anyway?” (ipg, 20.1.22;  Thomas Greven: “Democracy needs democrats”).

But there are a growing number of important personalities – politicians, scientists and journalists – who are concerned about their country's future and are raising their voices. This will be discussed elsewhere in this presentation. The of Thomas Greven The described majority, which is still expecting “completely normal congressional elections” in November of this year, cannot say that they were not warned in an emergency. It is also necessary to examine what developments in America the European partners of the USA have to prepare for? I will also write about that later.

A cornerstone of American democracy is at stake - the battle for universal, free and equal suffrage

The keyword "battle" in the heading of this section I have a report of New York Times removed. In fact, since the beginning of 2021, in many individual states of the USA - especially those governed by Republicans - a bitter battle has broken out over the structure of the electoral law, which goes far beyond the normal level of political debate (nytimes.com, 4/5.12.21 December 2022: “Voting Battles of XNUMX Take Shape as GOP Crafts New Election Bills”). The main trigger of this battle was the election of the Democrats Joe Biden to the 46th President of the USA, by his predecessor and election loser Donald Trump and not accepted by large sections of Republicans. 

The result of the presidential election on November 3.11.20rd, XNUMX is unequivocal both in terms of the electoral votes (Electoral College) and the votes cast:

Electoral College:Joe Biden 306 electors
Donald Trump232 electors
votes: Joe Biden81.283.098 votes
Donald Trump 74.222.958 votes
(Source: Federal Agency for Civic Education, January 18.1.2021, XNUMX)

In the night from 6./7. January 2021 Confirmed Vice President Mike Pence the result of the election in Congress. Normally this is a purely formal act. This time everything was totally different. Following a rally at which the defeated Donald Trump more or less clearly urging his supporters to go to the Capitol to "save the country," aggressive Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and the ongoing session of both houses of the US Congress was violently disrupted. The aim of the "action" was to confirm the election of Joe Biden to prevent. Vice President Pence was only able to announce the official election result in the early morning hours of January 7, 2021, when the Capitol was cleared several hours later. Joseph R. Biden Jr. was sworn in on the steps of the Capitol on January 20, 2021 as the 46th President of the United States.

A sad day for America's democracy  

In a post entitled "America is back” – But where are the Republicans going?“ I described the events of that time here in the weblog on February 27.2.2021th, 6 and supported them with a series of media quotes. One of the Trump supporters' rallying cries on January 2021, XNUMX was "Hangs Mike Pence!The vice president, who had loyally supported Trump for four years and either remained silent about his antics or even defended them, had become a tragic figure. Trump had put Pence under intense pressure after losing the election and expected him to reject the results from a number of states and thus clear the way for his re-election. When Pence refused on constitutional grounds, Trump effectively fired him. "Hangs Mike Pence" echoed through the halls of the Capitol as police and security forces escorted Pence and other politicians down a back stairway to safety. Pence has been silent about his relationship with Trump for a long time and only recently broke with him publicly.

The TV images of the storming of the Capitol went live on screens around the world on January 6, 2021. I still wonder if the general public in the US now realizes what was done to their country's reputation that day? "But where are the Republicans going?" I asked on 27.2.21/2021/XNUMX. An answer to this was published in December XNUMX in the Süddeutsche Zeitung published: 66 percent of supporters were Republicans according to a recent poll not  believes that the storming of the US Parliament was an attack on the US government; 77 percent of Republicans believe that their former president bears little or no responsibility for the outbreak of violence on 6.1.21/XNUMX/XNUMX (sueddeutsche.de, 14.12.21/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Late revelations on the storming of the Capitol"). 

The answer to the future path of Republicans is as clear as it is depressing: for them Grand old party, the venerable party Abraham Lincolns, it is apparently less and less about the well-being of the country and its citizens and more about maintaining and gaining power. The damage to the country's reputation and the dire impact on democracy in America seems either to be ignored or accepted. In the Republican Party, loyalty to Trump and his "Big Lie" about the stolen election decides who is a "true Republican" or a "Rino" - a "Republican in Name Only" ("Republican by name”) – is (see also nytimes.com, 19.1.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Why Millions Think It Is Trump Who Cannot Tell a Lie" - guest post by Thomas B Edsall).

Since the lost election, the Republicans have not been discussing a new political program or other personnel, but only how the midterm elections in 2022 and especially the presidential election in 2024 can somehow be won. Voting Restrictions – impeding and impeding access to the ballot box for potential Democratic constituencies -- became the focus of this Republican discussion. "Voting Battles of 2022 Take Shape as GOP Crafts New Election Bills" captioned the New York Times their detailed account of this tactic (nytimes.com, December 4th/5.12.2021th, XNUMX). It is about ensuring fair elections and preventing electoral fraud, it is argued to justify new electoral laws and regulations. The keywords fraud and “The Big Lie” referred to Süddeutsche Zeitung on the realities after the election on November 3.11.20rd, XNUMX: “Trump made allegations of irregularities in individual states. But lawsuits before various courts failed. Trump and his chief of staff tried several times Mark Meadows, to force the Justice Department to investigate, although it found no suspicions. At the same time, Trump called Republican officials, such as the governor and secretary of state in Georgia, to have election results declared invalid. At the same time, in mid-December (2020), the President announced a "wild" large-scale demonstration for January 6, the day on which Congress would seal the election" (sueddeutsche.de, 12.11.21/XNUMX/XNUMX: "How close the US came to a coup").

