Can Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton

United States

The United States has had a new president since January 20, 2017 - a man who for a long time had no and never really good chances of victory in the election campaign. After all, the first black US president, who embodied hope and awakening like no other when he was elected in 2008, could be followed by a right-wing populist with a message of America’s decline - a man who uses racist and sexist resentment and speaks about people Making fun of people with disabilities, twisting facts at will and questioning basic democratic values ​​- seemed simply unimaginable.

Only during a short period of time about six weeks before the election did things suddenly look different. Trump led the polls for the first time, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, had fallen sharply in popularity under the impression of the affair surrounding her use of private e-mail accounts, an initially hidden pneumonia and allegations of corruption against her family foundation. Just recently, my colleague Stefan Niemann and I were brooding over the title and subtitle for our ARD documentary on the Donald Trump phenomenon. The film was planned for the eve of the election, and as usual, the titles had to be in the TV guides no later than six weeks in advance. We agreed on "The Scare Maker" and chose the bold "Why Donald Trump Can Beat Hillary Clinton" as the subtitle.

Two days before the broadcast date, we ran out of courage. Hillary Clinton came out on top in all of the polls. At the last minute we changed the subtitle to the more harmless "America between Clinton and Trump" with quite a show of strength - the daily newspapers had to be informed, editors had to be convinced, a new cover graphic created. Because Trump could beat Clinton again seemed as unlikely as in the long election campaign months. That was exactly what happened a day later.

How could this happen?

Since then, people have been worried about who voted for why Trump. In contrast to many right-wing populist movements in Europe, the longing for an apparently lost national identity and the fear of "foreign infiltration" played a minor role. The many Trump voters we spoke to during the election campaign almost always cited an economic motive: the dwindling middle class, dwindling jobs and the dwindling certainty that one's own children would one day be better off than oneself. Resentment toward oneself, too Immigrants were almost never based on identity, but always economically.

This is how we experienced it, for example, in Youngstown, Ohio, in that old steelworking town to which Bruce Springsteen dedicated a song 20 years ago - about men who are losing their jobs, about once proud steelworks that no one needs anymore, about a city in decline . The fact that the lyrics are still up-to-date became clear to us on our first drive through the city, past abandoned factories, abandoned houses, through deserted streets. Youngstown had traditionally voted democratically for many years, but in 2016 Trump and Clinton fought head-to-head here.

"Before each election, the democratic applicants come through town once. They shake a few hands, kiss a few babies and can be sure of our votes," explained scrap metal dealer Ken Greco, "but nothing will change here, we still have each other always not recovered from the crises of the 1970s and 1980s. And then someone like Trump comes along. He may be silly, loud or obnoxious, maybe even unqualified for office. But people are so fed up that they would vote for anyone just to shake things up, to make a mark. " Trump choosing from a kind of self-defense? It was in Youngstown that I understood for the first time that that too could be a motive.

And in addition to the hope that Trump would bring the jobs back, our interlocutors often felt like they were second-class citizens - like someone who is tolerated but no longer belongs. Because not only economic concerns or the fear of free trade were important motives for voting for Trump, but also the fear of falling by the wayside with the rapid social development that the country went through under President Barack Obama - and many even further alienated from their state. Because even before the election campaign, society was deeply divided.

For example, the nationwide introduction of same-sex marriages in the value-conservative province met with far less understanding than in the urban societies along the coasts. While the decision had been cheered in the big cities, it had caused a lack of understanding in the countryside. The reality of life in those inland areas that is sometimes condescending as flyover country dismissed, fit less and less to the lifestyle on the east or west coast. Obama's decree, which instructed public schools to let transgender students choose which toilet to use, had also intensified this divide. "This is no longer our country," we often heard on our travels, especially in the states with a strong religious background. In Youngstown, former steel worker Larry Cavender told us, "These are luxury problems. Before he cares about toilets for a minority, he should look into jobs for everyone."

