Why is American culture so vulgar
The Trump method works - and it has changed America forever
Donald Trump is underrated because many consider him a clown. But he has left his mark on the USA. He deepened the division in society, but he also gave a voice to those who had none before.
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Donald Trump, the very strange 45th President of the USA, has long been buried under an avalanche of interpretations about himself. Is he an authoritarian demon, a gravedigger of democracy, or is he a loudmouth who promises a lot and achieves nothing? As is so often the case, the truth is probably not in the middle, but somewhere else entirely. Trump can be worshiped or hated, but he made his mark on the country. Many debates are different today than they were four years ago. He is a «game changer» who shows what disruption means in politics.
In retrospect, it is difficult to recognize a foreign policy legacy of Barack Obama. A friendlier face of the US in the Middle East; fewer military interventions all over the world and instead a diplomatic offensive in Asia - buzzwords that quickly faded away. With Trump's name, however, a turning point in China policy will be permanently associated.
Where Obama was still reluctant to use the term great power rivalry, his successor made it clear that he sees the two countries involved in a conflict of epic proportions. Meanwhile, this view is commonplace with Republicans and Democrats. Should Joe Biden be elected, he will continue here what his predecessor began.
Trump's words have impact
The example of China shows how the Trump method works. It has no concise policy, no structured approach in which one step builds on the other. Instead, he first announces a trade war, then negotiates a tariff compromise, and finally turns to a new aspect, the duel for dominance in cyberspace.
Seen in light, Trump's China policy is piecemeal. Nevertheless, he manages to hammer his beliefs into everyone's heads because he repeats them incessantly. By concentrating on a few topics, he achieves impact. Decoupling from China is a term that is rarely questioned in America. Even in Europe, with its very different strategic starting point, he is finding more and more followers. Trump rules with words rather than deeds, but those words have an impact.
Obama campaigned like a visionary and ruled like a technocrat. Even after his election, Trump remained a tribune and a demagogue. His authenticity makes up part of the fascination that he is for his followers and stirs up rejection among opponents. Authenticity is a special value at a time when elites are considered to be as aloof as they are opportunistic.
Which Hillary Clinton completely overlooked
Anyone who portrays Trump as a dumb fool underestimates him criminally. He also owes his surprising success in 2016 to a precise analysis of the political balance of power, which his rival, the political professional Hillary Clinton, was not capable of.
In 2015, the political scientist Lee Drutman caused a modest stir with a diagram. According to this, 40 percent of the US electorate consists of “populists” who reject migration and globalization and who demand social security. The “progressives” who advocate more social security and migration make up 33 percent. The smallest group, at 20 percent, is the “moderates” who are satisfied with the status quo. Trump's politics put this theory into practice.
Trump understood that industrial workers, artisans and henchmen in unskilled service professions demand more protection from the relocation of their jobs to China and competition from migrants. And he understood that the Democrats were opening a huge gateway for a populist president by giving up their traditional positions.
Bill Clinton had set up a commission which, in its final report, advocated limiting “illegal immigration” of unskilled workers. National interests should steer migration, which sounds friendlier than Trump's clumsy wall rhetoric, but actually means the same thing. Today it sounds from the left: "No one is illegal."
The academic elite despises America's workers
The Democrats also lost interest in topics such as social security and concentrated on identity politics, i.e. on the rights that one can claim for oneself according to gender, sexual orientation, skin color or origin.
At the same time, a new slang emerged at the universities, Political Correctness. It spawned tongue-twisting acronyms like LGBTQ (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) or BIPOC (for black, indigenous and colored). The gibberish, once confined to the lecture halls, has long been the idiom of all academic elites - in America, but also on this side of the Atlantic. No matter how much Europe insists on its independence, it is astonishingly intellectually dependent on the USA.
Language is a means of domination. The middle and lower classes rightly perceived political correctness as a cultural attack, having experienced globalization as an economic attack on their way of life. The “new class struggle”, according to the left-liberal author Michael Lind, went hand in hand with the open contempt of some of the Democrats for everything that, in their opinion, was backward and thus right-wing and authoritarian.
Hillary Clinton summed up this attitude when she mocked the “left behind” who were “racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic”.
With his vulgarity, the president makes successful politics
Trump took advantage of the division in American society and sided with those whom, like political scientist Drutman, he considers to be the majority. Even after four years, the educated classes are still wondering why what they consider to be a rather primitive person could be chosen.
His supporters appreciate Trump for his vulgar manner; not because they behave like that to themselves or consider it appropriate behavior. Rather, they interpret the displayed vulgarity as a means to an end: as a counterattack in the cultural class struggle.
The Republicans were once the mouthpiece of the upper class. Trump, on the other hand, made the middle and lower classes, the old industrial areas and the rural regions away from the boomtowns on the coasts a power factor again. This service will continue to have an effect beyond the end of his term of office.
Despite belonging to the Democrats formerly associated with factory work and unions, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are believed to represent Wall Street and elite universities. The Manhattan millionaire, on the other hand, put the Midwest on the political map, the run-down towns, the car factories, mines and blast furnaces, where the economic heart of America once beat.
Joe Biden at odds with the party left
Joe Biden learned the lesson. He wants to invest two trillion dollars in infrastructure, housing, the auto industry and "American technology". That's a lot of money, but far from the statist fantasies of left democrats. Biden is also likely to adhere to protectionism. His economic program is a not so distant echo of “Make America great again”.
That Trump is a proletarian, but not a proletarian; that Biden cannot turn back globalization any more than his predecessor is secondary. It is important that both talk about the concerns of the non-academic classes, because every policy begins with words.
Should Biden win, he owes it to conservative Democratic voters who migrated to Trump. But in his party, leftists and high priests set the tone for identity politics. They cannot do anything with the reluctance of their candidate to face budget cuts in the police force, the overthrow of monuments or the facilitation of immigration. The zealots of the Kulturkampf despise Biden's pragmatism. The argument would be inevitable.
Many people think of the post-Trump era as a return to normalcy, decency and consensus. That will prove to be a mistake. The social divides that made Trump's rise possible will not go away. The Kulturkampf is only shifting to the left. Even if the very strange president is history, more of Trump will remain in America than many Europeans want to admit.
“The other look” is always published on Fridays.
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