The Demise of American Democracy

When the highest representatives of a community are eager to throw mud at each other. When arguments merely serve as a façade to convey anger, mockery or contempt, then history has just turned a corner. One period has come to an end, a new one begins. Since September 29, 2020 we know that in the United States of America democracy is undergoing a process of rapid disintegration – it is being torn apart by diverging forces.

When the Weimar Republic came to an end,

its educated citizens were deeply convinced that Germany, with its great heritage of philosophy, poetry and its then world-leading sciences, was better immune to the bacillus of populism and barbarism than any other nation. The vulgar, brutal, barking Hitler was not taken seriously because he and his bloody henchmen did not fit at all into the world view of its most enlightened citizens. Was Germany not a cultured nation, and had it not even adapted to Western models by adopting democracy? This was the line of thinking among the educated and the economically secure classes, whose short-sightedness usually consists in overlooking the broad masses, that is those who are poorly educated and, moreover, defenselessly exposed to any haphazard economic shock. When the world economic crisis spread from the US to Germany and unemployment drove more than a third of the population into poverty, a rising number of traditional left-wing voters turned to the Nazis. Whenever poverty is rampant, only a few are immune to the bacillus of populism and barbarism. Because, as Bert Brecht said: First comes food, then morality. Between 1929 and ’33, the number of Nazi voters rose in exact correspondence to the number of unemployed.

Donald Trump is on his way,

to liquidate American democracy as Hitler did with the German one. Ultimately, it is merely a facade that crumbles because democracy has long been hijacked by a plutocracy deceiving the masses with an elaborate democratic carnival. The industrial-military complex in the hands of the ominous upper one percent ensures with its electoral donations that only candidates make the race who prove to be docile. Bernie Sanders had no chance from the start as he didn’t show such obedience.

Until Trump, the US plutocracy was by no means hostile to intellectual eminence (even if average Americans loved to mock the intellectual “eggheads”). At the best universities, the rich, with their generous donations, let a thousand flowers sprout more luxuriantly than anywhere abroad. To this day, this can be seen in the fact that Americans still set the tone in most areas of research, even in the critical sciences of politics, society and history, which in Russia or China are constantly muzzled by a single party or autocrats eager to monitor and control what may be said or thought in their country.

This freedom is put to an end under Trump. In the United States, too, a truth independent of politics shall no longer exist. Like Vladimir Putin or Xi Jin Ping, the new American would-be dictator claims the right to determine what is fake and what is truth.

It is not difficult,

to describe the dissolution process of American democracy. Ever since the vulgar television debate of the two presidential candidates, shamefully far removed from all objectivity, this process has been visible to all of us. But it is difficult to fight against ideological bias when it comes to naming the deep-seated reasons for this process. Even such a notorious liar like Donald Trump could only come to power because he saw the truth where it matters.

Why did I succeed in tax avoidance?, he objected to Joe Biden and himself provided the answer. Because you gave me the chance to do so through all those laws (benefitting the rich). And he could have gone even further. Why do half of American citizens give me their vote in the rust belts of our country where they used to follow the Democrats? Because you allowed their work to be outsourced to China so that they lost their work and their livelihood. And your intellectuals are even amused when pointing to the “white trash” and its backwardness.

Comparisons tend to limp, as we say

The Weimar Republic experimented with democracy for just a decade and without success for that matter, while the United States can boast of being the oldest representative democracy in the Western world. In contrast to the classic Athenian model, they even granted voting rights to their former slaves, albeit very late. But there is one thing that the end of democracy in the Weimar Republic has in common with the dissolution of democracy in the US. In times of great need, when other help seems out of reach, a broad stratum of underprivileged people calls for a dictator to represent their interests. The fact that such political gamblers invariably betray them and often waste them in wars is a different story. And so is the terrible misfortune: this downfall of a great civilization of such brightness of mind, of such refreshing informality and originality – a misfortune which will hardly leave the rest of the world and Europe unaffected. An epoch really seems to be closed. For a party that knows nothing better than to oppose Donald Trump with an old man, whose statements betray beginning senility, thus proves its own inability to change the tide. This insight too is part of the torment caused by the abdication of American democracy.

1 The world economic crisis that began in 1929 resulted in an emergency situation that was threatening the existence of nearly one in two Germans. In the course of Germany’s gradual economic recovery, the party of Hitler’s followers in the Reichstag had shrunk from 6.6 to 2.6 percent between 1924 and 1928, for the number of unemployed had fallen by about one-third from 340,711 to 268,443 within the same period. In other words, the Nazi party had almost disappeared from the scene.

This changed radically and virtually overnight after 1929, when the Reichstag was flooded by Hitler’s followers, in strict parallel to the rising unemployment figures. The loss of jobs in September 1930 had quadrupled to 1 million or 62,000, and accordingly the proportion of Nazi votes had soared from 2.6 percent to 18.3 percent. For July 32 and March 33, the respective ratios were 5,355,000 / 37.4% and 5,598,000 / 43.9%.It should not be difficult to show the corresponding figures of growing poverty and the advance of the populists for the United States as well.