Will Trump get richer through his presidency

Fritz Plasser on the Trump era: "A rule violation across the board"

Focus: media literacy

Political scientist Fritz Plasser has already analyzed eight US presidents. In an interview, he sums up Donald Trump's “most problematic” US presidency - his education policy, Twitter diplomacy and biggest mistakes.

Florian Wörgötter - January 21, 2021

Political scientist Fritz Plasser has been observing US presidents and their policies since 1972. In an interview, the Viennese professor explains why Trump is the personified violation of the rules and whether America is "great again".

If Fritz Plasser Looking back on his first stay in the US in 1970, he remembers Miles Davis' musical urge for freedom at a concert in Central Park; eight-week trips on the Greyhound bus with a daily budget of $ 5.5; to the institutions of democracy in his favorite city, Washington, which he has grown so fond of. Each of his words fulfills the American dream that once captivated the world.

That dream came true for the past four years 45th presidency under Donald Trump damaged. Fritz Plasser has been interpreting the "American Dream" since the early 1970s as Political scientist, ORF election observer and America lover. in the interview the retired political expert moves in Résumé Over four years of Trumpism, its biggest political mistakes and the effects of its politics on the USA, the EU and Austria.

What now: Professor Fritz Plasser, you have been observing the US elections, their results and effects since 1972. How do you rate Donald Trump's term in office?

Fritz Plasser: Judging by his presidential actions, demeanor and communication, Trump's term in office was an absolute rule violation across the board. Right from the start, Trump broke with what we associate with a “presidential culture” - manners, responsibility and a minimum of style that his predecessors perceived differently but continuously. In the USA one speaks of a disruptive presidency with no expected continuities.

"Right from the start, Trump broke with what we associate with a" Presidential Culture "- manners, responsibility and a minimum of style."

Unprecedentedly, the 45th presidency is now coming to an end even under the toughest security precautions.

His departure from office is shameful and most comparable to Richard Nixon's resignation after the Watergate scandal in 1974. Even so, Richard Nixon's presidency showed more closeness to continuity compared to Trump.

Trump started four years ago with the slogan "Make America Great Again". How great is the former “land of opportunity” today?

His economic policy was criticized by many, but Trump was able to provide growth impetus for the American economy. This is also proven by figures compared to productivity in Europe. First and foremost, this has been achieved through large-scale tax cuts unprecedented in this dimension, which not only affected the upper 200,000 income earners, but also encouraged consumption by the middle class. The downside, however, is that these tax reduction programs have not significantly relieved the lower income earners. All in all, the economic and political balance sheet is mixed.

Hardly any or rather counterproductive measures were taken in the social policy area. Obama's attempt to offer insurance cover (“Obamacare”) to those 30 million Americans without health insurance has even been scaled back and de facto blocked. Other federal welfare programs have also been massively cut.

What did Trump do or miss out on for school education?

Trump has done enormous damage by cutting funding, qualification and scholarship programs. Above all, the deficits in public schools have grown extremely. Their funds were cut, the teachers reduced, and no additional remedial teaching financed. This means that students from very low-income households sit in large classes that are no longer functional. This school crisis mainly affects southern states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas.

While Hillary Clinton promised a key concern in the last presidential election that she would leave no child behind, Trump has not heard a word about it. With him the impression arises of a complete insensitivity, maybe even ignorance, where the actual social, educational political focal points and trouble spots are, which one urgently needs to counteract.

What effects will these deficits have in the school sector?

They create future problems in the next ten or 15 years, because people who were not taken care of, graduate from high school with sometimes disastrous knowledge. They end up in a labor market that increasingly demands qualifications that they cannot provide. When it comes to promoting quality, equitable schooling, Trump has failed to a greater extent than any other US president.

"Trump has failed like no other US president when it comes to promoting a qualified, equitable schooling."

What would you describe as Trump's biggest domestic policy mistake?

That Trump relied on polarizing mobilization instead of preventing a further breakup of society through integration. He consciously reinforced fault lines, polarized them and thus mobilized them. In the final phase of his presidency he has now de facto crossed all borders, even those of the law. Impeachment and its indictment of incitement to riot hits the heart of the matter. What Trump did two weeks ago is not only inexcusable, but should have criminal consequences.

Does a lost impeachment case guarantee that Trump will not be allowed to run again as president?

If he should be convicted, I see no more possibility for him to apply again for the office of president or even a senate office in 2024. Nevertheless, even a Trump who is no longer allowed to run for public political office is unlikely to fall silent. It is speculated that Trump could open an information channel on the Internet. At least 60 to 70 million follow Trump on Twitter, who would probably also visit this platform. On such an online mass medium, he could continue to try communicatively to mobilize, even to divide.

Your recommendations for Joe Biden: How can he bridge this polarization gap in his own country?