What's next

Donald Trump started his presidency with a bang: with a speech in which he painted such a gloomy and distorted picture of the United States that in the first few minutes of his official term in office, those who had hoped he would be taught better change in view of the importance of the office. He was no different, he was the same as always. And he dealt: against politics, the Washington establishment, previous governments. Against those who stood with him in front of the Capitol that day, who had just congratulated him. Trump spoke of an "American bloodbath" through urban poverty and crime, portrayed a country ruled by a selfish political class, surrounded by a dangerous world that it could no longer face. It was an inaugural speech that sounded angry at times, was full of half-truths and falsehoods, and had a distinctly nationalistic tone, something the country had never seen before.

His campaign slogan "America first" ran through the entire text - everything from tax and trade policy to the regulation of immigration to foreign relations had to be subordinated to this motto. It marks a new American nationalism, of which even three months later nobody knows what it will bring.

That will depend in particular on which personalities in the Cabinet and White House will set the tone in the future. Because Trump's team is made up of very different figures: If you subtract those whose posts were given to them for reasons of loyalty or other solidarity - for example, Education Minister Betsy DeVos, a major donor to the Republican Party, Transport Minister Elaine Chao, the wife of the majority leader Republicans in the US Senate, or cybersecurity adviser Rudolph Giuliani, a campaign supporter - Trump's team can be divided into pragmatists and ideologues.

The pragmatists include several highly decorated and well-respected military officers such as security advisor H.R. McMasters, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly or Secretary of Defense James Mattis, but also the political newcomer in the State Department, Rex Tillerson. The ideologues are numerically in the minority, but in the person of Stephen Bannon, until recently editor of the right-wing conservative website "Breitbart" and now Trump's chief advisor, they have unrestricted access to the Oval Office.

Her signature can be clearly seen in Trump's previous domestic political decisions under the sign of deregulation, protectionism and nationalism. In his very first decrees, Trump laid down the plan, which was repeatedly announced during the election campaign, to build a wall on the border with Mexico, ordered a tightening of entry rules, and initiated the first steps to abolish Wall Street, which was introduced in response to the financial crisis of 2008 -Regulations and withdrew the US from the trans-Pacific trade agreement TPP. His draft budget foresees a budget cut for the State Department of no less than 28 percent, a clear sign of the importance he attaches to the country's foreign policy.

In addition to the pragmatists and ideologues, there are family members. Trump's daughter Ivanka often attends important dates, even though she was not originally assigned a formal role in the White House. Her husband Jared Kushner, politically completely inexperienced, is apparently a kind of silver bullet for Trump: As a close advisor, he is responsible for "innovations" and the realization of campaign promises, he is also a kind of special ambassador for the Middle East, but also sits at other global political parties Questions with me at the table. He made a surprise trip to Iraq even before the Foreign Minister. When Chancellor Angela Merkel's long-standing and crisis-proof foreign policy advisor, Christoph Heusgen, sounded out the situation in Washington in advance of Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit, he was faced with the president's 36-year-old son-in-law during the talks. At the actual meeting between Trump and Merkel, daughter Ivanka was also present. A few weeks later she moved into an office next to his as the official advisor to the President.

So will ideological whisperers and loyal family members determine the direction of the country for the foreseeable future? In the past few weeks, the pragmatists seem to have gained ground. Signs of this are Stephen Bannon's removal from the National Security Council and the air strike on a Syrian air base. The fact that Trump, who had always rejected a stronger engagement of the USA in Syria, decided to take this step indicates a stronger influence of men like McMasters and Mattis.

Thomas Wright, foreign policy expert at the Brookings think tank, believes it is fundamentally possible that the traditionalists in the US government will initially keep the country on course, at least in terms of foreign policy. Trump has to fall back on them for day-to-day operations because there are no experts who want to translate and implement his worldview - disregard for alliances, admiration for autocratic rulers, EU skepticism - into politics. The pragmatists tried to dispel doubts about the US's transatlantic loyalty after Trump initially described NATO as obsolete in an interview with the daily newspapers "Times" and "Bild".

Still, Wright sees little reason to be confident. A president will be tested in times of crisis. Then Trump will make the decisions. "This is the moment when Trump's entire worldview, his 'America first', his hostility towards alliances and an open world economy, his sympathy for Russia come into play. And then his temperament, his thin skinnedness and tendency become all personal Bannon's closeness to the president will ensure that radical voices are heard in these key moments. "[1] Pessimism, this attitude so little in keeping with the American way of life, is not uncommon in the first few months of the Trump era feel.