Will Trump now win Minnesota in 2020
US presidential election "Trump would be completely uninhibited in a second term in office"
Before the American presidential election on Tuesday, Karl Kaiser, a former political advisor to social democratic federal governments and long-time political scientist at Harvard University, speaks of a "decisive battle".
Never before has so much depended on a decision by American voters as this time, according to Kaiser, he has never seen such a mobilization, who has observed all the presidential elections since the decision in favor of John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Trump's re-election could have profound consequences
In the event of Donald Trump's second term in office, Kaiser fears that the post-war political architecture will be destroyed. "A Trump in a second term would be completely uninhibited and would do things he dares not do now even though he would like to do them."
As an example, Kaiser cited a possible exit from NATO. The simple fact that he might take this step would have "profound" consequences in the transatlantic relationship, Kaiser continued.
(picture alliance / Wolfram Steinberg)
Kaiser: The danger of unrest is real
Kaiser, however, expects a "relatively clear majority" for Joe Biden. "Which unfortunately does not mean that he will necessarily be in the White House in January". Trump has so far done everything to question the legitimacy of this election. "One can only hope that the American institutions work," warned Kaiser.
The risk of unrest in the event of Trump's defeat is real. There is also a risk that some of the armed pro-Trump groups will try to prevent voters from voting. On the other hand, there is also a huge counter-movement, according to Kaiser - "all over the country non-violent demonstrations are being prepared."
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Swing states have always played a major role in the US presidential elections: They are the main venues for election campaigns and can decide elections.
The interview in full:
Klaus Remme:The day after tomorrow, millions of voters will decide the next President of the United States. The uncertainties are enormous. It is not certain who will win the race, nor whether the decision on who will be sworn in as president on January 20 will be made on Tuesday or later through the counting of postal voters, for example. It is also unclear whether this election will have legal repercussions, whether the incumbent would voluntarily admit defeat, and there are completely different views on what a second term for Donald Trump or a change of power in the White House would entail .
Karl Kaiser is a political scientist and former political advisor who has more than 50 years of experience with transatlantic relations. When he first worked as a scientist at Harvard University, for example, the incumbent Federal Foreign Minister was not even born. Today Karl Kaiser, born in 1934, still teaches at Harvard. So there is an opportunity to look beyond the daily business at the long lines of German-American relations.
Mr. Kaiser, what is the first American presidential election that you personally remember fondly?
Karl Kaiser:In best memories, of course, the election of John F. Kennedy and then his assassination, which moved us very much and which generated a huge reaction in Germany at the time.
"It's now about the future of American democracy"
Remme:And since then you've seen many American presidents come and go. How do you look on this election day? Is there still excitement? Is there tension? Is there curiosity or is there worry?
Emperor:So, this election is about much more than a directional decision like in previous elections. It is now about the future of American democracy, the future of the West, the future of international politics, and never before has so much depended on a decision by American voters as in this election, and you can feel it. I have never seen such a mobilization as in this election. The whole country is downright agitated. Both parties mobilize, both mobilize on a large scale and this obviously also shows that both sides feel that there is much more to it than just a directional decision.
Remme:That's a phrase in the list of compulsory candidates when they say at almost every election: This is the most important choice of their life. Does that mean that this phrase is justified this year?
Emperor:This year certainly more than in the past. You can see it in the polls too. 70 percent of all Democrats believe that Trump will lead to dictatorship and 80 percent of all Republicans believe that Biden will establish a socialist regime. So the country is deeply polarized and that is why the decision is about fundamental issues, including in the feeling of the voters.
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Remme:In the last few weeks and months we have talked a lot about the culture of democracy, especially with a view to America. The first numbers suggest that turnout in this election is reaching record highs. Is that an undisputed good sign first of all?