In 2021, 19 vote-restricting laws were passed in 33 states. The Republicans in Texas, in particular, who hold the majority in parliament and provide the governor there, fought fierce battles with the Democrats. In another 20 states, more than 245 bills are in the deliberation process, which will be decided on this year. Florida will be one of the battlegrounds for suffrage; the Republican governor there Ron De Santis could become the possible Trump challenger for 2024. A specific example: In the state of Georgia, the Republican majority intends the populous district gwinnett county, that to the central region around the capital Atlanta adjacent, dismembered in such a way that the black majority population there is leveled. Biden had Gwinnett won by a total of 18 percent. With skill and the tactics of Gerrymandering let yourself Gwinnett County trimmed to create more "safe" Republican than Democratic congressional districts. The constituencies of a county by the experts for Gerrymandering edited look like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Since in case of doubt the supreme courts of the individual states have to decide on disputes, the State Supreme Courts, their appointment with judges, up to the rules of procedure of these courts, to important battlefields (example North Carolina: nytimes.com, 29.1.22/XNUMX/XNUMX: In North Carolina, a Pitched Battle Over Gerrymanders and Justices").

It is difficult for Europeans to understand the ways and means of American electoral strategists to make it difficult for suspected political opponents to vote or to keep them away from the ballot box; Republican strategists usually target Democratic voters, especially ethnic minorities. It is about restricting postal voting, reducing the number of drop boxes on the side of the road for throwing in ballots, reducing the number of polling stations, especially in districts with a socially disadvantaged population, in order to prevent them from voting by having to walk long distances to the polling station; and to extend the powers of party election observers and shift election oversight away from independent civil servants and towards members of the state parliament – ​​i.e. politicians. After many years as manager of a polling station in Heilbronn, I find the threat of harsh penalties for poll workers who break the rules seem downright perfidious supposed. Who is willing to help with elections if he or she from the outset under suspicion stands and is threatened with harsh penalties? A well-measured distrust comes from the statement of a Republican state senator in Oklahoma, who had supported the review of the last election and justified it as follows: “There was a suspiciously high voter turnout that exceeded all expectations. While that alone wasn't reason to suspect fraud, it was suspicious enough to say a few questions needed to be asked.” For Europeans, on the other hand, difficult to understand: Even a higher turnout is suspicious for Republicans and justification for the voting restrictions. 

Republicans in Florida, Georgia and Arizona are likely to win a special prize for such bills. They want a special police force that electoral police set up, which should be exclusively responsible for the prosecution of misdemeanors and crimes in elections. Florida is the most advanced. There the governor Ron De Santis requested $5,7 million from the state legislature to set up a 52-strong force at the Interior Ministry. What a perfect way to keep voters out of the polling station! Who voluntarily goes where a special police force suspects wrongdoers? There is a strange-looking process going on in many Republican-controlled states - initiated by Trump's "Large lie' from the 'Stolen Election' - and advanced by the respective Republican majority. The strategists draft election laws through the lens of distrust and may later be surprised at the effects or even accept them: the citizens will lose confidence in a fair election process and will simply not vote.

Here is a point of criticism. the New York Times writes: “This effort can easily be abused and used as a political bludgeon to discourage people from registering or voting. Democrats point out that the main reason Republican voters have lost confidence in the voting system (and therefore the Voting restrictions support) is the Republicans' constant focus on almost entirely imaginary voter fraud" (nytimes.com, 20.1.2022: "Republicans Want New Tool in Elusive Search for Voter Fraud: Election Police"). With an approach of distrust, the democratic system is not strengthened but mutual distrust in society grows. Is this possibly even intentional? In the already cited report of the New York Times of the "battle for the right to vote," notes that the Republican approach involves two things: actual voter restrictions; but also to unsettle the public or to undermine confidence in fair elections (nytimes.com, 4/5.12.2021 December 2022: "Voting Battles of XNUMX Take Shape as GOP Crafts New Election Bills").

The Democrats ignominiously lost the battle for the right to vote

The ignominious defeat of the Democrats in the battle for the right to vote in Congress in Washington is told quickly but difficult to understand. The dates and details will be detailed in future history books. On the one hand, the failure of the democrats has to do with the fact that Europeans find it difficult to understand Filibuster Rule of Procedure in the Senate and the current state of the Democratic Party. The Democrats are divided among themselves and therefore outmanoeuvrable, although they have a majority in the House of Representatives - albeit a narrow one - and in the Senate a 50-50 stalemate with the vote of the vice president Kamala Harris as the President of the Senate can turn in her favor - when all 50 Democratic Senate members are on board. It should also be noted that a Democrat also resides in the White House. But the Democrats were not united and therefore their leadership's plan to secure universal, free and equal suffrage against the Voting restrictions the republican.

After some hesitation—perhaps in the hope of getting the new president's other plans off the ground with support from willing Republicans in Congress willing to cooperate—the Democrats had to accept that the flood of state laws with all sorts of Voting restrictions – could only be stopped at the federal level and they had a plausible plan for that.

