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October 24, 2021



Commentary: Trump won. Should we admire him?

9.11.2016 12:31
František Kostlán. (Photo: Archive)
František Kostlán. (Photo: Archive)

Donald Trump has won the election. His purposeful efforts, worthy of a successful businessman, have become the symbol of today.

Today politics is no longer about left-right divisions. That "world" is gone forever, thank God.

What will happen next, though, will not be not much better. The people who once used to stand in the background - the billionaires and the oligarchs - are pushing their way into power.

This modern "oligarchy" exists in symbiosis with the face of globalization that involves a coarsening of the public discourse and a departure from humanist ideas. It's too early for a deeper analysis, but we can still reflect on this situation, without blushing.

According to "experts" like Mr Weigel, the former courtier to former Czech President Klaus, Trump is just an ordinary democratic politician who did his best during his campaign to amuse the voters, but whose politics in his role as President of the USA will be normal. Speaking on Czech Television, Weigel was terribly surprised that anybody could say of such a brilliant man as Trump that he is not in fact a democrat, but just a pure-blooded yokel.

Are insults fun?

The New York Times counted more than 6 000 insults on Trump's Twitter account aimed at 300 targets. Are we actually at a point where abuse, insults, lies and vulgarity are the customary way to amuse the citizens?

When we look at our own European underbelly, at Czech President Miloš Zeman's own "yokeldom" and his high popularity, then the answer is yes. The Czech Republic, though, is a postcommnist country that has no inkling of what democratic customs and political culture are, while the United States is a country with a centuries-long democratic tradition.

The argument against this interpretation is the hypothesis that democracy and political culture as we know it are ending and that this shift is a global one. Russia, which was once on the way to democracy, is ignominiously returning to totalitarianism through authoritarianism.

Turkey is in a similar state. The rise of extremists and populists to power can be seen all over Europe.

Populist and ultra-right parties are celebrating successes and introducing elements into politics that until recently were considered relics of the 20th century. The existing democratic parties are taking up these mannerisms and thereby legitimizing them.

It has once again become normal to publicly espouse racism and xenophobia and to call it the "truth". We are justified in lamenting Zeman here in the Czech Republic, but for comparison's sake we should listen to Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán, or to the politicians of the Jobbik party there, or to Wilders in the Netherlands, Le Pen in France, Michaloliakos of the Golden Dawn in Greece or to the Slovak Fascist Kotleba.

In a presidential system that features direct elections, as the USA's does, this trend had to make itself felt. It does not make sense now to spout off very much about Trump's future politics - they may be even worse than we anticipate, or they might even be calmer than seems likely at this moment.

It is unacceptable to throw Muslims and refugees out of a country, or to insult minorities and engage in sexism. For us Czechs and Europeans, what would mainly be very dangerous would be if the USA began to turn toward Russia, if NATO were to be subsequently weakened, and if the North Atlantic ties were to be further loosened.

Empty phrases

Trump was right to say public opinion polls are practically worthless. That has always been true.

Some media outlets and some journalists, however, need them, because instead of hunting for information that is relevant, they prefer to develop various speculations. The American presidential elections are a clear example of this.

In the media we frequently hear and see expressions that slowly become stereotypes, empty slogans, such as "Revolt of the white man", "volatile anger" or "end of the left-right political divide". Are there actually that many "white men" in the USA, enough to out-vote everybody else?

Did all of the less-educated, poor "white men" actually vote for Trump? Did people actually vote for Trump just because they are angry at the mainstream?

Might not people have voted for him for the simple reason that they saw something positive in him? However strange it might seem to us, that could be.

These and other questions are ones that the journalists who prefer to chant slogans never ask. What is even worse are their lamentations over the loss of the left-right divide in politics.

It is precisely that approach that smoothed the way for the change the world is now experiencing. One of the main reasons people are being bothered less and less by primitivism is that they have adopted an ideological way of thinking.

This has introduced a black-and-white view of the world into society and a stunting of thought. Ideologies offer prefabricated answers to every important question - there isn't much to think about when following them.

This change, hoeever, evidently is not for the better, and we see that in our own situation in the Czech Republic as well: An oligarch is heading to the absolute peak of power, evidently only concerned about his own best interests, and the voters aren't even bothered by it. The old system has discredited itself to such a degree that almost nobody believes in it anymore.

A new system is now beginning, and it will take some time for people to comprehend that it won't be any better. What is ahead may even be worse.

That's no reason to hang our heads in pessimism though, it is a reason to mull our choices more carefully. The big question is why the people who previously pulled the strings from behind the scenes are now personally throwing themselves into politics.

This may be happening because the European Union has arisen. Supranational economic interests have now been balanced out by a supranational politics that is, under certain circumstances, able to face up to the interests of the corporations and the oligarchs, unlike the nation-states.

Understandably, the slogan-manufacturers have always existed, that's nothing new. We must remember, though, that repeating empty phrases is just an expression of the quandary we find ourselves in.

We basically do not actually know what is going on or towards what destination the world is now rushing. We also do not know whether we will manage to steer events so we do not pay a cruel price, and the loose cannon in the White House is evidence of that.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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