Why is ancestry important to Americans

Loyal supporters of the US President : Will German-Americans decide for Trump?

So, at the beginning of October 2019, Donald Trump proclaimed: The fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago was a “triumph of freedom”. The event underlines how much the USA and Germany are committed to the rule of law and human rights. “Our shared values ​​and historical and cultural ties strengthen the eternal bond between the United States and Germany. This partnership forms the foundation of a great and hopeful future for the world. "

Nanu? It was the same Trump who otherwise never misses an opportunity to riot about Germany. About insufficient defense spending, the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline, trade deficits, refugee policy, the influence of Huawei. But that day all that was, if not forgotten, at least repressed.

Because on this day the US President called on the Americans to celebrate German-American-Day. The first families immigrated from Germany at the end of the 17th century. In 1883 the "German Day" had its premiere in Philadelphia. A hundred years later, US President Ronald Reagan declared October 6th as German-American-Day a public holiday.

That sounds like folklore, but it has a valid electoral strategy background. Almost all voter groups in the US are being researched. Which party does the married, white woman without a university degree tend to join? How do the Cuban Americans differ from the Mexican Americans? Do presidential candidates still have to vie for the votes of Irish people? Every nuance, no matter how small, is important to the opinion pollers.

They live in the so-called swing states

Only one group, which can be a decisive factor in voting, is outside the public poll radar. Measured by the criterion of parentage, she is the largest. Many of its members live in so-called swing states - Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida. It's the German-Americans, the German-Americans.

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Around 43 million people of German descent live in the USA. That is far more than those whose ancestors come from England, Ireland, Italy or Asia. There are also more than there are Afro-Americans or Latinos. The "German Belt", where most of the German-Americans are settled, stretches from Oregon in the northwest of the United States and stretches across the entire Midwest to Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania in the east of the country.

The majority of the immigrants came in the middle of the 19th century

In the presidential campaign four years ago, Hillary Clinton hoped that the blue firewall, the "Blue State Firewall", would hold and bring her victory. Instead, that wall crumbled and Donald Trump moved into the White House. Traditionally democratic states had suddenly, if scarcely, become republican. It is precisely the federal states in which German-Americans are particularly well represented.

Pre-election polls showed a clear preference. More than half of German-Americans favored Trump, only 33 percent leaned towards Clinton. Two scientists from the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, David Huenlich and Per Urlaub, investigated the phenomenon after the election. Your essay is entitled "Why are the German-Americans Trump’s most loyal supporters"? (Why are the German-Americans Trump's most loyal supporters?)

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The answer is complex and has to do with both history and psychology. The majority of German immigrants came in the middle of the 19th century. They imported apple pie, Christmas trees and the Easter Bunny, kindergartens, gymnastics clubs and breweries. The Germans built large Protestant churches and founded companies such as Boeing, Levi Strauss, Charles M. Schwab, Chrysler, Steinway.

Liberals turned into conservatives

Many German migrants were politically left and were disappointed with the course of the 1848 revolution. In the USA they fought against slavery and for women's suffrage, founded newspapers and unions. At the turn of the century there were no fewer than 488 German-language newspapers and periodicals in the USA. The indignation of many German-Americans over the practice of slavery made them support Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party. In cultural terms, liberals turned into conservatives.

Then came the First World War. Until then, Germans in America had been able to live out their Germanness uninhibited. Many sympathized with Kaiser Wilhelm. But while German-Americans strongly advocated America's neutrality, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany in April 1917. As a result, many German-Americans came under pressure. How loyal were they to their old homeland? German-language newspapers were censored, German lessons were restricted in schools, and German culture - from Bach to Beethoven to Schiller - banned from music halls and theaters. Sauerkraut was renamed "liberty cabbage", everything German was frowned upon.

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Many German-Americans reacted bitterly. When the Ohio governor, James Cox, a Democrat and Wilson supporter, ran against the Republican Warren Harding in the 1920 presidential election, Americans of German descent overwhelmingly voted for Harding. But basically they voted “not for Harding, but against Wilsonism”, writes the historian Frederick C. Luebke of the “University of Nebraska-Lincoln” in his study “German Immigrants and American Politics”.

Assimilation to an original American conservatism

A similar dynamic set in before, during and after World War II. The German-Americans, who were the center of isolationism in the Midwest, opposed the Democrat, incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the 1940 presidential election. Instead, they voted for the Republican challenger and antagonist, Wendell Willkie.

During the Cold War, the ties of many German-Americans to the “Grand Old Party” (GOP) remained intact. When the Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy accused the Democrats of being too “soft on Communism”, German-Americans felt confirmed in their view that the Soviet Union, not Germany, was America's real enemy.

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However, the affinity for the Republican Party also had a psychological cause. By assimilating to an original American conservatism, many German-Americans tried to overcome the stigma of their ancestry, and put Huenlich and Urlaub in balance. After two world wars for which Germany was responsible, it seemed that public pride in one's origins was no longer possible. “German-Americans made themselves small, Anglicized their names and stopped speaking German,” writes the “Economist”.

Trump's grandfather comes from Kallstadt

It is said that Trump's voters are white, male and evangelical. That's true. But the white evangelical bloc is not monolithic. Questions of descent and origin also play an important role in political preferences.

In 2010, a non-partisan German-American caucus was launched in Congress. It now has around a hundred members. This indicates a growing group-specific awareness.

So it is possible that Trump will have to moderate his notorious Germany bashing. Every blow to the country of origin could reduce his chances of re-election among German-Americans. After all, he is one himself. Trump's grandfather comes from Kallstadt in the southwest of Rhineland-Palatinate.

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