segunda-feira, 7 de novembro de 2016
The Script of a Real-Life Tragedy / One Mistake Too Many / Democracy at a Dead-End in America
Clinton Versus Trump
The Script of a Real-Life Tragedy
Trump versus Clinton will go down in American history as the dirtiest campaign of all time. It seemed at times as though script writers had let their imaginations run wild. But the consequences for democracy in the United States will be long lasting. By SPIEGEL Staff
November 04, 2016
One could imagine the pilot episode for this series beginning with a fast-paced time-lapse from the Hudson to the Potomac, music rising dramatically in the background. The flight would start over New York, Manhattan bathed in morning mist, before shooting up Fifth Avenue, banking over the 58-floor Trump Tower and heading out over the countryside to the southwest. The route would take us over New Jersey, past Philadelphia and then Baltimore, where the battle that inspired the US national anthem was fought -- land of the free, home of the brave. Finally, we would reach Washington D.C., the river, the Watergate building, the proud Mall with its monuments, the dome of the Capitol and then, the center of power, the White House.
It would make for a dramatic beginning of the series with the working title of "Dirty Duel" or "Sad!" or perhaps, more prosaically, "The Next President." Or simply "Trump versus Clinton." It would ultimately be a tragedy, but one with so many twists and turns, sudden mood swings, absurd side stories and crazy coincidences that it could pass as fiction. It would feel like a television docudrama written by screenplay writers who let their fantasies run wild.
On Tuesday, the final episode of the series will be filmed -- when American voters go to the polls to elect their country's 45th president. Up until a week ago, the race had seemed over. The attempt by New York real estate mogul Donald Trump to transform himself from a political nobody into the most powerful man on the planet looked as though it had failed. This Twitter-clown's dream of launching a cultural revolution and installing his own unique interpretation of American democracy was over. But then, it wasn't.
The bewildering stories about incorrectly forwarded emails and/or emails hacked by Russian agents returned. The head of the FBI suddenly looked like a shady Trump stooge and this other guy from New York, the one who has a penchant for sending obscene selfies to assorted women, returned to the stage together with his beautiful ex-wife, who by a quirk of fate just happens to be one of Hillary Clinton's top advisors. In short, the final days of the campaign became so insane that, as a Washington Post columnist wrote, one feels like the figure in Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream." And one is tempted to scream: Stop! Enough!
One Mistake Too Many
When Americans go to the polls on Tuesday, there will be no chance left to salvage this election. All that remains is picking the lesser of two evils. But the damage has already been done.
© DER SPIEGEL An Editorial by Klaus Brinkbäumer
November 07, 2016 11:06 PM
There used to be an American sense of comfort in transformation, in change, in the pendulum's eternal swing. It was an American certainty: Even if the present is dreary and gray, there would still be the future, and the future would be bright.
But there was more than that -- this age-old American attitude that anyone can take charge of their destiny at any time. If you don't like your job, you just quit. If you don't like the East Coast, you move out west. You thought George W. Bush was the worst president since 1945? No worries -- there are term limits, after all, and a Barack Obama can always come along.
Such was the thinking of millions of people in the United States -- even among political scientists and historians. It was perhaps a childish view -- the idea that opportunity would always be there because lasting failure and destruction was something that could only happen elsewhere. A Germany that triggered and lost World War II is incapable of that kind of thinking. But for an America that has long been pleased with itself, optimism about life was the default setting.
The fear, though, is new. Fear of social decline, of all things foreign and even of progress.
So, too, are the errors, and there have been far too many of them.
How, for example, could the Democratic Party have allowed itself to arrive at this level of dependency on the Clintons -- how could it have slumped into such dynastic thinking? Everyone in the party knows that Hillary Clinton was strong in her campaign against Obama eight years ago -- and they know that she is no longer strong today. Instead, she's frozen, someone who has been around for what feels like an eternity. She still doesn't grasp her 2008 defeat and this time wants to prevail in her aspiration. It is reckless for a party to push through a weak candidate purely out of principle. And how sad it is that few are still speaking of this wonderful goal, of finally -- after 43 men -- shattering possibly the last remaining glass ceiling by electing the first female president. There is no more passion or lightness in the Clinton camp -- just panic, fear that the most absurd opponent seen in the past 100 years cannot be defeated.
How could the entire country have allowed the democracy for which it stands to fall into this degree of decline? Years ago, two ranting men emerged at the margins of society with a format called "talk radio": Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Americans have always been addicted to entertainment and that helped allow these two stars to enter the mainstream. And little by little, mainstream society began resembling them. Hateful. Self-righteous. Intolerant. Frightened. Loud. And disdainful of all that seemed too distant: education, ideas, industriousness. The US became a dysfunctional country that was no longer capable of debate, barely capable of making or sticking to decisions and one that had lost that which had once been its source of strength -- and it found nothing new to replace it, at least nothing novel and good. Were this a company, the diagnosis would be as follows: management has abandoned the core brand and botched the restructuring process; bankruptcy is around the corner.
