Montag, 14. November 2016

Reflections On Donald Trump

I am amazed at the ignorance which opinion leaders, politicians, intellectuals, etc. display about the American system. Perhaps they should read up on James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution", particularly his Federalist #51 where he explains in detail the system of checks & balances. The worst fears of the Founding Fathers were that America could return to something akin to a monarchy, an imperialist Presidency, for example. In terms of domestic policy, the President is rather weak and in terms of foreign policy he is only a bit stronger. A sole major decision by a President, a decision which might affect future generations and the rest of the world (like Angela Merkel's gut decision to exit nuclear energy or to open doors to mass migration) would be impossible in the American system.

The most critical check of all on the President is impeachment. Two of the very few prominent people who predicted a Trump win (Prof. Allan Lichtman who has now correctly predicted 9 Presidential elections and Michael Moore who predicted a Trump win since July (but changed his mind in late October)), both of them are now predicting a Trump impeachment within a year. They argue that it will simply be impossible for Trump to spend an entire year without breaking a law. And David Brooks of the NYT predicts the same.

Trump appears strong because the Republicans also have the House and the Senate. In fact, George F. Will argues that not since the 1920s have the Republicans been as strong as now (and the Democrats as weak as now). And yet, there are checks and balances between the two houses and within each party. Some people may remember in the hysteria of the day that a lot of Republicans were against Trump. They will not automatically rubberstamp Trump's proposals (because they have to bear in mind the constituencies which elected them).

Newt Gingrich now calls the "Mexican Wall" a great "campaign device", not to be taken literally. The same will happen with other Trump provocations of the campaign. Someone wrote that "Trump's critics take him literally but not seriously. His followers take him seriously but not literally". American pragmatism: if you want to change the country as President, you first have to be elected President. What you need to do to get elected may be different from what you need to do to change the country. Anyone who claims to know what will happen under Trump is a demagogue. Perhaps Trump himself is not so sure yet.

The critical milestones are: (1) whom will Trump choose for his cabinet? (2) Inaugural Speech and (3) State of the Union Speech (both in the second half of January). By the end of January, one should have a reasonably clear picture of what Trump aims at.

The most thrilling experience of my life was the campaign and election of Barack Obama 8 years ago. When Trump later started the birther hysteria, I was thrilled how Obama shut up the lunatic in an elegant way. Am I for Trump today? No, but I have never in my life felt as brainwashed as in the last few weeks and if that brainwashing continues I may well be forced to join those who hate brainwashing with a passion.

Do we remember how upset we were when Trump said that he might not concede on election evening and how forgiving when, instead, Clinton did not concede? Do we remember that we warned of militant Trump followers in case of defeat and how tolerant we are now of militant Clinton followers? Are we concerned that 3 million Clinton followers signed a petition to change the result of a constitutional election? Is there an outcry when the German singer/entertainer Konstantin Wecker expresses his wish that Trump had died instead of Leonard Cohen? Is there an outcry when a features writer of The Guardian writes that it's about time for a Presidential assassination?

If we pride ourselves of being open-minded liberals, we should extend that courtesy not only to those whose values we share but also to those whose values we do not share. If we think their values are wrong, declaring them as such won't do any good. One has to convince them of better values. I recommend an article by the renowned liberal Prof. Robert Skidelsky on Project-Syndicate titled "Slouching toward Trump". I wish every self-appointed liberal would feel that way!

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