A year of Trump: Hate binds and blinds US

By Updated at 2018-01-21 07:50:21 +0000


The US president has been in office for a year. His critics make it far too easy for him when they unite in blind hate against all things Donald Trump, writes Germany's public international broadcaster-DW Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl.

Figures of hate have a great advantage: people can rally behind them. Hate binds us and blinds us. In the shadow of shared hatred, differences and contrasts and contradictions fade away. And hating gives us the feeling that we're imagining a better life, when hatred actually lacks genuine ideas and visions.

If you look at the US these days, it's no longer the dream of a better life holding it together, as it did for centuries. If there is a dominant feeling now, it's the hatred of the opposing political camp. That can happen rather easily with a two-party system. As it says in the New Testament — Matthew 12:30 — "whoever is not with me is against me."

Accompanying the campaign close-up

In 2016, the year Donald Trump was elected president of the United States of America, I was working as a Deutsche Welle correspondent in the US.

I traveled thousands of miles from coast to coast, from north to south. I visited the major population centers, but also the smaller towns.

I accompanied Trump's march to the White House right from the start. I experienced the way he excited the masses — students, workers, pensioners, mothers, housewives and businesspeople.

And I saw how long it took until the Democrats finally came to the realization that this man really could do it; first win the Republican nomination and then win in a straight battle against Hillary Clinton.

It was the arrogance of power: How could a TV star possibly win against the establishment structures surrounding Clinton? The woman who gave such an insight into herself by saying that "half" of Trump's supporters could be put into "what I call the basket of deplorables."

Undemocratic reflex

It's been a year since Trump was sworn in on that gray Washington day. In the meantime, a rational examination of the president's politics no longer seems possible within his own country. There's just the one reflex: "How awful, how bad, how terrible."

That's not democratic, because at the end of the day Trump was elected by the rules of the US system. It's also stupid, because many liberal media outlets are thereby frittering away valuable credibility.

Of course it is their job to point out just how dangerous many of the president's tweets could be. Or to show with well-researched facts who is really going to profit from his tax reforms in the long term. But it should be self-evident to any critical being that you also examine and value what's right and what's good, without foaming at the mouth, even if it comes from your political opponent.

Justified demands towards Germany

What, for instance, is wrong with the demand that Europe must finally formulate a collective and strong foreign and defense policy? Why shouldn't an American president demand that Germany contribute more financially to NATO than was the case in the past? And Germany should take a very hard look at its own politics within Europe before crying foul at "America First."

After all, our finance minister most certainly had the interests of his country foremost in his mind when demanding austerity elsewhere in Europe in recent years. By the same token, the excessive bureaucracy and mismanagement of the UN is surely a relevant issue.

Trump's aggressive Tweets directed at North Korea shock me, too. They scare me. But I also see the inability of the previous administration under Barack Obama to recognize the degree of progress towards nuclear weapons made by Pyongyang.

And yes, it also concerns me to see how Russia and China are filling the vacuum left by the reduced US role as an international stabilizing power. But here, too, it's important to note that it was Obama who first introduced the new, so-called "leading from behind" doctrine.

And you really can't blame his failure in Syria, or the Middle East in general, on the Trump administration.

This term is far from over

For me, it was Michelle Obama who delivered the most poignant line of the entire election spectacle: "When they go low, we go high." All Trump critics should take that mantra to heart — at home and abroad.

Donald Trump has been in office a year now, and despite all the hopes for an impeachment process it seems that he will continue to govern for a good long while.

There's that lovely American idiom, "get over it." This would be a good time to bring the discussion back to the facts. To stop obsessing about his hair or his tan and instead focus on his politics, soberly and with balance.

Not to get het up over every Tweet, but rather to show what's wrong, or indeed what's sensible, about his political demands. And in the process we should also acknowledge how difficult it is in this world to bear political responsibility.

Hating is easy. Working on and offering genuine alternatives — that's much more difficult.

— By Ines Pohl


Ines Pohl is DW's editor-in-chief — Germany's public international broadcaster-DW

"America First" might turn out to be rather lonely