Trump represents old America

One year of Donald TrumpThe Un-United States of America

Montgomery, Alabama, in the deep south of the United States: The small café, in which a young artist exhibits abstract pictures and offers students fair-trade coffee, has a box seat in central Court Square - with a deep view of Dexter Avenue and thus of american History.

Steven Lambert, a young wire-rimmed man who regularly spends his lunch break here on his knees with his laptop, thinks Court Square and Dexter Avenue are a linchpin in US history. In the central square in the former Confederate capital, not only cotton was traded, but slaves as well.

In the three-story colonial house at the entrance to Dexter Avenue, the President of the Confederate South, Jefferson Davis, signed the telegram that sparked the American Civil War in April 1861: Fire for Fort Sumter. Bombs Fort Sumter. And on the left hand side on the edge of the roundabout is the bus stop where Rosa Parks got on the bus every day.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to vacate her seat in the rows for colored people for a white man - that was the beginning of the American civil rights movement. It is an irony of history that the neat corner house at the left entrance to Dexter Avenue belongs to Roy Moore of all people, says Steven. That Roy Moore, who was recently pushed through by Donald Trump's former chief of staff Steven Bannon as a Republican candidate for a Senatorial seat in distant Washington. And as a representative of the far-right fringe, he only lost the election spectacularly because, as a young public prosecutor, he had allegedly dealt with underage girls.

Deep rifts in the political landscape

Anyone walking around the Court Square of Montgomery in Alabama can therefore, in just a few steps, measure the many ruptures in American history - and guess the deep wounds that they have left in American society to this day.

Norman J. Ornstein of the Enterprise Institute in Washington is a distinguished political columnist, author of several political bestsellers, and arguably one of the most prominent conservative intellectuals in the United States. A traditional old school Republican. He describes the political and social upheavals that have carved themselves deeply into the social landscape.

"There are rifts between the parties that have now taken on the features of a tribal war. The politically dissenting person is no longer seen as just a political opponent, but a real enemy who is out to destroy your lifestyle."

In his first year in office, according to Norman J. Ornstein, Donald Trump made sure that old trenches were dug and healed wounds were torn open again. The rift that runs through American society has widened significantly since the 45th President of the United States took office.

"We still feel the effects of slavery and its aftermath. A president would normally look for ways and means to pave these rifts and heal the wounds. Donald Trump, however, has taken exactly the opposite direction and has pushed the division, always and again and again - precisely along these lines of conflict in American politics. "

Always in campaigner mode

In fact, Donald Trump did not try to find a balance after his election. Unlike all of his predecessors, he did not leave the election campaign behind in his inaugural speech on January 20 a year ago. He didn't hold out a hand in cooperation. He did not show that he wanted to go from splitter to reconciler. Donald Trump remained in campaigner mode - a role he has not given up to this day.

The politics of the United States would fundamentally change, announced Donald Trump in front of the assembled political elite of the country, which followed him at the foot of the Capitol with a petrified expression. Trump promised his compatriots that in future only one political maxim would apply: America first. America first.

And Trump assured his voters - the white workers, the lower middle class, the milieu of blue-collar workers - that he was their vote - and that he did not intend to become president of all Americans.

Spectators at the inauguration of Donald Trump (Consolidated)

"These are the forgotten men and women of our country. These are people who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am your voice."

As if it was a matter of never disregarding this election promise - not even at the price of social unrest and the snubbering of minorities - Donald Trump never missed an opportunity to rhetorically take the side of his right-wing, white electorate. Be it after the right-wing extremist riots in Charlottesville, where he found good characters not only on the side of the counter-demonstrators, but also on the side of the far-right. Or be it in the dispute over the monuments of Confederate generals from the civil war, who went into battle as apologists for slavery and are still venerated today by representatives of the right-wing scene.

