The US election was very close. Joe Biden received seven million votes more than Donald Trump. But a second look shows that the exit was narrower. A total of 42,918 votes – with over 155 million cast, that is only 0.03 percent – decided the victory in three states: Biden won 20,682 more in Wisconsin, 11,779 in Georgia and 10,457 in Arizona, and thus 37 voters. Without them there would have been an electors draw and the need to elect the president through the House of Representatives. Then each state would only have one vote. This would have meant that Trump would have won more (sparsely populated) states – and would have remained president.
As it is, the Democrat Joe Biden takes office on January 20th. The outgoing President has done little to justify re-election. His program “Make America Great Again” has failed. Economic performance has been falling since the Corona crisis, as it was last 90 years ago. Trump claimed to have brought back nearly three quarters of a million industrial jobs, but fact checkers see the bottom line as a loss of 237,000. Tax reform, a directional decision, favored companies and the rich. The infrastructure reform, the second major economic project, petered out, although it was urgently needed, if one only thinks of a note in Biden’s autobiography, according to which “an irresponsible part of the water pipes in the USA is still made of wood.”
Trump’s termination of trade agreements with China brought little progress. Corona and mismanagement contributed to the fact that a large part of the jobs won in the manufacturing industry in the past decade disappeared again. The unemployment rate is rising, the national debt is exploding. The international influence of the USA is shrinking, which has positive sides, as is the regulatory function exercised or assumed by it, which is not only positive. America’s standing in the world is at a low point. Many experts see core problems worsening since the expansion of political populism by Trump: signs of a failed state, racism in new toxicity, grotesque prosperity gap in the richest poor house in the world.
The division of society grew, and Trump did nothing to alleviate. On inauguration, he complained: “A small group in the capital has benefited from the government for too long,” only to instigate nepotism that even Washington did not know. He preyed on the state and at the same time picked up the long-standing anger of his core voters in order to present himself as their lobbyist. This was new. Trump followed up on a theory by the political scientist Lee Drutman, who sees the electorate roughly divided into three parts: a majority of 40 percent “populists”, anti-migration and anti-globalization; 33 percent “progressive”, open to social security and migration; and 20 percent “moderates”, happy with the status quo. Trump became the pioneer of the populists. And even if there are many among them who repulsed the vulgarity of their previous gymnast, they accepted it approvingly for the fact that he attacked all those in the Kulturkampf who they consider to be the cause of their hardships.
What was also new was that Trump, the first US president without any previous function in politics or the military, in contrast to earlier populists such as Ross Perot (1992), did not try to create his own organization. Rather, he made one of the two dominant major parties in the country, the Republicans, an instrument of his ambition.
The exploitation of disappointment, the chauvinistic politics of alleged representation of the people and the continuous governance with powers, past parliament and in the permanent clinch with courts, were the main pillars of Trumpism internally. They were at the core of his 2016 campaign and his four-year term in office, and they shaped the campaign against the election result. His foreign policy was erratic and erratic. He whistled on international efforts against the consequences of climate change, left the Paris climate agreement and let fossil fuels be re-exploited. He pulled the plug on transatlantic relations, as former Chancellor Schröder called it, often mistaking friend and foe. He wanted to buy Greenland and blackmail Ukraine. He urged China to help elections and called his relationship with North Korea’s dictator “love at first sight”. The picture that the USA gave was similar to “No. 45 «often not a democracy, but a banana republic.
After election day he attempted a coup and looked for a general pardon for himself. He wanted to overturn the result of the election just because he had lost it. Most of the Republican attorneys at law, most of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, and many voters helped the coup plotters. They all made Trump’s poison their own that his victory was stolen from him by “Communist friend Biden.” It reveals the plan to establish a subsidiary presidency against Biden. Where, how and in whatever function, he wants to stay sting in the flesh. Trumpism won’t go away. The cunning, so often underestimated politician was, is and remains polarized: on hatred of media and culture, administration and science; on conspiracy theories against China and Corona, Obama and Hillary; of white supremacy and its looking down on people of other skin colors and faiths.
“Make America Great Again” showed a rabid isolationist in a world that was more interwoven than ever before. An egoist, whose politics expressed itself in his AfD-mature failures “All these bastards!” And “Leave me alone with your shit!” Trump’s relationship with the allies has placed such strains that it will be difficult to repair. He wanted to improve the competitive situation with China in a rollercoaster of filth and flattery for the USA – with the result that China became stronger than it would have been without him. Compared to Moscow, which hurriedly and secretly stood up for him, nothing moved on major issues, while Trump’s submissive admiration for Putin will remain a reason for research for a long time if even the smallest criticism is avoided.
Corona nowhere claimed more human lives than in the USA and could also become this scourge because the president was intellectually never up to the challenges. In the end, his I-I-I worked a little stronger against him than for him. Nevertheless, both are true: Trump fell over Trumpism, but he also drew his strength from it. One would like to know which Democrat would have had a chance against this president without the pandemic?
The impeachment process in early 2020 was only the third in US history. But the abuse of power and obstruction of justice in the Trump case were more monstrous than those of its predecessors Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1999). A president has never stood before a court because he had subjected the office to his own interests. His acquittal was the charter for a guilty party and an indictment of the Trump Senate majority.
Even a preliminary balance sheet cannot ignore the statement, often used as a compliment, that Trump has at least not started a new war in the USA. That’s true. But it is correct: With his mafia-like and sexist, racist and chauvinist behavior, he has barbarized everyday political culture, practically worldwide, that one has to speak of a completely new way of conducting war. Trump was never an angel of peace, he was regularly a spiritual arsonist.
What remains? The emasculated Republicans will not be able to get rid of him quickly, especially because his 74 million voters are not disappearing. That doesn’t change the fact that in an election with a record turnout, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans could gain a clear advantage. That will solidify hatred, and civil war-like conflicts will not be ruled out. Former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was convinced in the »Spiegel« that the USA will remain »a country in paralysis« in the future. “I suspect, for example, that even under Joe Biden, neither the climate agreement nor the nuclear deal with Iran would really be renewed in a legally secure manner because he would not get a majority in the Senate for it.”
As for Donald Trump personally, political advisor Peter Rough of the Hudson Institute may be right. He trusts him to remain “pike in carp pond” for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, it becomes more difficult with the loss of office. Rough therefore expects the Republicans “to be taken over by someone who knows how to take up the Trump rebellion and turn it in a more productive direction.” However, the number of voters that has recently increased for him shows that he was not an industrial accident. Too many endorse or want more of his crook style. This shows the roots that Trump has put down and how profoundly he has weakened democracy. A poisonous legacy for the US, Europe and the world. Also for Germany.