A totalitarian phony and deceitful dilettante has managed to get elected to the US presidency. Donald Trump is an epochal disaster that won't just change his vast country and its democracy for many years to come. The entire world will feel the effects of this aberration.
Many thought it was a joke when Trump announced his candidacy last year. Go ahead, many thought, as long as it's fun for him -- and for us. That was almost one-and-a-half years ago, and today, nobody is laughing anymore. Now, a racist sexual predator, a pathological liar and an excitable egomaniac holds power in the United States -- a sickening outcome for all those who believe in democracy and human rights, or at least in the common sense of humanity at large and of Americans in particular. They only had one job, damn it! To prevent this man from becoming president.
Because he won, Trump will no doubt agree: This vote was not manipulated. There is no excuse for the majority decision. And yet the immune system failed, the one that has thus far protected healthy democracies from hollow populism. Trump's fanatic followers don't care what is true and right. A debate over ideas, the sober deliberation between two political platforms, never took place in this unprecedentedly vulgar campaign. What can we expect from him? What will this man do as president and what won't he do? With the attention span of a snot-nosed adolescent who is only interested in his own world, Trump shot down every attempt to find answers to such questions. "I am the best" -- everything else was ranting to the cheers of his like-minded supporters.
They cheered him on when he attacked minorities. They clapped whenever he insulted, demeaned or made fun. They ignored all of his lies and substantive voids. This man whose companies declared bankruptcy several times, who refused to pay invoices and who dodged his taxes was celebrated by his followers as a successful businessman who would hammer out the best deal for America. They understood his "America first" as "us first": The Chinese steal our jobs, the Mexicans rape our women and the Muslims all want to blow us up -- so let's wall ourselves in, cut ourselves off and suppress, at home too, all that is different.
Those who cast their ballots for Trump may have seen it as a protest against the establishment, but by doing so, they became part of an anti-democratic upheaval whose proponents no longer believe in much of what holds modern states together. The anti-government egotism of conservative America, that the Republicans have spent years cultivating, was perverted by Trump into authoritarianism. Values were jettisoned while survival of the fittest became the new code. Trump couldn't even bring himself to say that he would respect the election results in the case of a loss. Instead, he turned up the volume on his rage against the system, and against its embodiment in the person of Hillary Clinton. Those wont to do so could easily interpret his words to mean that any means were suddenly justified in the fight against his political adversary. Some even went to the shooting range to prepare for Election Day. Poor versus rich, black versus white, uneducated versus educated -- Trump's rise was built on these conflicts. He brutally exploited them.
With Trump's victory, those who believe they have been left behind can now feel like winners. The dream of an America in which everyone enjoys equal opportunity means nothing to them anymore. Their unchained hate is aimed alternately at blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, women, journalists. ... The list can never really be completed. Basically, it includes everyone who lost in this election. Victory or downfall -- that is the commitment Trump demanded from his followers. It is the path taken by all totalitarian movements.
That is why Trump is so dangerous. None of the scenarios one can come up with do justice to this irrational, impulsive, uncaring egomaniac. Will he launch a trade war with China? Will he buddy up to Russia and its violently imposed pretenses to hegemony? Will he abandon NATO solidarity? Does he even care about Europe? The Middle East? And how much will remain of the great American democracy as we know it today?
What we do know about Trump's plans and ideas is alarming. Much worse, though, is what we don't know: Whether tomorrow he will suddenly happen across a new way to generate the approval that he so badly needs. Or what he might do under pressure. He is the commander in chief of a nuclear power. With Trump at the helm, America has become unpredictable.
Translated by Charles Hawley