Are there conservative democrats out there?
Election party rallies in America are primarily theater. Programs are decided and speeches are made that are of no interest to anyone, and in the end glittery stuff flies through the air. All of that happened this year in Cleveland with the Republicans and in Philadelphia with the Democrats too. But if you take off all the fanfare, if you reduce the two parties and their presidential candidates to the core, then one insight remains: This election is not about tax rates or health care, internal security or immigration. It's not about politics in the strictest sense at all, not about who builds better roads or better schools. It's about the character, about the soul of America - about what and how this country wants to be in the next few years.
Seldom has a candidate painted such a black picture of America and the world in an election campaign as Donald Trump. That is partly tactic. Because how else can you persuade a country that has twice elected the sparkling optimist Barack Obama to replace him with Donald Trump, the gloomy prophet of decline? America has tons of problems, and many of them were easy to spot in the rotting suburbs of Cleveland. But nothing in reality - not the economy, not the crime rate, not the number of illegal immigrants - justifies the paranoia and radicalism that Trump is promoting. Donald Trump can only win the election if he scares the Americans as much as possible of the evil world out there and of their own fellow citizens, blacks, Latinos, Muslims.
And he can do it. The ugly truth is, if there were a presidential election in America this Monday, Trump would probably win it. Fear, the more wavy the better, always beats the facts in an election campaign.
Hillary Clinton embodies a lot more America than Donald Trump
It is amazing and frightening how far the Republicans, who always wanted to be a party of reason and who claimed to be the better patriots, have strayed from those values that are considered American values. Republicans love to wave the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but they ignore the principles it embodies of what America should be. Equality, civil rights, freedom and justice for all, a united nation - Trump is trampling on all of this. Half of his program, if you want to call it that, violates the law that he supposedly wants to protect. It's neither Republican nor Conservative.
But the party applauds it. The picture that the Democrats paint of America is lighter, it is somewhat reminiscent of an advertising film for Alpine milk: happy cows in green meadows. That too has to do with tactics, because a Democrat has ruled the country for the past eight years, and Hillary Clinton, the current presidential candidate, was in the cabinet.
You don't have to believe the Democrats for all the wonderful talk about tolerance and diversity that has been going on in Philadelphia. The Republicans have a defaced image of America, the Democrats a glossed over one. The anger and frustration now pervading Trump supporters has grown over the years that the Democrats have been in power. Anyone who has ever seen a dying steel city in Ohio can well understand why the people there feel betrayed by the Democrats and desperately want to vote for Trump; even if it won't help.
Clinton is certainly not an ideal candidate
But if there is a party today that still represents that America that - by no means always, but often enough - is admired by the world as the land of freedom, openness and opportunities, then it is the Democrats. Hillary Clinton is certainly not an ideal candidate. But it speaks for her party that it is actually taking the historic step of nominating a woman for the presidency for the first time. It's more patriotic, it's more American than all the dark demagogy of Donald Trump.
A cynic would say: It doesn't matter what parties and candidates promise. But this is wrong. It is of course important to a country whether the political leadership persuades the people to fear or encourages them and gives them hope; whether it makes agitation against minorities socially acceptable or seeks cohesion; whether she preaches nationalism or takes responsibility in the world. Europe has had its experiences with such leaders. At least then America knew better.
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