A comment by Martin Ganslmeier
The USA has lost its role model function for democracies all over the world in recent years. But the clear distancing from Trump and Trumpism must not lead to a departure from the USA. On the contrary: Germany and Europe must do everything possible in the coming years to deepen transatlantic relations again.
For decades, America was like a big brother that the young German democracy could rely on. Big brother is now experiencing the biggest political crisis in decades. It is not about turning away, but about support and exchange: for example through more intensive trade relations and a fairer distribution of burdens within NATO. In doing so, German foreign policy should not only focus on close exchange with the future Biden government. Right now it is important to revive the contacts with the Republicans that were severed in the Trump years.
“Right-wing populists are intellectual arsonists”
There is another lesson from the events in Washington: right-wing populist parties and movements, which also exist in Europe and Germany, must not be played down. Autocrats and other enemies of open democracy must not be made acceptable by working with them. A clear political demarcation is necessary. Trump is another example of how hatred and political agitation tend to lead to violence. Right-wing populists are intellectual arsonists.
But that must not mean that politics no longer cares about the supporters of right-wing populist parties. On the contrary: Hillary Clinton’s bad word about the “bunch of despicable people” corresponds exactly to the arrogant attitude of mind that also occurs among German elites in left-wing liberal-urban bubbles. German politicians too have to worry much more about the losers of globalization than before, giving them professional prospects and appreciation.
The common “media campfire” is missing
And one more important lesson: A far too little-noticed cause of the dangerous political division in America since the mid-1990s is the division in the media landscape in the USA. The fanatical Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol are absolutely convinced that they are right and truly patriotic. Their convictions are reinforced by partisan media and distributed millions of times online. And there has long been left-wing propaganda in the US media.
In America’s predominantly commercial media landscape, tough opinion-making leads to higher ratings and more money than trying to get the most objective coverage possible. As a result, there is no longer a media campfire around which citizens gather and around which they communicate together. However, information is the currency of democracy – the third US President Thomas Jefferson recognized this. Strong democracies therefore need strong and independent quality media.
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