Americans feel safe under Donald Trump
Sigmar Gabriel on the US election : "It doesn't matter whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump becomes president"
Sigmar Gabriel was chairman of the SPD and is chairman of Atlantik-Brücke and a member of the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank.He is the author of the Holtzbrinck Group, to which the Tagesspiegel also belongs.
Mr. Gabriel, how did you spend the election night?
In bed. I don't understand why half the republic does nightly election programs, even though we all knew there couldn't be a result even this morning. It is easier to comment on difficult election results when you are well rested.
Nevertheless something happened this morning. Trump is now talking about fraud, he has already declared himself the winner in principle.
Unfortunately, that was foreseeable, as he has been pursuing the strategy of delegitimizing postal voting for months, which is unfortunately no surprise. In Germany, the Federal Returning Officer would decide when an election result is certain - and not one of the candidates.
So do you think there will be a decision in court now?
I believe that there will not only be legal proceedings, but that there will already be disputes at the state level over the following questions: Do postal votes count and how long are they counted? There have already been initial proceedings.
It's extremely exciting. The Democrats were hoping for a landslide victory, but Trump is surprisingly strong. Obviously, his controversial way of performing his office has not harmed him. Was that what you expected?
I was amazed at the polls and comments in Germany, which Trump has been seeing as a loser for weeks. American analysts have repeatedly pointed out that very few states will matter and that in these states Biden's lead over Trump has never been as great as in the national polls. In any case, I have been expecting for a long time that there will be a close outcome and that this could lead to a real constitutional crisis in the United States.
After all, it could still happen that Trump would at some point admit defeat.
It doesn't look like that right now and the American Constitution isn't entirely clear about the next steps if he doesn't. Obviously, the mothers and fathers of the constitution could not imagine a president of the United States calling into question the majority principle.
The turnout is extremely high - and it still looks good for Trump, that was not expected. Why is Donald Trump always underestimated, why can't we imagine someone like that as president?
Because we Europeans and especially we Germans tend to always look only at Trump and we do not ask ourselves who and for what reasons actually support him. We now know how Trump does politics. The key question is, why are there people who feel that they are in good hands with him? In Florida, for example, it was the case that Latin Americans, including women, voted for Trump - in relatively large numbers, even more than last time against Clinton.
There are parts of American society who have completely different values than the majority here. For example, for religious reasons, it was extremely important that Trump sent a declared anti-abortion opponent to the highest American court.
And there is also a part that has been neglected and left behind by the country's political and economic elite for decades. Trump won this time too, for example, West Virginia - that was democratically ruled for 83 years and is a traditional union state.
The unions aren't particularly strong in the United States, but they have always been strong in West Virginia. Hence the early successes of the Democrats there. West Virginia is heavily industrialized - and people vote for Trump because they feel that the liberal elites, the progressives, the left, don't understand their lives or care.
And last but not least, for part of the American middle class, the Democrats - rightly or wrongly - stand for higher taxes and lower economic literacy. Trump supporters are not consistently uneducated and disinterested in the common good, as many here believe. But there are definitely reasons why Trump has so many supporters. You don't have to share them, but you have to know them if you want to understand the US elections.
[The election remains exciting because of the large number of postal votes, even in the days after election day. Until November 8th Twenty / Twenty, our newsletter for the US election, is therefore published daily. You can register here for free.]
You can also see that in the “rust belt” states, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan - the former “blue wall”, which is now very important.
You can go to Pennsylvania, where you'll find glittering big cities but right next to it you will find totally rural, remote regions. There are regions in America where the life expectancy of young men is falling because of drug addiction - and it's not because of illegal drugs, but because America has apparently been allowed to prescribe opiate medication for the slightest pain for a long time. That drove these people into addiction.
And when the health insurance company no longer pays for these expensive drugs, the addicts have switched to illegal drugs. These are things that people tell you, "The pharmaceutical lobby has so much influence in Washington and that is why something like this is possible in the US and not with you in Europe." is an example of the anti-establishment stance against "up there in Washington."
Especially with a view to: What is it that makes Trump so fascinating?
There's not just one reason. We must not believe that the Trump supporters are somehow uneducated or anything. There is a section of Americans who simply realize that this country is prosperous, but that section has little of it. And there is a section that defends itself against the dogmatics of some progressive political forces on identity issues. This absolutely misses a lot of people and tends to generate backlash.
What would you expect from Donald Trump's second term? Will Trump continue as he has done before - or do you think he will change his style in any way?
Why should he when he has just proven he can stay in power with this style? I believe that - should Trump win the election again - the world will continue to have to do with the fact that in America a president leads the country who does not think much of alliances and international institutions and whose policies are geared towards being between the strong Nations in the world to make bilateral deals and to invite the others to follow suit. This is of course the opposite of what we Europeans imagine the world to be.
How should Germany and the EU react if Trump gets a second term?
That is difficult to say, but no matter who will be the next president, there is one clear realization: if Europe does not gain political, economic and technological weight, then we are simply meaningless. Then it doesn't matter who becomes president. Joe Biden will also ask what the Europeans actually bring in.
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You had already touched on that in an interview recently: Trump is often made a scapegoat – but we Europeans also have a lot to do. What do you mean specifically?
We always point a finger at the USA and sometimes I have the feeling that this should distract from the fact that we didn't do our homework either. Much of Europe's weakness has nothing to do with Donald Trump or the US. That we in Europe disagree on economic and financial policy, that our reconstruction program after the corona crisis is taking far too long, that we are totally at odds over the rule of law between Western and Eastern Europe, that we cannot manage a common migration policy, that we cannot Having a common foreign and security policy - that's not up to the USA. It's up to us. And my feeling over the past few months and years has been that we liked to point one finger at the USA and forgot that three fingers point back to us.
These are the most important current developments from the US election night:
You are the chairman of the Atlantik-Brücke. What would change in the transatlantic relationship if Joe Biden made it? Observers suspect that the Americans would change their dealings – but will remain tough on the matter.
There is a key difference between the two. Trump ignores allies and partnerships. Biden, on the other hand, believes that even America needs partnerships in the 21st century world. That said, in conflict situations with Joe Biden, it would be much easier to find solutions and compromises than it would be with Donald Trump - that's the big difference.
Can the Americans cope with a second term from Donald Trump - or will the country be irreparably damaged?
It doesn't matter whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden becomes president, the country will unfortunately remain deeply divided for a long time. The problem is that Donald Trump doesn't want to change that - he's more likely to manifest the split, whereas Joe Biden would at least try to reunite the country.
What do you wish the Americans?
That they overcome this split.
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