The Democrats' Battle Plan

The Democratic faction in the House of Representatives had anchored their ideas for safeguarding the right to vote against restrictions and disabilities in two bills: (Source:  nytimes.com, 18.1.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: “Will Biden Lose the Fight Over Voting Rights?”)

The Freedom to Vote Act

contained guidelines for expanding access to elections, eg through postal voting and early voting options, as well as restrictions on voting Gerrymandering (tailoring electoral districts to the advantage of a party) and provisions on campaign donations. the Freedom to Vote Act should be primarily those planned by Republicans through state statutes Voting restrictions against ethnic minorities (African Americans and Latinos) and young Americans.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Above all, should prevent local and federal officials from dodging an election, as Trump and his supporters tried to do after the 2020 election. 

In the report cited here New York Times mentions that 14 Republican-controlled states have passed at least 24 laws designed to increase their control over the electoral process, limit the powers of state secretaries of the interior, and overturn election results. 

Several detailed reports New York Times reflect the fierce and dramatic arguments in the days before the final decision in the Senate. A procedural trick was required to enable rapid treatment and a decision in the Senate. After the Republicans in the Senate had already dealt with the two bills four times by the Filibuster Rule had blocked, the Democrats in the House of Representatives linked the two laws into a double pack and passed them not as a bill but as a Message (Notice, recommendation) to the Senate. Against such Message the Senate's rules of procedure do not see any filibuster in front. Nothing stood in the way of the treatment in the Senate (nytimes.com, January 12.1.2022, XNUMX: Democrats Plan to Fast-Track Voting Rights Bill, Speeding a Showdown”). 

In Filibuster rule:

According to this filibuster rule, every member of the Senate can speak as long as he or she likes, regardless of whether the member speaks at all. The toleration of this "obstructional tactic", which was used extensively in the debates on civil rights legislation and which can be ended by a vote of 60 senators under the current provisions, shows in turn how strong the minority rights in Congress - especially in the Senate - are individualized.

(Quoted from: Emil Huebner: “The Political System of the USA”; Beck series; 395 Verlag CH Beck, Munich, 1989)

By the trick described, the laws as Message bring in the Senate, the Filibuster Rule although bypassed and the Treatment of the laws in the Senate possible. A farewell was still the Filibuster Rule  In the way. The to end a filibuster The Democrats do not have the required 60 votes and Republican "defects" were absolutely not to be expected.

The way out for the Democrats could therefore only change the rules of procedure of the Senate and the abolition of the Filibuster Rule overall, or at least in electoral laws. That would have the votes all 50 Democratic senators and the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. I write here in the subjunctive: "Hatten" - because there were two dissenters among the Democrats. After ten hours of discussion in the Senate, the plan to secure general, equal, free and fair elections through a federal law failed on January 19.1.2022, XNUMX. the New York Times reported on it at length under the headline: "After a day of debate, the Senate voting rights bill was blocked" (nytimes.com, 19.1.22: "After a day of debate, the voting rights bill is blocked in the Senate"). 

This debate in the Senate was the preliminary political and emotional climax of the battle for the right to vote. Trying to change the Rules of Procedure and the Filibuster Rule suspending voting rights legislation ended 52-48 against the Democrats. The defeat was already foreseeable as the Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and her colleague Joe Manchin III of West Virginia announced the abolition of the Filibuster Rule unable to agree. Cinema told the Senate that while she still supports her party's electoral laws, she does not support the amendment to the Rules of Procedure because it deepens the rift across the country. Her colleagues accused her of being a weak argument because, as a result, it would open the door to further restrictions on voting rights in the individual states. The two dissenters received Republican applause. Their faction leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell said, Sinema saved the Senate as an institution (nytimes.com, 13.1.22/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Sinema Rejects Changing Filibuster, Dealing Biden a Setback").

For me, Sinema's statement is illogical and not conclusive: She supports both of her party's laws, so she wants to secure the right to vote, but at the same time she prevents this by giving opponents in the Senate the opportunity to use the Filibuster Rule to prevent the passage of the two laws. Indeed: a feeble attempt to disguise the actual motives behind her decision. 

The consequences of this lesson in “how to leave your own president out in the rain” could be doubly devastating for the Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections: On the one hand, the Republicans are still able to enact laws in the states they control Voting restrictions get through, which make it difficult for voters in particular to vote for the Democrats and keep them away from the polls. In addition, some traditional Democratic voters will deliberately stay home on Election Day out of anger at the Democrats' ineptitude. This was already evident on 17.1.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX - a day before the big debate in the Senate - at the annual peace march in Washington DC in memory of the slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King. Above all, the Senate should also be asked to enact electoral legislation. But the two dissidents had already made their position public - the failure of the Democrats was already in sight. Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the civil rights leader, on 17.1.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX recalled his father's critical statements about most moderates, inclined far more to order than to justice. "History will not remember them kindly" (nytimes.com, 17.1.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: “Marchers Honor King and Call on Senate to Pass Voting Rights Legislation”). 