Bridging the split will take time. Nothing is certain, but if an impeachment procedure is actually initiated against Trump, it will initially deepen the polarization in the American public and also in American society. The core of Trump supporters will again try to stand up against the Democrats via social media or demonstrations, but will also put pressure on individual Republican senators.

Is there a threat of a split in the Republican Party?

That cannot be estimated today. Some do not rule out the possibility of a split within the Republican party. Others believe that the Republican Party will have to decide in the next few months whether it would like to find its way back to the continuity of the political tradition as the second major party in the USA or whether it will slide even more strongly into a partly extremist, right-wing populist mobilization platform.

What does the US need now? Especially in view of increasing police violence against People of Color?

Trump's policies towards minorities such as that of African Americans have deepened the divisions. The word “police brutality” does not do it justice, because fatal shots were fired at people who wanted to get their ID out of their pockets or who were holding a sandwich in their hand instead of a weapon.

Biden's inauguration does not make one forget these unforgivable things. Its administration has the central task of restoring trust in the security apparatus. This is about fundamental reforms, but also tough crackdowns within the security apparatus, because there is obviously a racist-aggressive mood in some parts that should not exist in a civil society like the United States.

Which reforms can curb police violence?

The management level of the police should be examined at regional and local level to determine to what extent it corresponds to the requirements of a civil society. In addition, investments must be made in far more intensive and qualitatively better training that goes far beyond the use of firearms and raises awareness of the civilian responsibilities of a police unit in a democratic state.

However, the USA is a federal state with a pronounced federal separation of powers, so many police agendas can only be partially influenced from Washington. But a president can develop attractive programs and provide federal funds ("grants") that the 12 states concerned commit to investing in this direction. Biden will probably initiate such measures because at least 80 percent of the Afro-American electorate voted for the Democrat. Other minorities in the country have also voted for the Democrats in a majority.

Trump indoctrinates his voters with the myth of a stolen election. How has democracy in the US suffered from its alternative facts policy?

I too emphasize the mantra of the experts when it comes to this question: One should not underestimate the regenerative power of American democracy and the functionality of its institutional structures. But I assume that after this disruptive presidency it will take years to bridge this polarization gap again.

"After this disruptive presidency, it will take years to bridge this polarization gap again."

This hostile camp formation in American society did not begin with Trump, but rather during the presidency under Ronald Reagan - with the rise of the evangelicals as a politically influential force, the “moral majority”, the “tea party movement”. In recent years, increasing escalation steps have hardened and expanded this political and social polarization. At the beginning of his presidency, Trump shamelessly exploited these recognizable fault lines and deepened these rifts through his mobilization.

The echo chambers of social media have fueled this divide. What has Trump done to the world with his Twitter diplomacy?

Confusion and misunderstanding. In part, Trump created conflicts that could have been resolved in advance with traditional diplomatic communication. His nightly, polarizing, sometimes extremely derogatory Twitter stipulations have restricted a carefully balancing diplomacy like never before. High-ranking diplomats in the US State Department were more concerned with damage control than being able to pursue a constructive, structured foreign policy.

The States Department has also been marginalized by Trump's actions. No president has so often exchanged national security advisers or heads of agencies like the CIA in public conflict ("You're fired."). All of this has made American foreign and security policy discontinuous. The damage in terms of transnational ability to act, credibility and predictability cannot yet be accounted for. That will be the great challenge of the Biden presidency, to show an interest in continuity here again.

With his maxim “America First”, Trump has turned away from the EU and the common path since the Second World War. How big has the gap between the US and the EU grown?

It's deeper than ever. The orientation towards the transatlantic relationship, which was decisive for decades, has clearly decreased. Firstly, due to the lack of interlocutors who were also interested in the exchange. Second, because of a president who threatens sanctions via Twitter.

Transatlantic relations with Europe beyond the EU urgently need to be made more constructive. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other prominent voices within the EU are now hoping for a chance to re-enter this dialogue with the Biden Presidency. The new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also familiar with Europe. All of that was missing under Trump.

The USA is the second most important export country for Austria. What effects does Donald Trump's policy have on Austria?

Trump has also burdened the Austrian economy with threats of sanctions, de facto trade wars and punitive tariffs. Grosso modo we didn't feel that, but individual, highly specialized export branches and agricultural product manufacturers were irritated by the low predictability. Everyday products such as Manner cuts or Emmentaler can also be found in American supermarkets. Overall, Austria is more of a terra incognita for Trump, which I believe he has not dealt with.

"The USA should once again become the point of reference for us when it comes to civil society, humanitarian values ​​and the functionality of democratic institutions."

As an avowed America lover: What do you personally wish for the future of the United States of America?

That the USA will once again become the point of reference for us in terms of civil society, humanitarian values ​​and the functioning of democratic institutions. So that we respect them again and not reflexively defend ourselves because we no longer identify with them.


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