The entire American democracy has also become an endless show, because CNN and other broadcasters are thirsty for breaking news every hour to ensure good ratings and advertising. Even lies pay off and are thus desired -- the result being that, after 18 months of campaigning, 50 percent of those eligible to vote, 100 million people, still do not know today where Trump and Clinton stand on policy. Instead, people scream "Lock Her Up" and "Build the Wall" as soon as Trump takes the stage. Good politicians don't play along with such nonsense.
And no, it's hardly worth saying anything more about the man. How could the Republicans ever have elevated a candidate like Trump to their throne, one so self-absorbed, so misogynistic, so racist and so unqualified? At the very least, the Republican Party has earned its own downfall.
On Tuesday, voting will finally be complete, but there will be no solace -- only, we can hope, the lesser of two evils. Things won't automatically return to normal. Indeed, the American pendulum theory was always naïve because history never starts over from scratch. The 2000 election, decided by the Supreme Court, gave us George W. Bush who, after Sept. 11, attacked Afghanistan and later Iraq, leading to the destabilization of the Middle East, the fall of Libya, Iraq and Syria, to Islamic State, to Turkish and Egyptian dictatorships, to the refugee crisis, Brexit, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, Frauke Petry and Trump, to the weakening of America and Europe. To the weakening of the West and liberal democracy.
The relationship between these events is not causal, of course. But elections and political action have consequences, as we in Germany well know. And the same could happen in America -- it could commit one irreversible error too many.
Brutal Historical Logic
Democracy at a Dead-End in America
On the eve of the US election, Hillary Clinton has a lead in the polls, but it's a small one. Donald Trump's success is the logical outcome of the decades-long erosion of liberal democracy in America.
© Wiebke Maria Wachmann An Essay by Georg Diez
November 07, 2016 05:33 PM
I can hardly believe it -- and my fingers are quivering as I type this -- but I'm afraid that Donald Trump will be elected as the next president of the United States.
How have I come to that conclusion?
It has been like a slow-motion train wreck that we have been watching in amazement, fear and disgust over the course of the past several months. But now, shortly before the trains finally plow into each other, something akin to understanding has set in.
It may have been misguided to focus too intently on the trains themselves. The real story is the history of this country, which is so deeply and traumatically divided. It is a country that is so profoundly rent asunder by shock and change, so gripped by fear, that it is hardly recognizable anymore.
The real story is that of the last 35 years. Since the 1980 Reagan Revolution, a conservative syndicate has systematically strived to destroy the foundations of liberal democracy by elevating the economy, selfishness and social Darwinism above all.
The real story is that of the last 25 years. Since the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, the Democrats, the leftists and liberal forces (as has happened with New Labour in Britain and the Social Democrats in Germany) have capitulated to globalization as if to a law of nature. Step by step, they have abandoned a significant segment of their voters: workers and the lower-middle class.
The real story is that of the last eight years, during which Barack Obama has been president. For many Americans, his presidency remains an ignominy and a disgrace because racism has such deep roots in American history and now appears to many whites as a matter of survival. Sometimes it seems as though it's all they have left.
The election of Donald Trump by these white Americans would be a direct reaction to the eight years of Barack Obama, a man who embodies the future and opportunities of this country. In concert with reactionaries who have come before, Trump invokes an idyllic past, to which it is impossible to return, not even with violence.
A Rearguard Battle of the Defeated
It would thus be a tragedy if Trump won the election, but it would have a certain brutal historical logic, because the pendulum often swings hard, first in one direction and then in the other. What is happening in America -- and this too is comparable to Europe -- is a fight over "white identity," as the New York Times described it. It is the rearguard battle of a disappearing white majority.
But it is also the rearguard battle of the defeated -- or at least those who see themselves as such -- against the process of globalization, which both Republicans and Democrats alike, from Reagan to Obama, have held up as the key to future prosperity. Instead, though, globalization has left large swathes of West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere desolated and empty -- materially, morally and politically. It has permanently alienated segments of the population from political consensus or even common sense.
Donald Trump has plunged into this vacuum with a ruthlessness and brutality that has left the Republican elite gasping for breath and crippled the party for the foreseeable future -- and which has left the country's liberal elite perplexed and horrified. They are simply unable to believe that this vulgar oaf, this groping slob, this idiotic demagogue could have a chance against their Hillary.
Did Journalists Underestimate Trump?
For one thing has long been clear: She was the one. Large segments of the liberal media elite came to that consensus early on, as the consummate Thomas Frank recently described. First Bernie Sanders gummed up the works, a candidate they sought early on to reject, thus putting off huge numbers of younger voters. And then Donald Trump became the uninvited guest at the coronation party for the Democratic queen.