From the point of view of the Democrats, it is to be expected and to be feared that many African-American voters will remember these words on the next election day in November 2022 and that the Democrats will lose their narrow majority in the House of Representatives and the Republicans will also regain their majority in the Senate will reach. Joe Biden is then a so-called Lame Duck lame duck,  a president whose party does not have a majority in Congress and who can hardly implement his plans. Kyrsten Sinema was formally reprimanded by her party in Arizona for her voting behavior. The complaint was based on the fact that Cinema failed to do everything possible to keep democracy healthy in America (nytimes.com, 22.1.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Arizona Democrats Censure Sinema After Filibuster Vote"). The reprimand is a symbolic act, but it publicly documents that the Democrats do not agree even on absolute fundamental issues.    

Unusual self-doubt in America: Our democracy is in danger

A few months ago, a friend from Texas—he comes from a Jewish family from Heilbronn who emigrated to America in 1938—described to me his deep concern for the future of the United States. He compared the current political developments there with the situation in Germany around 1933 and wrote that if he were younger he would accept Germany's offer to his former Jewish fellow citizens, become German citizens again and move to Germany. Texas can be described as a republican stronghold. As one of the first US states, there was a law with rigorous Voting restrictions adopted. Texas became known worldwide for the almost perfidious way in which an older judgment of the Supreme Court guaranteed right to an abortion was undermined. The right was not simply limited or overturned by law - it stands by the landmark judgment  

Roe vs Wade from 1973. Rather, the Texas legislature granted every citizen the right to demand a large sum of money from the women on a private-law basis who presumably carried out an abortion; also from those who helped, such as the clinic where the abortion was carried out or even the taxi driver who drove the woman there. This odd brand of "civil justice" used to overturn Texas law has resulted in most Texas clinics no longer performing abortions.

My friend in Texas is not alone in his pessimism about future developments in America. First of all I want to point out again the deep rift between the two parties in America, the Republicans and the Democrats, which now runs through the whole of society. As is known, there is already during the tenure of Donald Trump the obligation to wear a face mask has become a policy issue. The division of the country can be illustrated by the interpretation of the storming of the Capitol on January 6.1.2021, 4.2.2022. Democrats and their supporters are interpreting the storming of the Capitol as an unprecedented assault on the Constitution in US history. The Republican leadership officially committed itself on February XNUMX, XNUMX and interprets the storming of the Capitol as "legitimate political discourse" (nytimes.com, 4/5.2.22/6/6.1.2021: "GOP Declares Jan. 150 Attack 'Legitimate Political Discourse'"). However, some leading Republicans have spoken out against this trivializing interpretation - there were five dead and more than XNUMX injured on January XNUMXth, XNUMX. This decision of the party leadership also criticized Mitch McConnell, the Republican faction leader in the Senate. But it is precisely in his person that the dilemma of his party shows - especially when Donald Trump in game is: McConnell while condemning the storm, cleared Trump of complicity in the second impeachment trial. McConnell and a few others, it seems to me, want to keep their options open; following the old saying: You want to carry water on both shoulders (see also nytimes.com, 8.2.22/6/XNUMX: "McConnell Denounces RNC Censure of Jan. XNUMX Panel Members").

why behaves Mitch McConnell so ambivalent? Why is he criticizing his own party? David Leonhardt tried in his morning recap TheMorning in the New York Times an answer on 10.2.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX; and again the dazzling figure of Trump plays a key role. McConnell knows that Trump is reaching groups of voters that Republicans have never been able to win. But he also knows that Trump is alienating constituencies that Republicans have won in the past, such as the suburbs who are now helping the Democrats in Arizona and Georgia win. In this political landscape, in the eyes of a man whose only goal is to empower Republicans, extremism is unnecessary and counterproductive. 

David Leonhardt quotes the Harvard professor Daniel Ziblatt, which sees McConnell and the Republicans in a "semi-loyal swing": one day they condemn undemocratic behavior, only to the next day backtrack into ambiguity (nytimes.com - The Morning, 10.2.22/XNUMX/XNUMX: Why has Mitch McConnell criticized his own party").

My conclusion from all of this is that a party that is “semi-loyal” – that is, lukewarm – to democracy is dangerous.      

Most Republicans are aware of this issue and would rather deal with other issues than the storming of the Capitol. Some fear that the Democrats will want to use 6.1.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX as a weapon against them (the Republicans). Others are simply reluctant to take on Trump, who still dominates the party. “Far beyond normal arguments and legislative differences, the legacy of January 6 has deepened the toxic rift between congressmen and their staffs on both sides. On the first anniversary of the storm (6.1.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX), security forces were on alert. A video on the Internet called for the mass execution of MPs.” Incidentally, so the New York Times there was no evidence of an organized conspiracy. However, in the internet chat, there were calls from right-wing groups for celebrations and rallies to mark the anniversary, which, as they put it, were intended to “protest the persecution of hundreds of leaders”. However, there were no big events. Washington DC remained quiet on January 6, 2022.