Emperor:First of all, that is a good sign and we, who have European history in our luggage, know that sometimes it is about decisive battles and this is a decisive battle that is being fought here, and from that point of view the turnout is also an expression of the perception that it is There's more to it, and interestingly, Biden has built his strategy around that too. It focuses less on the discussion about any questions that play a major role here in the Kulturkampf; it de-ideologizes, so to speak. He presents himself as the one who wants to preserve the essence of American democracy, the respect for the other, the dialogue between the parties. In other words, he is the absolute counter-Trump in this regard, who works precisely towards the difference and creates fear, promotes racism, anti-Semitism.
A President Biden will have to solve major domestic political problems
Remme:If we look at Donald Trump, Mr. Kaiser, he's been president for almost four years now. Hardly anyone had foreseen the election victory. Many then doubted that he would last a term. If we first look at the internal American situation, what damage has Donald Trump caused as President?
Emperor:Of course, incompetence in handling the corona virus is in the foreground. In the meantime, 220,000 people have died and nine million are infected. These days the infection rate is increasing dramatically at rates that have not been seen in Europe either. That said, it's going to get a lot worse. This will cause deep, deep damage in the American economy, in the social system, all questions that a Biden will then have to resolve when he is elected. In addition, he has done damage to American democracy in many places, not only by disregarding the law, by setting aside the rules of American democracy, by enforcing the entire administration with his subservient people, but by many of the rules that had been established in the previous administration, he implemented them, changed them, for example in the area of environmental protection, where he simply repealed old rules. A Biden will have to settle all of this when he becomes President, and therefore, if a Biden is elected, he will have to direct enormous energies into solving domestic political problems.
Remme:As much and as extensive as these specifications from Joe Biden would be, there would at least be hope if there was a chance that he could repair this damage. Therefore the question is, is what Trump has also done socially, possibly irreparable?
Emperor:Hard to say, in any case it will take a long time to fix this damage. Just think about what it means that millions of people are now suffering from damage to their health, that the educational system has had a deep cut that will then become visible in the long term somewhere. It will take years to get rid of it and the overdue reforms that he promised at the beginning, for example the American infrastructure system, which is in a catastrophic state, must also be attacked. That will require enormous resources. Nothing is impossible, but it will take longer.
Trump's term of office: "No positive effect anywhere in America"
Remme:Mr. Kaiser, has this presidency done anything for the better in America?
Emperor:Nothing inside America, it only caused damage, here and there some successes in foreign policy, but I don't see a positive effect anywhere in America.
Remme:Part of foreign policy is of course the transatlantic relationship, perhaps not the most important aspect from Donald Trump's point of view. Trump's tone of voice, especially against Germany, was brusque, the allegations massive. Do you see a reason for the president's often specifically anti-German tone?
Emperor:Of course he is looking for pretexts; like his predecessors, he took the relatively low German defense contribution as an opportunity, but that was not so important. It is an occasion, it is not the cause of his broken relationship with Germany. It has a lot to do with his rejection of Germany's role in the European Union, and his rejection of the European Union in general, because he has never understood what European integration means in the history of Europe. He also has a problem with the Chancellor, as he has with all strong women. This is even reflected in American domestic politics, where he fights strong women. Well, the relationship with Germany is certainly an important relationship within the framework of the relationship with Europe, but for him it is about more. He has no relationship with the Allies. He never understood that American power is increased through a cooperative relationship with allies. He prefers to be on close terms with dictators rather than allies.
No mistakes on the European side towards the Trump administration
Remme:Did the Federal Government, you yourself advised Chancellor years ago, do you think the Federal Government made mistakes in dealing with Donald Trump in these four years? Do you see a successful learning curve? Different approaches have been tried in dealing with this president.
Emperor:The federal government as well as Macron in France, for example, have tried different ways. It was right of the Chancellor, after everything Trump said in the election campaign, that she emphasized right from the start that transatlantic relations should be continued on the old basis. That did not succeed because it was not possible with Trump and from that point of view I do not really see any mistakes on the German or the European side, except that perhaps they tried too late to maintain solidarity on the European side and to do that which has now finally succeeded as part of the measures against COVID-19, where Germany finally broke the taboo and has helped to help other members of the European Union. That might have happened sooner, but it has finally happened.
