Apparently, you can’t reveal it often enough. It doesn’t matter that the man has almost a full term behind him. Seasoned journalists still see the final verdict about Donald Trump as being that he is above all a man with no sense of decency. Three and a half years of America first!, his implementation of impressive visions and revisions of American world politics, of the ‘homeland,’ and of the most powerful office in the world — everything he does on and around the job is perceived solely as evidence of a defective moral sensibility.
It’s strange how so-called populists have acquired the reputation of being a danger to democracy. The list of their sins includes stirring up discontent as grist for their mills, dividing the people and declaring themselves to be their only true representative, telling the people what they want to hear, making unrealistic promises to them and offering ‘simple solutions’ to complex problems, engaging in nationalistic and xenophobic rabble-rousing, cultivating an authoritarian personality cult and showing no respect for the rule of law.
It’s strange because populists carry on so extremely democratically. It’s as if one knew of a democratic competition of political parties other than one where good democrats with a pronounced will to power not only seize on popular discontent wherever it is loudly proclaimed, but also track it down, dig it up, and incite it in order to direct it against the those in office and in favor of themselves. It’s as if one didn’t know very well that a democratic politician shows no limits to his shame when it comes to going from on high among the masses in order to be celebrated as one of them.
The journalists of the world have two closely related adjectives for Trump’s style of rule: unseemly and undemocratic. The editors of GegenStandpunkt do not want to make the new resident in the White House more decent than he is. But a look at his conduct in office during his first hundred days shows quite clearly that there is nothing un- or even anti-democratic in Trump’s style of rule; and the standards that the guardians of democratic decency bring against Trump are not one bit better.
Ever since Obama took office, the power struggle in Washington has been escalating. Political competition is no longer reserved for official political parties that vie for votes with policy proposals and candidates, and that after counting up the votes fight and negotiate with each other — the one side as the administration in power, the other as the opposition — over how to manage the country. That is precisely what a fundamentalist popular movement is no longer willing to tolerate, and its very name conveys its conviction that a new American revolution is necessary. Just as the Boston Tea Party sparked a revolt and a war of independence against the British Crown, the descendants of these early American revolutionaries seek to take back America for Americans, freeing them from an un-American oligarchy that has usurped power over the country, suppressing freedom and ruining the land: “We must take back our nation!” Crisis, rising debt, unemployment, lost and unwinnable wars, as well as the country’s diminished capacity to dictate American playing rules to the rest of the world — the movement views all these phenomena as representing a widespread decline of “God’s own country” owing to a betrayal of American virtues. But it is not only the ruling party and its president that have been accused of betrayal; the entire political establishment is under suspicion. Whoever wants to be cleansed of this suspicion must submit to a “purity test” to determine whether they have the proper ethos. So the Tea Party sets off on its quest to rescue the country. It is in the process of thwarting Obama’s healthcare reform; recently, their members in Congress nearly forced the government into default. In a number of states, they are demonstrating what the nation can expect in terms of policies toward immigrants, unions, and schools once they come to power. In the Presidential election campaign that is currently underway, movement activists are fighting to make the Tea Party program the official Republican party line. They have been turning Republican primaries into an opportunity to pressure candidates to commit to the movement’s core beliefs, promising support in return while issuing the warning that all candidates will be placed under strict supervision and voted down at the earliest opportunity in case of betrayal — that is, in case the politicians they have brought to power end up making compromises after all with those who are ruining America.
A movement of the aggrieved wants its democratic government back
In the fourth year of the global financial crisis, demonstrators gathered first in New York, then in other cities throughout America and Europe, protesting against the agencies and institutions they hold responsible for the financial crisis and its consequences: “Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Frankfurt! Occupy London!” They declare themselves to be “the 99 %” and even “the people,” who “feel wronged” by 1% of the population and “express a feeling of mass injustice.” They demonstrate in front of local stock exchanges, suspecting that the harmful minority of corporate and financial managers have their real and symbolic home in the financial centers of the world, but they also show up in other public places, set up camps, and encounter much, often extremely positive, attention in the media.
How Barack Hussein Obama mastered the path to 44th President of the United States has led to an orgy of admiration for this man. And not only among the American electorate and its opinion leaders, but also among other citizens of the world who couldn’t even vote for him. In addition, the election campaign and accession to power of the first black leader of the world's most powerful state are considered an exemplary testament to the beauty and effectiveness of democracy.
[Translated from the analysis of GegenStandpunkt Publishers on Radio Lora München from October 27, 2008]
It goes without saying that, in the United States, there is criticism of the government’s war program. It would of course be strange if, in the oldest democracy in the world, a drastic change toward a new era in domestic and foreign policy didn’t go off without debate, opposition, and resistance. In Europe, any kind of opposition raised in America is met with the most lively interest.
The citizens of “God’s own country” have elected the president. Once again the election campaign was, as befits the largest and most powerful of the free democracies, exemplary. This is not so much because of the perfect manner in which the candidates demonstrated how much this highlight of the people’s democratic sovereignty is a matter of the financial power the respective parties are able to muster for their propaganda productions.
Not a week goes by without someone accusing somebody of some human-rights violation. The accusers are politicians, journalists, and speakers from organizations committed to improving moral conduct in the world of states; generally they reside in the free West. The accused are generally politicians somewhere else, foreign governments, and “self-appointed” rulers. The court expected to take up the charge is primarily the international democratic public, i.e., more of an imagined judge, whose penal power consists in defaming the accused. When state powers capable of asserting themselves worldwide act as prosecutor, they not infrequently go ahead and declare themselves to be both judge and executor of their verdicts, which include quite harsh penalties. The club of European sovereigns and the U.N. in New York have additionally set up special courts that take up many an official action for human-rights violations in perfect legal form. The substance of the accusations is the great variety of more or less brutal acts that a ruling power commits against its subjects.
So how to judge such cases?