In New York Times describes how on the anniversary of the former Vice President Mike Pence of Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in the Capitol; they had previously condemned him as a war criminal. This surreal scene shows how much Trump has changed the political situation in the country. President Biden said in his address that the storming of the Capitol was a "moment of greatest danger to democracy". Biden summarized the Democrats' view of what happened on January 6.1.2021, XNUMX in one sentence: "Those who stormed the Capitol and those who instigated and incited them and those who called for this to happen were holding knives on America's throat and America's democracy" (nytimes.com, 6.1.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX:  "Biden condemns Trump as Washington splits over legacy of Jan. 6 attack"). I could go on and on describing the feverish state in which American politics and society finds itself. The country has also a year after the end of the presidency of Donald Trump not calmed down yet. 

If you follow recent political statements and publications in the media, you will repeatedly find warnings of serious dangers and threatening developments that are still to come in the United States. A year after the storming of the Capitol, the warnings, complaints and accusations seem to be piling up. "Bipartisan cooperation is difficult to see, Washington is at an impasse," writes the New York Times. In other words, Biden failed on a key campaign promise: to reconcile the country. He overestimated his ability and ability to find compromise lines across party lines, as he used to do in the past. After four years of Trump, the climate in the capital has become more icy and merciless. And Biden has not taken into account that his own party is not a cohesive and unified bloc. Rather, that individual senators even manage to leave their own president out in the rain. 

Below I will select some of the concerned reports and contributions from leading politicians, academics and journalists in the renowned New York Times quote about the state and future prospects of the USA. What strikes me as remarkable is that the statements do not show the earlier American optimism. They are often unusually pessimistic and worried about the country. Looking from the outside, I experience a country that – at least in parts – is only concerned with itself, while the majority of Americans cannot or do not want to understand the concerns of others.   

The former President Jimmy Carter wrote on January 5.1.2022th, XNUMX in the New York Times a guest post entitled: "I Fear for our Democracy". The famous scientist Francis Fukuyama -- after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc he had full of optimism prophesied that "the end of history" - captioned his guest article in the New York Times: “One single day. That's All It Took for the World to Look Away from Us" - "One day. That was all it took and the world lost sight of us”. In his paper, Fukuyama deals with the effects of January 6.1.2021th, 6 on the global image of the USA and stated: “The greatest weakness of the United States lies in its inner turmoil. If the Republican Party had been able to condemn the events of January 1974th as they did in XNUMX Richard Nixon dumped, we could have hoped that the country would put the Trump era behind it. But this did not happen and external opponents such as Russia and China are watching the situation with undisguised joy" (nytimes.com, 5.1.22).   

I still cannot understand why large parts of the leadership of the Republican Party either do not recognize this development - the geostrategic loss of importance of their country - or even accept it. A number of press articles state that Republicans who have failed to break away from Donald Trump to renounce, are largely responsible for the pessimism about the future in America. 

The renowned journalist and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L Friedman quoted in his New York Times column the Harvard professor Steven Levitsky, who together with his colleague Daniel Ziblatt the bestseller "How Democracies Die" wrote. Levitsky "If we look at the upcoming US elections as normal elections, the chance of our democracy surviving is like a coin toss. We must make it clear to the public and to the establishment that this will not be a normal donkey versus elephant election. It's about democracy versus authoritarianism” (Donkey and Elephant are the animal signs for Democrats and Republicans). 

Based on this assessment by Levitsky beats Friedman as a team for the 2024 presidential election, the moderate democrats Joe Biden and the traditionally conservative liz cheney in front (nytimes.com, 11.1.22/2024/XNUMX: "Biden-Cheney XNUMX?"). He puts a question mark in the headline after the proposal. But things must be bad for the future of democracy when a renowned journalist introduces such a proposal into the discussion. It is not possible for me to transfer this proposal to German conditions and to name two politicians from our country that correspond to Friedman's proposal. The political structures and parties in the two countries are too different. However, one thing is clear: between Biden and Cheney lie political worlds. Friedman With this combination of names, he probably also wants to express that the rift through American society and the dangers to democracy can only be averted by experienced and, above all, honest politicians from both ends of the spectrum.

Thomas L Friedman

Born 1953 – born in St. Louis Park near Minnepolis, MN. Renowned journalist and opinion columnist New York Times three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of several books. Friedman embodies all the important characteristics of good journalism: he provides a wide range of information, links it, shows the connections and thereby conveys new insights. In this way, he encourages his readers to think critically of their own. (I feel myself Friedman personally connected; he's from Minneapolis, where I lived for a year long ago as an exchange student).

I want to show another example of the search for "rescuing solutions". This also seems unrealistic to me, but it also shows how deep a hole the country is in. In a dialogue they deal New York Times - columnists Gail collins and Bret stephens including the current state of the Republican Party. Stephens, the Gail collins as a “sane conservative,” describes the state of the party in stark and sarcastic terms: trying to pull the Republican Party out of the moral hole it has maneuvered itself into is akin to trying to recover a corpse into life by blowing tobacco smoke up her butt. Stephens sees the only solution in forming one or even two new parties. "America needs a liberal party that gives the term 'liberal' an old-fashioned meaning: free speech, free enterprise, free living, and a free world." But America also needs a decent conservative party in the true sense of the word "conservative" -- Trump's Republicans Party is the antithesis of all this.

