Prejudice and sore losers

Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida
West Palm Beach, Feb. 5, 2017 U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a band as he arrives at his Florida golf club to watch the Super Bowl (source: dpa)
  • Even if one is partly critical of Donald Trump, his program and personal style, the situation calls for an unbiased, cool-headed approach
  • Many elements of the U.S. president’s agenda are sensible
  • His more controversial projects require open debate, not blanket condemnation

News on both sides of the Atlantic is nearly monopolized by negative reports about United States President Donald Trump and his activities. Moreover, politicians and even national leaders are joining this chorus of condemnation. Public demonstrations against the president are being held and remarks about him are made that go beyond the boundaries of objectivity and good taste. Some of the things that Mr. Trump has said himself deserve criticism, but the level of his pronouncements has not been below that of some of his adversaries.

Hardly anything positive is reported or acknowledged of his program, his actions and his appointments. Every presidential nomination is met with allegations of hidden agendas and conflicts of interests and Mr. Trump himself is not being spared such charges.

Even if one is partly critical of this president, his program and personal style, the situation demands an unbiased, cool-headed approach.

The occasionally harsh language of the president is a novelty in today's political world

Most of Mr. Trump’s nominees appear to be, when judged impartially, highly qualified. Charges that the president’s own business ties put him in a position where he has a conflict of interest have thus far not been substantiated.

The occasionally harsh language of the president is a novelty in today's political world and some of his first actions while in office could be premature. However, whatever the early outcome may be, Mr. Trump is not procrastinating and is implementing key elements of his program. Also, he seems to accept advice from qualified people on his team.

Much of the president’s agenda, such as streamlining the bloated federal administration and drastically reducing the monstrous number of laws and regulations now on the books, is more than sensible. This would also be an overdue cure for the clogged European systems.

On other parts of President Trump’s program, such as trade and foreign policy, it would be wiser for other governments to engage in an open discussion with the president and his administration than to fire blanket condemnations. Of Mr. Trump’s election-time promises, the ones related to Mexico pose the biggest problem and the administration appears headed down a dead-end street. One can only hope that it finds ways to dilute the problem.

Absurd proposition

Of other accusations, we hear that President Trump was actively supported by Russia and that the Russian hacking of the Clinton campaign was an element of Mr. Trump's victory. Besides casting doubt on the strength of the U.S. democracy, this line of reasoning boils down to a proposition that it was the manipulation by Russia, not voters’ desire for change, that defined the outcome of the campaign. This is a lame excuse for an electoral defeat and for trying to ignore the pressing need for political change.

Prejudice, now so manifest toward President Trump, is always dangerous. It is certainly advisable for people subscribing to democratic principles to form a more constructive opposition. Scandal mongering, spreading innuendos and hurling unsubstantiated charges against political opponents are undemocratic practices, worthy of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

Warts and all, Donald Trump is the democratically elected president of the U.S. People who declare him a danger to the American democracy ignore the elaborate system of checks and balances built into its constitutional mechanisms, and perhaps betray their lack of trust in that democracy.

Many European leaders, though, are jumping on this bandwagon of vile accusations. Again: it is true that the present U.S. administration questions some of the long-established elements in the U.S.-European relationship. But this problem should be addressed in a constructive way. In his announcements, the new U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis upholds his country’s commitment to NATO. Washington’s only – and not new! – request that Europe become more involved in its own defense is perfectly legitimate.

It may appear that the European political establishments’ true concern is that voters will also demand real change and that the U.S. example will encourage the new movements in Europe. It is suggested, for example, that Mr. Trump’s success might help the National Front in France. This is quite strange, as the economic views of its leader Marine le Pen are of the far-left, socialist variety. Indeed, demonizing the new U.S. president and his policy initiatives may be easier for some European leaders than taking stock of their own countries’ problems and introducing reforms at home.

Alarms already can be heard that the Kremlin will try next to manipulate the forthcoming elections in Europe. Let me repeat the question: Is the European democratic system so fragile? Or, perhaps, preparations are already under way in some European corridors of power to build an alibi for losing at the ballot boxes.

In a democracy, losing in an election must be accepted. Instead of becoming constructive opposition, many interested parties on both sides of the Atlantic resort now to a combination of bad losing style with prejudiced attacks on the winner. This reaction poses a far graver threat to democracy than President Trump is ever likely to present.

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