Trump questions "transatlantic relationship in principle"
Remme:Mr. Kaiser, you will surely remember many ups and downs in German-American relations. In the 70s there was a crash between Helmut Schmidt and Jimmy Carter. A Ronald Reagan was considered a warmonger by many Germans in the 80s, a George Bush in the 90s. They say this crisis is a different one.
Emperor:This crisis goes deeper because, for the first time, we have an American president who is fundamentally calling into question the transatlantic relationship, i.e. who does not mobilize common interests. That would change if Biden is elected.
Remme:Do you remember a period from which one can learn from at the moment or are we not actually in absolutely uncharted territory given the rise of China, digitization and populism?
Emperor:The new territory is indeed there. We are in the midst of tectonic changes in geopolitics. After the end of the Cold War there was already a phase of redefinition, but what is happening now goes much deeper because we are dealing with the rise of an authoritarian world power, namely China, under conditions that are different than in the past when the Soviet Union and the United States faced each other. Now it is a China that is adversary, rival and at the same time partner in a very, very difficult relationship, where you not only have to oppose Chinese expansion and deal with the authoritarian system, but where it becomes necessary to partner with China win in the fight against the pandemic and above all in climate policy. These are questions that have never arisen in the East-West relationship in the past. In addition, there is the entire question of how we deal with each other in the field of cyber politics, where completely new problems arise that did not exist in the old East-West relationship, where new regulations have to be sought and, after all, the nuclear question has not been resolved. China is arming itself tremendously in this area and is not participating in any arms control measures, as the Soviet Union and the USA have done in the past. So here is huge new capital in world politics for the years to come.
"Hopefully the American institutions will work"
Remme:Mr. Kaiser, according to a recent poll by Atlantik-Brücke, Germans expect Donald Trump and Joe Biden to win the election in roughly equal proportions. We have all known about the risk of wrong forecasts since 2016. Do you dare to do one?
Emperor:Yes, as it stands I would say Biden will have a relatively clear majority, which unfortunately does not mean that he will necessarily be in the White House in January because Trump has so far done everything to question the legitimacy of this election, has not only through the sabotage of the post office, through a "Post Master" appointed by him, but above all by calling into question every day that voting by letter is legitimate and that irregularities arise by telling his republican colleagues, the governors of the states , causes him to step aside. So this question remains open and one can only hope that the American institutions work.
Remme:How great is the danger, of which we also hear and read, that the shock waves in this election get out of hand with supporters of one side or the other in the USA and lead to unrest?
Emperor:The danger is clear. Trump himself has called on his base to stand by. There are a variety of groups that are armed. There is good reason to fear that some of these groups are trying to prevent voters from voting or, if he loses the election, that they may take to the streets. Time will tell. The danger is clearly there. On the other hand, there is then also a huge counter-movement practically throughout the country, non-violent demonstrations are being prepared, which would then argue against it and act against it.
"Integration of the transatlantic economy is stronger"
Remme:In a possible second term of office, if we look at the two possible options of this election, in a second term of office Donald Trump would no longer have to consider re-election. How dangerous would that be for transatlantic relations?
Emperor:A Trump in a second term would be completely uninhibited and would do things that he dares not do now, although he would like to do them, possibly leaving NATO. He toyed with the idea, but his advisors tried to prevent it from doing so. Of course, Congress will try to prevent this from happening, but the simple fact that it may take this step would have profound consequences in the transatlantic relationship. His way of dealing with trade policy will undoubtedly become sharper. Difficulties in this area will increase.That means that the transatlantic relationship will then be faced with questions that are already beginning to arise, but that will take on dimensions that will be very difficult to handle and one can only hope that there will be enough forces on both sides, i.e. in America There will be Congress, in American domestic politics and in Europe, careful not to destroy everything that was built in the post-war era.