Many writers at liberal newspapers and magazines were certain, and remain so even now, that Trump no longer had a chance -- following the debates and after the revelations of his tax privileges and corporeal sexism. Every day, the New York Times has presented a graphic showing, up until a few days ago, that Hillary Clinton had a 92 percent chance of being elected. Seldom has data journalism fallen so low.
What everyone overlooked, though, was that there was scant enthusiasm and few convincing reasons to support Hillary -- and that there were many good reasons to be for Trump, whether one liked them or not. And the debates showed the entire world that there were many, many reasons to fear Trump: He proudly and openly presented the anti-democratic program of an authoritarian ruler who would have no consideration for prevailing law or human dignity.
Hillary in prison, to hell with the environment, a wall on the Mexican border, bomb the shit out of ISIS, beat them up: Trump assembled a political platform of horrors. His tax cuts would make Reagan's radical capitalism look quaint; he would "cancel" the Paris climate deal; he would establish a climate of hate and mistrust against blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and all other minorities; he would appoint ultra-right-wing justices to the Supreme Court and would thus determine the societal climate on decisive social questions such as gun ownership and abortion for a long time to come.
The hair-raising logic underpinning this platform is that the country is still suffering from the consequences of the economic and financial crises that have dispossessed parts of the middle class since 2008. Those who nonetheless vote for Trump are acting roughly as logically as someone whose car, house and silver have been stolen -- but who invites the thief to dinner anyway so he can take the table and chairs as well.
A Dead-End for America's Political Parties
But they are doing so anyway and it took a long time for elite opinion makers to realize what was happening. Thomas Frank described the phenomenon in his book "Listen, Liberal," as did George Packer in the New Yorker: The GOP, long the party of the rich, has under Trump become the party of the working class and the disenfranchised -- because they feel abandoned by the Democrats.
And so this campaign -- ugly, grotesque and damaging to both decency and the practice of democracy -- is indeed indicative of something larger. It is indicative of a tectonic shift that is much more meaningful and which will have lasting consequences. Through their ploys and scheming, America's two largest political parties have maneuvered the democratic system into a dead-end street -- and it is difficult to imagine an escape without radical change.
The Republicans are primarily responsible for the extensive destruction of the political landscape which made an agitator like Trump possible. Since 2009, they have waged such a fierce political battle against Barack Obama -- characterized by manipulation and blocking him at every turn -- that damage to democracy has been the result. Trump's cries that the system is "rigged" have met with such widespread agreement because the Republicans themselves have spent so long cynically perverting the system.
The fact that the party has become increasingly radicalized in recent years -- to such an extent that George W. Bush would today belong on the party's left wing -- has played an important role. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan even describes himself as a "bomb-thrower from the right" and as a "conservative from the conservative wing of the conservative movement."
Movements aren't interested in governing; they have the goal of transforming society. That is what connects the Republicans' conservative revolution with the uprising of the liberal conscience as embodied by Bernie Sanders. But it makes little sense to view these two phenomena through the lens of populism because the one side is rooted in fear, hate and exclusion while the other preaches justice, fairness and redistribution.
It is clear that American society cannot continue down this road for much longer. The tensions that have been apparent in recent years have become too great, from the stagnating middle class to the structural racism that has become manifested in the country's prison system in such a way that it can now be compared to a new kind of slavery.
It is disastrous that a racist with fascist tendencies has come so close to taking over power in this country, a man who appeals to hate, greed and the basest of instincts, an agitator who plays people off against each other, who abhors losers and who adheres to the credo: might makes right. An authoritarian, narcissistic, manic, manipulative and dangerous liar who is capable of anything.
Division and Rearrangement
That is why, despite all the criticism of Hillary Clinton -- whose politics and mistakes still fall within the realm of rationality -- I cannot understand how some could be so enthralled by their destructive fantasies as to yearn for a President Trump. It would transform America into an explosive, iniquitous country in an explosive, unpredictable world.
There are good reasons to be opposed to Clinton, a transitional figure from an era of unfairness to an era that will be shaped by a new generation. Her problem is that she cannot free herself from this blemish. She will likely be unable to motivate a segment of the African-American electorate, which was so electrified by Obama, and that could cost her this election. It will be close, extremely close.
But America is in the process of dividing and rearranging itself: It's rural America versus the large cities; it's whites against everyone else; it's the middle class against everyone else; it's the wars of years past, which have cast their shadows over this campaign and led large numbers of veterans from these destructive conflicts to vote for Trump even though the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan were led by Republican presidents.
Trump, the irrationalist, isn't just profiting from Putin, WikiLeaks, the FBI and the aggressive sexism that is loath to see a woman in the White House. He is also profiting from the divisions that he has helped create. He is a perpetual motion machine of hate.
Still, nothing has yet happened. Everything remains possible.
What was Barack Obama's campaign motto again?
And anyway, Michelle Obama has recently looked as though she were warming up for 2020.