Trump's presidency is canceled
US presidential election : Trump's narcissism saved America
It ended with a coup attempt. On the night from Tuesday to Wednesday - in many states only a fraction of the votes had been counted and it became clear that the election would not be decided that night - Donald Trump appeared before the press.
He declared himself the election winner and said he wanted the counting of the remaining votes to be stopped. For weeks, the president had been campaigning against alleged “electoral fraud” in postal votes without any evidence. And then when the “blue wave” of postal votes threatened to put Joe Biden in the lead, he tried to cancel the votes of millions of American postal voters.
He did what he would accuse the Democrats of in countless tweets and text messages to his supporters in the days that followed: he tried to "steal" the election.
He didn't succeed. The election workers stoically continued - and on Saturday shortly before 6 p.m. German time, Joe Biden was declared the winner.
Donald Trump did what he blames Biden: he tried to "steal" the election
The days since the election on Tuesday have been like a miniature version of the past four years, a condensation of everything that has made up Donald Trump's presidency: shaped by lies, denial of accountability, denial of reality, proto-authoritarianism and the cult of rulers, complicity.
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For liberal democracy in the United States, one thing will remain above all from Donald Trump and from these last few days: the recognition that it is vulnerable in places that the Constitution cannot and cannot protect. But also that American democracy is more resilient than expected. Trump tried the coup. He failed.
Donald Trump is a populist with authoritarian traits. He believes in the rule of the masses through his person. He considers the liberal aspects of liberal democracy - procedures, minority protection, checks and balances - to be superfluous. Trump emulated European populists like the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn and the head of the Polish PiS party Jaroslaw Kaczynski. He tried to override the law and manipulate the choice. He did so by formally legal means and yet in a way that justifies the term coup.
In May, Donald Trump installed an election campaign donor, Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General, as head of the American state company United States Postal Service - shortly before an election that would largely be a postal vote due to the pandemic. DeJoy made the mail slow down even more. At the same time, Donald Trump and the Republicans in critical states - Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania - launched a legal campaign to obtain a court order that postal votes received after election day would not be counted. It was an attempt to invalidate the largely democratic postal votes.
Trump had since four years of lying and with the support of media figures such as the Fox talk show host Sean Hannity resolved the categories of "true" and "false" to such an extent that many of his supporters are ready to believe his claim: that those arriving after election day Votes in any way are less “legitimate” than votes cast in person.
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Similar to Hungary and Poland, Donald Trump tried to undermine the law by means of the law and manipulated public opinion. None of the founding fathers of American democracy could have imagined this pincer attack on the American election.
Of course, Trump does not send the military on the streets, he does not have his opponents murdered by the secret services. But he was clearly pursuing the goal of an illegitimate seizure of power. The constitution has no defense mechanism for this.
Three reasons why Trump's coup attempt failed
This strategy failed for three reasons: The first is Trump's attention deficit disorder. Trump's actions are always focused on the moment. On the one hand, that was dangerous. He locked America in the present with his tweet staccato. But he too is a prisoner of the now. Trump's populism is a momentocracy. He only dominated the moment. He always made ad hoc decisions. He neither created long-term clusters, nor did he rebuild the hardware of law and order, as can be observed in other “illiberal democracies”.
[More on the subject: Between the crematorium and the porn shop - Trump team's press conference turns into a laughing stock]
Trump was able to refill three judge posts on the Supreme Court - and elected judges from the far right of the spectrum in hopes that they would support his policies. But the Supreme Court did not follow him and confirmed the legitimacy of late-arriving postal votes in North Carolina, for example. A Republican court in Texas also ruled. This may be due to the ethos and the judges' loyalty to precedent.
But it may also be because Trump took advantage of the rules of the appointment of judges for his plans, but left the rules themselves intact. This is what distinguishes America from Poland, where the judiciary is now essentially subordinate to the executive branch and judges must fear being removed from office if they make politically unacceptable decisions.
Unlike in Hungary, Trump has not "rebuilt" the media either. The media universe of Rupert Murdoch, which Fox belongs to, followed him voluntarily because the laws of the market wanted it: There was a demand. The sudden change in strategy of Murdoch brands in the past few days shows that things can also go backwards when the needs of the market change. Rupert Murdoch's newspaper “New York Post” suddenly called a Trump appearance on Wednesday “a speech of historical dishonesty”, marked by “lies about lies”.
The second reason for the failure of the Trump coup is his narcissism. Donald Trump does not have a long-term ideological goal. He doesn't want any state restructuring, he wants to stay in power. Not for an idea of anything, just for yourself. Trump is first a narcissist and then a populist.
Trump is first a narcissist, then a populist
He loved the authoritarian gesture, he loved frightening and threatening people. He tried to build a kind of ruler cult. The Trump rallies had their own fascist-trashy aesthetic, with American flags high in the Trump Tower, hoisted by crane trucks like gigantic gallows, in an arrangement reminiscent of the Nuremberg Rally. A subculture of its own developed around Trump with a fixed repertoire of identifying marks: the red MAGA hat, the hairstyle, the stretched fist, later four stretched fingers: "Four more years" and the "Thin blue line" flag.
When riots broke out in Portland after the death of the African American George Floyd, Trump also had federal police officers marching in the city without badges - and Putin had soldiers marching into Ukraine without national badges. He was attracted to the Russian President, as well as to Xi Jinping. But not because he shared her idea, but because he envied her appearance. Trump liked the authoritarian style, but that was superficial. He lacked the consistency to worse.
Third Trump failed because of the upright demeanor, democratic convictions and common sense of the Americans who did not vote for him. It failed because of the calm and professionalism of the electoral authorities in the states and the commitment of the many helpers. And finally also in his party.
To this day, there has been a largely leaden silence. But individuals, such as the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, otherwise one of Trump's most willing executors, had made it clear that their red line would be crossed in the election. Trump's party is full of opportunists - they are not putschists.
Donald Trump could not finish the path from populist to proto-authoritarian ruler. Because he didn't really want to, and because he couldn't. But mostly because the Americans stood in his way.
The election of Joe Biden as 46th President of the United States restores accountability, historicity and perspective. It currently looks like America can break free from the captivity of the present.
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