Donald Trump will make America small again

The US after Trump : The ghost of identity

In the election campaign more than four years ago, Donald Trump said he was not alone. He spoke of a "movement" and when he refused to accept the election defeat he even spoke of a "strong movement". He also told his followers who recently demonstrated in front of the White House, “Then we'll go there and I'll be with you, we march down Pensylvania Avenue to the Capitol and we cheer for the brave senators. For some we won't cheer so loudly. Because you don't win back the country with weakness. "

What will remain of the movement if Trump just plays golf? Can Trumpism persist without the aura of office? Or is it a fiction like much that the president has passed off as truth?

Attempts have been made to explain Trump's success by exploiting a social divide that existed long before him. Even after the attack on the Capitol, the central institution of US democracy, he justified the violence: “Such things happen,” Trump tweeted when he could, “when patriots a holy landslide victory is stolen in such a devious way, patriots who have long been treated badly and unfairly ”. Again, Trump seemed to allow many Americans to see themselves as victims, to give their anger - at whatever - the shine of law. Aren't victims always right?

The loser's argument is so convincing that it overlooks the un-American trait: Americans don't want to be victims. Therefore, even in retrospect, it is difficult to understand why Trump kept coming through with his scam. How small he made the United States look!

The poison seeped into Americans' self-image through the same thread that previously led them to believe that they were living outside history or, as the author Leslie Fiedler put it, “in myth”. In this world of imaginary heroism, Americans are freed from fate and can make whatever they want of themselves. The perfidious logic of the american dream means, however, that everyone is to blame for their own misery and that the roles of winners and losers have been divided according to a brutal pattern since America was "another word for possibility", as the founding fathers put it.

Shouldn't one finally let it be good with him

For some time now, the liberal Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel has been warning of the dangerous dynamic of the “tyranny of merit” based on it, which in the USA amounts to “meritocratic selection”, as he says. He means the hubris of an educated elite that regards its economic success in the globalized world as the merit of its own achievement and not, which would be more in line with the truth, as a return on an investment that it was not they themselves made, but their parents who afford it had to be able to. This blindness gnaws at compassion for those who cannot make it as far as Sandel writes in "From the End of the Common Good". That stirs the anger of the less fortunate who toiled their lives without even getting anywhere near an Ivy League degree.

The Democrats tend to show more compassion for the disadvantaged of this freedom and, like Presidents Clinton and Obama, fight for the expansion of public health insurance. But even John F. Kennedy reversed the merit logic by saying that you should ask yourself what you can do for the country instead of expecting it to do something for you.

The Grand Old Party used to be the refuge of entrepreneurs and the establishment. But the social fabric has changed. Today the Democrats are elected by the country's elites, while the Republicans find their supporters among the left behind. From their point of view, it is not so stupid to trust a narcissistic gambler and declared non-politician who, like Trump, promised to be a “bad loser” and at least kept this promise.

A story of non-history

It would certainly be easier to quickly forget Trump if he were not a deeply American figure with his profanity and disdain for civilized manners and institutions. His implacable malice is likely to remain. Mainly because the American striving for fulfillment has merged with the question of identity. The roots of this amalgam go back around 50 years.

In the remarkable US essay "Within The Context of No Context", George W.S. Trow the point in time to the year 1970. Everything American can be traced back to "the grace of a miracle". Be it to have discovered and colonized the country at all. Be it that of the constitution. Until the miracle was "that things could be built enormously large". This XXL civilization, to which the Trump Towers in Manhattan and Chicago also belong, came to an end, according to Trow, when there were no more superlatives left: "History became a history of non-history."

Trow's diagnosis of the onset of postmodernism, which was first published in the “New Yorker” and which, with television, gained sovereignty over families and private spheres, in his opinion came down primarily to the erasure of life experiences. "The most powerful people became those who most effectively used adult skills to make childish agreements," he wrote. One of these agreements is to give your time and attention to whoever begs for it the most. Here lies another root of Trumpism. On Twitter, he found the perfect toy to stage politics as a kindergarten.

The US historian Jill Lepore recently described the paradigm shift in a similar way in a “Spiegel” conversation: “Politics is reduced to demographic categories. The American project was the opposite. It was about replacing a hierarchy based on identity with equality. "

America has clearly said goodbye to this equality. A nation that gets along with one identity, even if it was conceited, has become groups with common characteristics: "Whites", "People of Color", "Latinos", "Women", "LGBTQ" and "Patriots". The question is, can there be identity without a hierarchy to organize it?

Character is more important than identity

Trump's trick was to construct a hierarchy around the word “great”. And he does it with the destructive side effects typical of identity discourses. His identity populism etches away the feeling that a free person wants to be judged on his individual performance. Incidentally, this also applies to progressive attempts to gain recognition through sexual, gender, religious, ethnic or cultural identity. Identity destroys character. In a famous speech given to Harvard graduates in 1837, the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson expressly pointed out the special importance of character for the American being: “When the artist has exhausted his material,” said Emerson, “when the imagination has none Creates more pictures, thoughts can no longer be grasped and books become a burden - you still have the opportunity to live. The character is nobler than the intellect. "

Is it a coincidence that the political discourse is further away from it than ever? That he left the field to a man who embodies the opposite of all of this?

George Trow foresaw that. As in the 1960s, people would be looking for "collapsed dominance," he wrote. In order to clarify what is meant by this, he describes in an introduction to his aphoristic essay, which was later submitted, how he met a man in Alaska - there he had retired after a career as an editor at the "New Yorker" - "who would scare most people nowadays ”. The man wants to test him, the strange big-city fool, by starting to talk about the extent of corruption in this country. Does he know, the man asks, that films are always made for political reasons?

The man saw “The Net”, the story of an internet stalker. And he says it was shot to undermine general confidence in the Internet. Then Trow begins to think about his own cultivated cynicism, which shields him like a stronghold against such absurd ideas. He would undoubtedly immediately be able to tell the man all the films that “The Net” may have served as a template - “Fatal Attraction”, for example - but he recognizes the error. Trow, the gay dandy and “last gentleman” has to admit that there is no longer any protection from such knowledge when truth takes on apocalyptic traits.

Ethos of work

Fortunately, as a notorious narcissist, Trump lacks the historical awareness to tie the asserted primacy of white, Christian, male patriots to universal elements. Because nationalism is too small a category for the USA. Which does not mean that its populism went and goes in the void.

Trump is proud to have built skyscrapers for the super-rich, operated casinos for losers, and on the reality show "The Apprentice" decided the careers of people who were losers but wanted to become super rich. By doubting the competence of "experts", by taking facts out of context, and by primarily lower incomes benefiting disproportionately from economic growth in his first three years in office, Trump's promise temporarily took the form of a social revolt that turned claimed against the know-it-alls with their noble academic titles.

While the US Republican Senator Josh Hawley proclaimed on election night, “We are now a working class party,” Trump feeds on the injured pride of people who see physical work being devalued by globalization because it is not so easy to move like capital or education. All the more vehemently they urge recognition of their physical superiority and see violence as a means to show how strong they are.

One at the Capitol said, "This is what Americans do to stand up for our beliefs." They are still waiting for an identity that will free them from their fate.

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