I repeat my statement: Concerns about the future of the country must be depressing to propose the founding of one or even two more parties in the classic country of the two-party system. The short- and long-term effects can hardly be estimated. American politicians have no experience whatsoever in forging coalitions and, above all, in keeping them together in a disciplined manner. The easier way out would be to punish Republicans at the ballot box to force them to realign. A “patent proposal” – it is clear to me: the circumstances are not like that!

The worrying developments and trends in the United States are also being described in the German media. the Spiegel published a comprehensive report entitled “Patient America” back in 2020 – in the dramatic final phase of the Trump era. Immediately below the headline was the question: "Is the world witnessing the implosion of a superpower?" (The mirror, No. 16/11.4.2020).

The Trump era, as the culmination of worrying developments so far, has caused not only political but also moral damage in the United States. The accepted self-image, the relaxed normality in dealings between people, has now been damaged: What is “okay”? What is "right"? What can and should one “expect” a country and its society? At the end of the second impeachment trial on February 13.2.2021, XNUMX, President Trump was acquitted by the majority of Republican members of the Senate - not because he was not responsible for the storming of the Capitol, but because he was not responsible for the Republican Party for political reasons could be. This shows once again what problematic developments Trump has pushed and is responsible for. What a contrast to that time when the Republican President Richard M. Nixon after revealing his involvement in the Watergate affair resigned on August 8.8.1974, 2024 to avoid impeachment proceedings, at the end of which he would have been convicted by the Republican senators. That left Nixon politically dead. Trump may run again as the Republican presidential nominee in XNUMX.

America is not lost yet - There are glimmers of hope

"Elected autocrats maintain a democratic facade while dissolving democratic substance."

Steven Levitsky / Daniel Ziblatt: "How Democracies Die"

 "The erosion of democracy is happening so imperceptibly that many not perceive them.”

Steven Levitsky / Daniel Ziblatt: "How Democracies Die"

“The tragic paradox of the slide into authoritarianism over elections is that the killers of democracy use their own tools to kill it—gradually, almost imperceptibly, and quite legally.”

Steven Levitsky / Daniel Ziblatt: "How Democracies Die"

In their 2018 bestseller, the two Harvard professors Levitsky and Ziblatt state that democracies are not wiped out overnight, for example by a revolution or a military coup d'état, but "imperceptibly", "gradually" as the elected government replaces the democratic Gradually erode institutions. “Democratic regression begins today at the ballot box.” Levitsky and Ziblatt cite Hungary, Turkey and Poland as examples. Referring to the US, they write: “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in an extreme polarization that has expanded beyond political differences to an existential conflict over race and culture. "Donald Trump's surprise victory is due not only to widespread discontent among the American people, but also to the fact that the Republican Party allowed an extremist demagogue from its own ranks to be nominated as a presidential candidate.”  

Trump is preparing to return to the White House. His latest statements leave little doubt that he wants to compete again in 2024. On January 29.1.2022, XNUMX, he declared at a large rally in Conroe near Houston, TX His flag-waving fans - many wore t-shirts that read "Trump 2024" - he would consider pardoning the January 6 defendants if elected. "Should I run and win, we will treat the January 6 people fairly" (nytimes.com, 30.1.22/6/2024: "Trump Says He would Consider Pardons for Jan. 6 Defendants if Elected"). He could not have described his future plans more clearly. But the 2021 election is still a long way off and the time factor can definitely work against him. Politicians from both parties have criticized Trump's comments about a pardon for the January XNUMX, XNUMX rioters. The Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an opportunist who heavily criticized Trump immediately after the storming of the Capitol only to visit him in Florida days later to offer a sort of apology, now said Trump's statements were "inappropriate". "I don't want to support the idea that desecration (of the Capitol) is OK" (nytimes.com  loc.cit. senator Mitch McConnell went a step further, admonishing Republican candidates to "respect the outcome of democratic processes."

In Süddeutsche Zeitung recently reported poll numbers suggesting something is shifting at Trump's grassroots. “Three quarters of Republicans like Trump, but just under two-thirds think he should run again in 2024.” The SZ report draws the following conclusion: “Trump is no longer as dominant in the party as he used to be recently was. He lost a lot of support among older and white Republicans without a college degree, those whom the populist Trump was able to mobilize like no other.” … “Many are uncomfortable with the idea that Trump will lead a campaign in 2024 that based only on his tale of the stolen election.” But the uncertainty inherent in these statements becomes clear in the final section of the report: “These data and anecdotes should be treated with great caution. Trump has recently held back with media appearances. If he returns completely, his following could quickly regain their old strength. He has amassed by far the largest campaign treasury among Republicans. Nevertheless, the reservations could become dangerous for him if he is not able to refute them soon. Not only political commentators look for his weak points - but also the challengers from his own party" (sueddeutsche.de, 31.1.22/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Trump has to get used to boos"). 

All in all: Nothing precise is known (yet). A process of wear and tear seems to have started - the time factor will play an important role. Democracies may die slowly, but resistance to autocrats also takes a long time to become effective.