Remme:But what advice do you have for the Europeans in this case? I have the impression that whatever resilience there was has largely been used up. Soon there will be no more Angela Merkel and a Macron will soon have to fight for his re-election.
Emperor:That is all correct, but the social and economic realities remain. The integration of the transatlantic economy is stronger than the integration with all other economies, whether that is USA / China or Europe / China. This will remain for the time being and the connection between people, which has become very intense in recent years, will also remain. That means, if this situation arises, then sensible forces have to be found on both sides of the Atlantic, who then try to hibernate the four years that then come.
"Biden will stand before a pyre"
Remme:Mr. Kaiser, what is the greatest risk associated with choosing Joe Biden? He was far from a perfect candidate and he will not be a perfect president either.
Emperor:His biggest problem will be solving America's domestic problems. Whether that is the health system or the economy or the infrastructure, it will absorb enormous resources and its attention. It has rightly been said that this is one of the reasons why the USA will no longer be as present in world politics as it was in the past. Still, a Biden administration will pursue a very different foreign policy than a Trump administration, but Biden will be faced with a stake that Trump leaves him and he must clean it up.
Remme:We still have fond memories of the primaries. It was not easy to find a Democratic candidate. Can you trust the, what do I call the staff around Biden, in the Democratic Party when it comes to the formation of a team in the event of an election victory? Is there enough depth?
Emperor:In the Democratic Party there is a multitude of very experienced personalities from the last administration, an army of experts who are parked in institutes and in universities, all just waiting to join this administration. I see more of a positive change that will come if you look at the current administration, which is struggling to find qualified people after Trump practically fired so many experienced personalities. So that's not the administration problem. The problem with the next administration is simply the variety of problems it has to solve after President Trump's disastrous tenure.
"The Republican Party is in deep crisis"
Remme:And if we look at the Republicans, Mr. Kaiser, I remember that Barack Obama's election victory in 2010, two years after the election, gave the Republicans new strength very, very quickly in the congressional elections. If Trump is defeated, can Republicans hope for such a rapid pendulum setback again?
Emperor:The Republican Party is in deep crisis. Demographically, it is basically already a minority party and only the overrepresentation of the Republicans at the level of the states and in some cases in the Senate has covered this up. A defeat of Trump would expose this crisis. There is already considerable resistance in the Republican Party. There is a countermovement, and the donors are also running away. A defeat for Trump would lead to a movement within the Republican Party to initiate reform. I don't know where it will end, but the classic Republican Party no longer exists. It has been usurped by Trump and it is clear to many in the Republican Party that this has no future and then there is a fresh start and should a Biden be elected a movement will likely be formed to renew the Republican Party.
Democats need more Senate seats
Remme:Mr. Kaiser, an American presidential election has a run-up to billions. The surveys and data pile up. One can see the political map of the country as a whole. You can look at individual states, individual groups of voters. For those of us who really want to get on board this weekend and want to find out which survey, which data, which development have you paid particular attention to in the past few weeks?
Emperor:I look particularly at the Senate and I recommend that you keep an eye on this, because if a majority of Democrats does not come about in the Senate, a Biden victory will not solve the problem either, but it will then have great difficulties. So, if the Democrats manage to win some Senate seats, i.e. take them from the Republicans, then Biden will also have the opportunity to implement a reform policy and implement sensible policies in both foreign and domestic policy.
Remme:And what advice would you give to the political junkies on this side of the Atlantic on election night, stay awake until the results on the west coast or can you get some sleep after the results for Florida?
Emperor:So, a lot will become visible on election night. In this respect, the end result will be open, but a hint will be visible just a few hours after the polling stations close.
Remme:Do I interpret that correctly in the end, Mr. Kaiser, even after these four years of Trump, I can also hear optimism in your voice?
Emperor:A little bit.
Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.
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