The dispute over the Confederate monuments does not only lead to clashes and violence in Charlotteville (dpa-Bildfunk / ap / Virginia Bridges / The Herald-Sun)

Nowhere did the dispute over the demolition of a Confederate memorial come to such bloody scenes as in Charlottesville. But also in the rural and conservative southern state of Alabama it is bitterly carried out. There, of all things, two mayors stand for the polarization of the entire country.

One is called Randall Woodfin. He has only been in office since November 28th last year. Woodfin is 36 years old, tall, slim, wearing a gray suit and red tie, and a silk scarf on his lapel.

The African American has taken the megacity Birmingham, the capital of Alabama, for himself in no time at all. Woodfin is from Birmingham. Was born and raised here as a working-class child in a working-class suburb. His father supported eight family members on his meager salary, including the 100-year-old great-grandmother. Woodfin knows what it is like to grow up in poverty. So he never missed a chance.

"I'm a product of the public schools. I was then allowed to attend Moorhouse College in Atlanta, the alma mater Martin Luther Kings. I'm very proud of that. I made it the president of the student body there. When I came back home from college, I was determined to strive for public office. For me, it's clearly about putting people first. I'm interested in values ​​as simple as transparency and accountability. "

"We have a leadership crisis in this country"

Woodfin says he is now in a position to make a real difference as mayor of his city. He wants a signal to go out from his city.

"We have a leadership crisis in this country. Especially when it comes to civil rights, poverty, participation and health."

Mayor Randall Woodfin from Birmingham / Alabama (Thomas Spang / Deutschlandradio)

When Randall Woodfin speaks of a leadership crisis in the United States, he naturally means the president. He hates the style of government, Donald Trump's entire attitude.

The fact that he has been trying to consistently eradicate the entire political legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama since taking office marks not only a blatant break in the understanding of office - but in the entire political culture.

"Obama and Trump represent the two sides of America. On the one hand there is hope. On the other there is fear. With the principle of hope, Obama managed to recruit supporters, as was not the case for many years. Donald Trump has the same thing done by spreading fear. "

Lies as a stylistic device in politics

Donald Trump has repeatedly accused the media of spreading untruths about him (AFP / Brendan Smialowski)

Even more: Donald Trump has made the lie the stylistic device of politics. The Washington Post proved him to be 2,000 lies in his first year in office. And a multitude of insults, humiliations, personal attacks and tirades of hate. Woodfin sees in the permanent violations of taboos and rules by the president the danger of a creeping erosion of social values.

"Donald Trump represents something that is not healthy for America. We can't tell our children, be decent, stop bullying. Don't discount others. And then the president does exactly that. Whenever they put people down and try to devaluing them cannot be healthy. "

Woodfin wants to turn Birmingham into a frontline city against Donald Trump - from here, from the south, a signal of resistance should go out, he says.

"I oppose Trump by putting all the resources I have at my disposal at the service of the people. If we can do that at the local level, we can say at the national level: No, Mr. President, your policy is not the way it should be. "

The young mayor of Birmingham represents that part of American civil society who wants to contrast the style of government and the political program of the president with a different, better, and more conciliatory America. This can also be seen in Birmingham in the dispute over the memorials to the generals of the Southern Army. Woodfin knows that most of these Confederate monuments were not erected until decades after the Civil War - during the Restoration period, when the south introduced racial segregation after the end of slavery. Randall Woodfin did not remove the memorial to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which stands in Linn Park directly in front of his official residence, from its casing. His predecessor had had it posted. Woodfin awaits a ruling from the Alabama courts - they have banned municipalities from removing monuments. But Woodfin makes it clear: he would like to have it off.

US President Donald Trump at his swearing in (imago stock & people)

"We will not be intimidated. We must not be afraid to do the right thing. If this monument threatens us in any way or hinders social progress, I will remove it from the city. In 2018, the question must be asked, whether it really has to be that we still have something like that right under our noses. "

Had he heard that his counterpart in the small town of Hanceville had offered to include all of the Confederate memorials that are being dismantled in American cities? Woodfin shrugs. "I have no problem with it, we can do that," he says.

