In the face of the tragedy of the moment, Trump continues to be the president of the “divided States of America”, as “Time” headlined when in December 2016 he indicated him as the character of the year. Unable to hold together the multiple social, ethnic and cultural segments of the country, the only representative figure of national unity also in this period worked to accentuate the division between whites and non-whites, traditionalists and marginalized, nativists and immigrants, urban and rural, while on the political scene the furrow between the federal government and the states governed by the democrats has deepened. Emerging from the karst river of racism, endemic in police districts especially in some states and cities, the uniformed murderer of Minneapolis felt he could have a free hand in the general climate of the country which at the summit never openly condemned the police abuse he did not repress the Nazistoid groups on blacks who also took up arms in institutional offices. The president, faced with the legitimate protest of African Americans, though polluted by violent and desperate groups, instead of trying to dialogue with the most aware leaderships of the black communities for a work of reconciliation, reacted with the language that is most congenial to him , the force. He threatened the intervention of the army (something different from the National Guard available to the governors of the States), also contested by the defense secretary Mark Ester and his predecessor general Mattis; he exalted the rhetoric of weapons and even of ferocious dogs; and accentuated the verbal offensive on social networks aimed at inflaming the spirits rather than sedating the riots.
They are the elections of November 3 to dictate the hybris of the president who believes the clash is the most favorable ground for him to maximize consensus. The strategy Law and Order it is not so much intended to restore order based on the law, as to give the impression of being a leader ready to defend Americans distressed by political antagonists described as subversive. The president’s instinctive populist and nativist logic divides Americans into “us” and “them”, into friends to defend and enemies to bring down. Hence the impulse to resort frequently to the concept of “enemy”: the democrats who are assimilated to the extreme “antifa” left-wing groups are enemies, and the “Chinese virus” on which to download the current trade war must be considered an enemy with China. On the other hand, the evangelicals (especially white voters, of a non-young age, residing in the small cities of the south and west and in the metropolitan suburbs) to whom the message of the president is directed, who blatantly exhibits the Bible while walking from the White House to the nearby church of St. John making his way through the demonstrators with truncheons and tear gas.
The exit from World Health Organization taking as a pretext the criticism of the omissions of the summit on the origin of the epidemic, it was an opportunity for Trump to snub the opinion of the experts and devalue the function of the multinational organization. The abandonment of the WHO, disapproved by dr. Antony Fauci and the scientific community, originates from the idea of the commander who believes he has the right to decide also on the merits of scientific issues. The singular foreign policy direction headed by America First considers multinational structures – in the past keystones of the internationalist hegemony of the United States with the instruments of law – a superfetation to be subjected to bilateral relations that would allow America to assert its economic and military power without any constraint. After abandoning the treaties on Iran’s environment and nuclear power, signed by Obama together with the main powers of the planet, and in ignorance of the political-democratic reasons that were originally placed at the basis of alliances such as the Atlantic, the president has the Health Organization was also canceled, driven by the same mainly commercial concept of international relations.
In the last week, some events related to social media have had particular importance for both information and liberal democracy. Twitter deleted the president’s aggressive post – “if they sack, we shoot” – while Facebook published it by Zuckerberg’s will, adapting to the wishes of Trump who had accused social media of neglecting conservative politics. The social issue presents dilemmas that are not easily resolved: where should freedom of information end and where should the control of the truth and goodness of the message begin? It is not without meaning, however, that in the face of Trump, active with unscrupulous and aggressive social messages, the counter-move of Facebook employees was born, who, for the first time, went on strike on the right to control violent messages. The young people of Facebook thus testified how profound the function of information as a watchdog of power is in America.
Polls to date indicate that Trump’s re-election chances are slim. However, it is difficult to assess whether the economic and class dimension is still an important factor influencing the vote, or whether the weight of cultural war in the ethnic-anthropological dimension is becoming decisive. In the five months between November and November, many things can happen in the tense climate that dominates America. Trump who has so far issued several illiberal presidential orders, however, has not altered the country’s political-institutional foundations: Bill of Rights, the Rule of Law, and i Checks & Balances, pivot of American liberalism, which act as a deterrent in the conflict between federal presidency and state governors. In threatening the intervention of the army, the president referred toInsurrection Act of 1807 which, at the time, had quite another meaning. Emergency laws are always dangerous for democratic life, and today fear can provoke incalculable institutional reactions. The campaign by the Republicans against the vote by post accused of being fraudulent, indicates how normal electoral procedures can be distorted which, in addition to the president in November, concern the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate with the possibility of radically changing the balance politicians. As in the past, the fate of the democratic and liberal West is not separate from that of overseas. If the United States resumes the path according to what in “The American Genius” I defined the capacity within a democratic transformation attentive to inequalities, and to ambition on the international scene to guide the defense of European democracies from the onslaught of populism authoritarian, then we can look forward to November with some hope.
Massimo Teodori is Professor of History and Institutions of the United States, author of the book “The American genius. Defeating Trump and the global pandemic “Rubbettino, 2020