Don’t Fall into the Trap

Another presidential term for Donald Trump is a real danger. The right’s momentum must be broken, and not just in the United States.

The Republican primary season begins on Monday in Iowa,* and when the primaries are over, Donald Trump will most likely win the Republican presidential nomination. That, in itself, is depressing, but it would also be good news if it were safe to assume that American conservatives are shooting themselves in the foot by nominating this narcissistic, swindling liar and notorious lawbreaker. The thing is, all polls for the November election show that incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden and Trump are currently neck and neck, with advantages for Trump.

This is causing fear and continuing confusion, not just in the United States. How can people do this? This fear of another Trump term brought Biden into office in 2020record-breaking number of votes. This didn’t work for Hillary Clinton in 2016, on the one hand because she was incredibly unpopular, and on the other, because back then, almost no one could imagine that Trump would actually win, with the exception of Michael Moore and Bettina Gaus.**

This time, it’s the other way around: Many now find it hard to imagine how Trump can be stopped. It is frustrating and tiring to be constantly on the defensive protecting an imperfect democratic system and standing up for minority rights, climate action, freedom of the press and civil political discourse. It seems as if there is no more room for creativity; we have to focus on defending against this wave of ethnic racism, prejudice, conspiracy and ideological lies.

If Biden’s current speeches are any indication, then his campaign team also believes that Biden’s path to reelection will only succeed by mobilizing an anti-Trump campaign. Instead of talking about Biden’s achievements – which do exist! – or his plans for the future, Biden talks about Trump, Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and the danger that Trump poses to democracy. Everything about this is correct, yet Biden is falling directly into the trap that the Trumps of this world have since laid in almost all Western democracies.

The more dystopian right-wing populism together with fascist forces is portraying the present. Illegal mass immigration! Population replacement! Climate lies! Criminality! Rule by the elite! The more liberal Democrats feel forced to constantly prove this is all nonsense, and in doing so, run the risk of downplaying and failing to address the real problems. It is also how trust is lost.

This phenomenon has long since played out beyond the United States. This year, with the European elections and three regional East German elections in which the extreme right-wing AfD party threatens to dominate, the rising worry of a new fascism has since become the defining political emotion, at least in left-liberal parts of the population. “Never again is now!” has long meant more than just concern for the safety of Jewish people in Germany.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

However, we also realize with frustration and disbelief that this is not a general feeling among the vast majority of those who do not vote AfD. Thomas Haldenwang, the president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, complained this week that the public still does not understand how great the right-wing extremist threat has become. And so the worlds of political emotions, information and experience are increasingly falling apart. The content-based debate for the correct solution, which democracy needs like air to breathe, is becoming increasingly difficult to conduct. The right-wing rhetoric of dysfunctional democracy thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The subversive right does not even need majorities to advance its destructive work inside and out.

The momentum behind the steady growth of the right must be broken; it must experience setbacks. In the United States in 2020, Brazil in 2022 and Poland in 2023, there was success in ousting such administrations before their power became absolute. Of course, they are not entirely gone, but they are, at least, subdued. When numbers show that these self-proclaimed true representatives of the people are precisely not that, it turns the momentum around. This is exactly why Trump insists that he won. At some point, we must ignore these people on the right. Until then, organize, make good proposals and win elections.

*Editor’s note: This article was written before the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump was declared the winner there.

**Editor’s note: Bettina Gaus was a German journalist who died in October 2021.

About this publication

About Michael Stehle 103 Articles
I am a graduate of the University of Maryland with a BA in Linguistics and Germanic Studies. I have a love for language and I find translation to be both an engaging activity as well as an important process for connecting the world.

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