Rural America and its love for Trump

Rural America in particular is behind Trump and his politics (dpa / Elaine Cromie)

The other mayor's name is Kendall Nail, he is 54 years old and comes into the courtyard in front of the mayor's office in his Silverado truck. "It's always a good morning when you're allowed to leave Birmingham," laughs the man in the plaid flannel shirt.

The small town of Hanceville is 35 miles from Birmingham, has 3,000 residents and is united with its mayor behind the American president. In the nationwide vote for Donald Trump, Hanceville was way ahead in percentage terms. Kendall Nail, who calls himself a "working mayor" because he knows everyone and is on par with everyone, has made headlines across the country with his push to offer asylum to the overthrown Confederate monuments.

"When I asked the Mayor of New Orleans if he would send us his memorials, I naturally wanted to prevent them from ending up in the junkyard. We asked him to donate them to our Veterans Park. We even had them ourselves A black friend of mine who owns a shipping company called me and said: I know that you are not a racist and just love the story. He offered me to pick it up.

And so, of course, Nail would also include the Jefferson Davis memorial from Birmingham.

"I would definitely take it! I would send a truck and pick it up first thing tomorrow."

Kendall Nail doesn't understand the whole Confederate memorial debate. It's all about preserving the legacy of history, he keeps saying. Nail copies a bit of President Trump's language.

"Birmingham has one of the highest homicide rates in America. And it is mostly blacks who kill blacks. Sad. Terrible. Sad. And we're discussing a piece of stone in the park that really doesn't harm anyone - those 150 year olds Statues of Robert E. Lee, General Beauregard or Jefferson Davis or whatever they are called. They didn't kill anyone or hurt anyone's feelings. "

Mayor Kendall Nail (Thomas Spang / Deutschlandradio)

Nail does not accept the objection that the monuments dedicated to the advocates of slavery do offend and provoke the feelings of African Americans.

"You can't be so nailed up. I see it this way: We will put these monuments in our veterans' park and if we walk around there we can think about these monuments. We must not forget our history. We can also the sufferings of blacks Don't forget. Bad things happened. But does that mean that every slave owner has beaten his slaves? I don't think so! "

Kendall Nail describes himself as a typical conservative, as he says. A conservative is someone who, like himself, is a Christian. Against gay marriage. Against abortion. But for the right to carry a gun. He admits that he is a downright gun fanatic. Of course, Kendall Nail has a Colt in the drawer of his desk. Next to two bottles of whiskey.

"That's a fifty-three magnum. There are a lot of crazy people out here. If someone comes in here and shoots, they'll get it back right away. It's simple. The only way to stop a bad man with a gun is to have a good one Man with a gun. "

Trump promised never to touch the second amendment. The right to own guns. That is also why he stands behind this president. Like all of rural America.

"Rural America sent Donald Trump to the Oval Office, absolutely. Not because rural America wanted to send a billionaire to the White House, but because these politicians were tired of them."

USA is more divided than ever

A year after Donald Trump took office, the US is more divided than ever. Donald Trump only got one major piece of legislation through Congress in his first year in office: tax reform. And yet it has already changed the face of the United States forever. He has realigned the country in terms of foreign policy - taken a more selfish, protectionist path.

Domestically, he has initiated a reactionary turnaround that is already having an impact on many levels. With immigration. Health policy. In civil rights. Trump repeatedly shows autocratic traits by trying to disregard principles of the separation of powers. And he repeatedly provokes questions about his character and mental qualifications for the office of president.

The system of checks and balances is showing itself to be resistant - the judiciary and secret services, the media and civil society are still resisting attacks on their rights and independence. And yet Norman J. Ornstein of the Enterprise Institute in Washington sees cause for a serious warning - the ever deeper rifts in state and society could have consequences.

"Let's not fool ourselves. No society, no matter how well developed, no matter how educated and stable it is, is immune to sliding from democracy to autocracy."