The look into the future, especially the midterms of 2022 (the midterm elections) is accompanied by hope and fear on both sides of the political spectrum - depending on the perspective and data material. Republicans would only need to gain 5 seats in the House of Representatives and 1 seat in the Senate to control both houses of Congress, just as they did at the beginning of the Trump presidency. One could then speak of a red (republican) wave. But there was a problem - Matthew Continental, Book author and contributor to the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute – put it in a guest post in the New York Times in question form: “Will Trump ruin the red wave in 2022?” It has been shown time and again that the biggest obstacle to the “red wave” is not the Democrats but the Republicans themselves. As an example, Continetti cites the dispute in the Republican Party in Georgia, where Trump nominated a candidate against the current Republican governor Brian Kemp supports. Continetti answers the question of who will benefit from it in one sentence: "The democrat Stacey Abrams" (nytimes.com, 18.12.2021/2022/XNUMX: “Will Trump Ruin a Red Wave in XNUMX?”). 

There are similar developments in other states. Trump now has about 100 candidates for the midterms recommended and promised his support (endorsement); not always to the delight of the local Republican Party. Republicans fear inner-party strife and bizarre messages that could deter swing voters. In Texas, for example, there is resistance from the conservative party base after Trump fired the previous governor Greg Abbott  recommended for election. Abbott is an exemplary Trump supporter, but is unpopular with many right-wingers in Texas due to strict corona measures. The Republican Election Observer Patrick Ruffini has a feeling that "things are in motion" and explains this as follows: There is a strong attachment to Trump, which is currently still strong enough to win a Republican primary. But this isn't the same ironclad, monolithic, Soviet-esque attachment that it was when he was president. There are major shifts in the demographics considered to be the most loyal to Trump: White Republicans without a college degree. The approval rating for Trump was originally 62 percent and fell to 36 percent (nytimes.com, 31.1.22/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Trump's Grip on GOP Faces New Strains").

A few days ago, both the Süddeutsche Zeitung as well as the New York Times. Trump's "faithful Eckart," the former Vice President Mike Pence publicly renounced his former president on February 4.2.2022th, XNUMX. Previously, Trump had repeatedly stated that pence was entitled, as Vice President, to reject results from individual states when the election results were announced in Congress on January 6.1.2021, XNUMX, and thus to change the election result in favor of Trump. pence who had remained silent for a long time, now gave a clear answer: "President Trump is wrong." ... "There is no more un-American idea than the idea that any individual can determine the American President." A devastating verdict! pence is in the Süddeutsche Zeitung Described as a "staunchly conservative politician" who has "loyally served the President for four years." pence self-describes as “Christian, conservative, and Republican—in that order.” His break with Trump may cause pause for thought among some evangelicals, but Trump will not gain his strong support in this demographic, where he is sometimes revered as the country's great savior lose.

The Republican leadership is (still) firmly behind Trump. Also on February 4.2.2022, XNUMX, the party condemned the two Republican congressmen liz cheney and Adam kinzinger, because they will be working on the committee of inquiry on January 6.1.2021th, XNUMX. The party's statement calls the storming of the Capitol a "legitimate political protest" (sueddeutsche.de, 5.2.22: "Pence contradicts: "Trump is wrong". || nytimes.com, 4.2.22/XNUMX/XNUMX: "'Trump Is Wrong,' Pence Says of False Claim About Overturning Election" || nytimes.com, 4/5.2.22/6/XNUMX: "GOP Declares Jan. XNUMX Attack 'Legitimate Political Discourse'").

Hope and fear in both political camps. In the previous chapter of this paper, I quoted the pessimistic statements of my pro-Democrat friend from Texas, who comes from a Jewish family in Heilbronn. A friend from a traditionally Democratic Minnesota family wrote me very optimistically in January 2022: “I am confident that things will be different in 6 months. I'm optimistic."

Should - contrary to expectations - Donald Trump Not being the Republican presidential candidate in 2024 – for example because they no longer trust him to win and a stronger candidate has prevailed in the crucial primaries – would by no means mean the end of the Trumpism. Even then, democracy in America would still be a long way from being saved and secured. In fact, the Republicans are talking about possible candidates of the generation after Trump, who have not (yet) publicly spoken about a possible candidacy but are secretly in the starting blocks. Hubert Wezel, the USA correspondent of Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: "Perhaps Trump is so irritated because he senses that something is changing in the Republican Party" ... "There are also a growing number of right-wing commentators and strategists who want a new man to lead the Republicans - one who continues Trump's nationalist and populist America First policies, but who does not carry around his personal sexism and racism baggage, who has not lost an election and who cannot be accused of inciting an attack on Parliament . In these circles, DeSantis is seen as a kind of backup Trump" (sueddeutsche.de, 24.1.22/XNUMX/XNUMX: "The Substitute Trump").

The glimmer of hope for democracy in the United States is still quite faint. Political America is currently in an uncertain state of limbo. Paraphrasing Wellington's famous line at the Battle of Waterloo - "I wish it were night or the Prussians were coming" - I write: "I wish it were election night in America and the electorate could teach the Republicans a good lesson granted.” But I also have hopes and fears. jeffrey angel, the director of the Center for the History of the Presidency at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, after a year of methodically undermining electoral confidence, describes the American electorate as "understandably desensitized, if not numb" - understandably insensitive, if not deaf. "I'm afraid the American public is completely underestimating how extraordinary and dangerous the situation is because we just can't process the truths we've learned about Trump's actions: We've never had a president who put his personal interests so fundamentally." placed above those of the nation" (nytimes.com, 1.2.22/XNUMX/XNUMX: Trump's Words and Deeds, Reveal Depths of His Drive to Retain Power").

