German Trust in America – the Trend (#OAG 12b)

There has been some attempted pushback – including in the comments here – on the notion that Donald Trump has uniquely damaged German-American relations, particularly in relation to the views of the German public – for example:

Merkel chose a Munich beer hall as her venue to speak out and she was on the campaign trail for the elections to the Bundestag in October. She was speaking to a German audience which holds the United States in poor esteem. By the way, this has nothing to do with Trump. The percentage of Germans who trusted the US plunged from 76% to 34% during the first six years of the Barack Obama presidency. (On the other hand, sixty percent of Germans admire the ex-CIA whistle blower Edward Snowden as a heroic figure.)

As the poll history depicted above demonstrates, observers like M.K. Bhadrakumar are playing the deepest valley in recent pre-Trump American-German relations vs. Obama’s post-Bush, inaugural high.

The poll confirms the eye and ear test on German opinion regarding Mr. Trump. Consider the recent speech by Chancellor Merkel’s electoral opponent:

Though Deutsche Welle headlines the moment “Only in Germany,” I find it a bit reminiscent of Nancy Pelosi standing up for George W Bush vs. Hugo Chavez some years ago.

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4 comments on “German Trust in America – the Trend (#OAG 12b)

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  1. Touché, MacLeod.

    But let’s not forget Bhadrakumar’s overarching point–that geopolitical constraints will compel the German government to seek a close relationship with the dis-United States, regardless of the superficies of German public opinion’s disapproval of NSA overreach and Donald Trump.

    Disapprobation of Donald Trump is currently a Western fad, a kind of political fashion among the bohemian bourgeoisie, about as substantive as Beatlemania. Those sorts of voguish enthusiams don’t compete well with geopolitical necessities.

    • Congratulations on at least admitting when you, or your source, sbeen touched!

      As for the faddishness of disapprobation of Donald Trump, that plunge at the end of the opinion chart strikes me as a bit more like a total sudden collapse, or fall off a cliff, than the emergence of enthusiasm for Hula Hoops or nose-rings among some sector of the populace. That’s a general opinion poll, not a sales chart. The only time you see action like that in stock-trading, for example, is when the FBI arrests the CEO, or the company declares bankruptcy out of the blue… and the CEO is arrested.

      I think the Germans correctly understood the 2016 election as to have revealed something which previously only a few thoughtful observers had noted about the vulnerability of the American electoral system to unexpected outcomes. The system was revealed to be unreliable in the process of producing an unreliable leader running on a platform of decreased reliability. The possibility that his personal unreliability would help defeat the unreliable platform is only one of several.

      It’s a bit like a marriage after the discovery of an affair or occurrence of some other disruptive event. It was always a possibility, and there may be a home, children, and any number of other factors to consider before leaping to divorce, but, even if the marriage continues, with what may be called greater realism, it still won’t be or feel the same.

  2. Congratulations on at least admitting when you, or your source, sbeen touched!

    Thank you, CK. I blame my source–he fucked me.

    …that plunge at the end of the opinion chart strikes me as a bit more like a total sudden collapse, or fall off a cliff, than the emergence of enthusiasm for Hula Hoops or nose-rings…

    When sales of Hula Hoops or nose-rings or Beatles records undergo a total sudden collapse–or a total sudden increase–geopolitical realities remain unaffected. Phony Trumpmania will have the same non-effect. The faddish politics of baizuo don’t matter to the mountain of Kunlun.

    Another way of looking at the contretemps between Trump and das deutsche Volk is that it really doesn’t matter regardless of one’s analysis, since there isn’t anything going on in Europe at the present time that need worry us or them. So what if they strike the obligatory pose of baizuo vis a vis Trump? Europe is at peace–and the bogeyman Russia, with one-tenth the GDP of NATO-Europe (one-tenth!) isn’t really a threat.

    The other part of President Trump’s trip–the Middle Eastern part–seemed to highlight an improvement of relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, in a region where improved relations with our allies might actually make a difference, given that region’s continuing turmoil.

    Having said that, I think you do make an interesting point about the latent instability of the United States and the prospective effect of that instability on geopolitical arrangements.

    So long as we’re having recourse to the figure of relations between states as marriages, the United States themselves are like a marriage–and an abusive one at that. Long ago, one party to the marriage–let’s think of it as the wife–decided she couldn’t stand to be married to her husband anymore and she upped and left. Unfortunately for her, her husband tracked her down and beat her to a bloody pulp, until she agreed to come back. The couple hasn’t exactly lived happily ever after since and one might suppose that on that basis they never will.

  3. Speaking of George Friedman

    The party of Chancellor Angela Merkel no longer uses the word “friend” to describe the United States in its platform. But in fact, Merkel has blamed Trump for a rupture he has little to do with. At issue are the national interests of both countries. Germany needs for the European Union to be economically healthy enough to buy the exports on which its economy depends, but the United States, which has little leverage or stake in the European Union, sees its disintegration as a European problem.

    The divergence between the United States and Germany has been growing since 2008, and there is little Trump could have done to change things.

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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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