The president can’t control his Democratic majority in Congress. The party is breaking into camps. America’s system of government has a problem.
The further the audience is from Germany, the more lavish the celebrations to bid Angela Merkel farewell. In the United States, enthusiasm is further increased by the fact that the election for her successor was conducted democratically in a civilized manner. The candidates for chancellor did not insult each other or lie, everyone who was eligible was able to vote (apparently with a few exceptions in Berlin), mail-in votes were sent in and counted on time, no court was bothered with a serious election appeal and, above all, the search for a new government was conducted objectively and unambiguously within democratic norms.
From an American perspective, this is all worth mentioning because their own experience went in the exact opposite direction. Democracy’s near-death experience was not even three-quarters of a year ago and the high-speed life of U.S. politics in particular leaves no time to prevent another takeover by the threat of division. The Republicans’ manipulation and control of the electoral apparatus is happily continuing, Donald Trump is preparing a massive comeback and the country is not showing any political moderation.
Even the Democrats Have Forgotten the Art of Compromise
Joe Biden is running out of time — a strange and yet correct conclusion after such a short time in office. The president’s determination is demonstrated by the epic struggle over the infrastructure and welfare plan that stands at the center of his economic policy and which is nothing less than a giant federal spending program that will ultimately help buy up any sympathy for Trump. The calculation: As soon as America’s middle and lower classes feel an improvement in their living conditions, they will no longer chase the seducer.
Biden’s election was due to a broad anti-Trump alliance, and the president is betting on it to continue in his race against the clock. However, this hope is fading. Biden can’t make use of his razor-thin majority because, behind the Democratic factions in the Senate and House of Representatives, a patchwork of interests, ambition and incompatibility is hiding. The message, after days of desperately trying to reach a consensus: It’s not just Republicans, but Democrats who have forgotten the art of compromise. They are not necessarily being stubborn or obstinate, but rather they are reflecting the mood in their constituencies, which are now as heterogeneous as one would expect in a society of 330 million citizens.
What Will Become of Representative Democracy — Even Over Here?
The problem also leads one to consider Germany and the question of how to represent and goven an increasingly fragmented, self-centered and simultaneously democratic society. This is not a theoretical problem, but an entirely practical one, which is expressed in Germany in the fragmentation of the party landscape and the pressure to form a coalition, not an easy task to fulfill. In the United States, the land of the first-past-the-post system, polarization between Republicans and Democrats remains. They still absorb political tendencies, but they’re no longer in a position to form functioning majorities from them.
This is a grave problem for representative democracy and its ability to survive. Biden is now learning that his party is no less divided than the other side. As his anti-Trump bonus fades, the devil’s wheel of radicalization is turning.