What happened if ….? – And what does all this have to do with Europe?

What will happen if a Republican takes the White House in 2024 and his party has a majority in both houses of Congress? This question dealt with recently Thomas B Edsall in his weekly column in the New York Times. The headline of his op-ed was: "What America Would Look Like Under Trump in 2025". What is remarkable is that there is no question mark after this sentence. 

Edsall asked academics from the US and Europe to describe what a President Trump and a Republican majority will then do, considering their past statements and practices. 

I want to refer again to Edsall's introductory sentence; it is not in the subjunctive: "What will happen if the Republicans win back the White House in 2024 and have a majority in the House and Senate?" Edsall answers as to what this has to do with Europe: "Donald Trump is an Orban admirer – Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister is nothing short of a study case in how a right-wing populist agenda is aggressively pursued "soft fascism" described:

“A political system aimed at suppressing dissent and gaining control over all essential spheres of the country's political and social life; and this without having to resort to extreme measures such as the abolition of elections and the establishment of a police state. ... Orban secured power using a tactic that was procedurally legal but ultimately undermined the rule of law. He occupied the courts with his partisans and threatened, took over or shut down independent media." 

Thomas B. Edsall, nytimes.com, February 2.2.2022, 2025: "What America Would Look Like in XNUMX Under Trump"

Orban's Hungary has already become a place of pilgrimage for the American right. With Trump's return to the White House, EU member Hungary, despite its current outsider status in the EU, would become an American-fired submarine within the community. A situation that is hard to imagine today. But already there is an exchange of ideas between the American and European right. “For the various factions of conservatives – reactionary populists, integralists, ethno-nationalists – Hungary becomes what Denmark is for the left: a model that exists partly in reality and partly in an idealistic dream world.” A A scholar's startling description of Hungary's future role should democracy slip in the United States.

How can Europe prepare for such a situation? In view of the current Ukraine crisis, the security policy aspects of European politics, the safeguarding of peace in Europe, are once again coming to the fore. “With and without Trump: Many Americans no longer see the USA in the role of world policeman. Europe must take the signs of the times seriously,” writes the foreign policy expert and vice president of the Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Parsi mince, from Washington, DC. Parsi recommends that Europe align its defense policy accordingly (Trita Parsi:  "We are out";  ipg, 4.1.22). A request to Europe that goes far beyond the topic of my present reflection.

My paper is primarily about the threats to the free and democratic basic order in the United States and the question of how Europe is going to respond to these developments, especially to a new presidency Donald Trumps or a “surrogate Trump” such as his likeness Ron De Santis and a Republican majority in Congress. Edsall's op-ed urges all opponents of ideology to stand together and support one another in the preservation of western civilization in western countries. This is a very general and far-reaching statement. For Europe, in view of the threat to democracy and the rule of law in some EU member states, this can only mean that the disputes that have been simmering for a long time about the values ​​of the community are actively brought to an end. The constant preoccupation of the EU with fundamental questions that have long since been clarified by the ECJ does not bring the community any further. The European Union must become more dynamic and capable of acting politically and structurally. 

The response in the EU member states to the Europe part of the traffic light coalition agreement is quite positive. The Italian philosopher put it quite succinctly Angelo Bolaffi – he was director of the Italian cultural institute in Berlin from 2007 – 2011: “The compromise and postponement logic of the grand coalition is finally being followed again by the “time for decisions”. Scholz must initiate a "geopolitical Bad Godesberg". Building a Europe that takes its destiny into its own hands is today “Germany’s second chance.” (Gregory Fitzi"Che semaforo? What traffic light?”; in Neue Gesellschaft/Frankfurt issues, 1/2 – 2022). 

A similar reaction comes from France: "Although Merkel's policy was valued for its ability to find compromises, from the French point of view this has not led to Germany and the European Union being better positioned ...". Many comments in France emphasized the "pro-European" tone of the coalition agreement. Some see it as a belated response to Macron's 2017 Sorbonne speech Conference on the future of Europe to want to continue to a constituent convention, beyond Macron's previous statements (Thomas Manz"A Late Response to Macron's Sorbonne Speech"; in Neue Gesellschaft/Frankifurt issues, 1/2 – 2022). 

I would like to quote two important statements from the traffic light coalition's European policy catalog of goals -- it comprises 8 pages in the contract:

  • We are committed to an EU that protects its values ​​and the rule of law both internally and externally and stands up for them with determination. As the largest member state, we will assume our special responsibility in a serving understanding of the EU as a whole.
  • We want to strengthen the European Parliament (EP), for example in the right of initiative; preferably in the Treaties, otherwise interinstitutional.

The last half-sentence in particular shows that Germany does not shy away from the previously feared discussions about changes in the European treaties. There is also the possibility of further changes and structural updates.

Hope and tremble? As for the future of the EU, I am confident that the Europeans Mario Draghi, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz strengthen the European Union in such a way that it can also confront an America that is possibly becoming more autocratic and populist.

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