Is Donald Trump the next Herbert Hoover

In the very last days of Barack Obama's presidency, a pretty cartoon appeared in US newspapers: The garden of the White House at night, roars from inside the building, it is Donald Trump, the new president: "The codes! Where are the codes ? " Two officers stand in the shade in a quickly dug pit, in front of them a box with the codes for the nuclear weapons, and one of them says: "We have to dig faster."

Back then, in January 2017, the internet was full of jokes and memes of all kinds. Now that Trump, as the last crime to date, has pushed the country to the brink of a new civil war, few feel like laughing. The last days in power lie under a dark shadow.

One could almost think of the Roman emperor Nero, who in the year 64, shortly before the end, supposedly set the city of Rome itself on fire and struck the lute (like Trump, when he was still allowed, tweeted out into the world). His guilt is not guaranteed. But things went downhill quickly, the last loyal ones changed sides or at least didn't move a hand in his support, the Senate declared Nero to be deposed (no, we're really talking about Nero, not Donald Trump, but certain similarities are not accidental) . "The cowardly tyrant crawled into a hiding place," wrote the great ancient scholar Theodor Mommsen, "only when his discovery was inevitable did he kill himself with the words: Oh, what artist perishes with me!"

Trump's end - a "touch of Shakespeare"

Hubris and frenzy, narcissism and violence, vindictiveness and the malignant endeavor to make governance as difficult as possible for those who follow: The gruesome final chord of Trump's presidency contains all the elements of that madness of the last few days which has always fascinated posterity , the final act of a great tragedy. Today, with allusion to Washington in January 2021, Shakespeare's King Richard III. quoted who, on the night before the decisive battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, was haunted by the ghosts of those he murdered, who murmured to him, "Despair and die." Trump's end, write now The Atlantic, "has a touch of Shakespeare".

Trump has adopted the pattern of failed monarchs who are clinging to power and who hold all possible internal and external enemies responsible for their case, but certainly not themselves. For him, the democrats and the rule of law are what the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. In November 1918 the alleged Bolsheviks and traitors to the country were, in fact, sailors and soldiers who had brought down his hated spiked hood regime. They no longer wanted to serve as cannon fodder for a senseless and long-lost war into which Wilhelm II had significantly driven the world. On the cold morning of November 10, 1918, his car rumbled off towards exile, the shameful end of a monarchy.

Trump has at least ignited a kind of war on the streets of his own capital. Even democratically elected rulers sometimes turn out to be very bad losers in their last days, whereby the outgoing US president would top any ranking of the art of leaving office as undignified as possible.

Andrew Johnson, who, like Trump, had narrowly escaped impeachment, an undignified man who for racist motives sabotaged the liberation of blacks that had only just been achieved during the Civil War, never accepted his defeat in the 1869 election against the Northern hero and former military leader Ulysses Grant. Johnson spent the last few days in office writing ugly remarks about Grant ("a deceiver and cheat") and signing papers at the White House until the very last minute as if that would keep the change of office out. Before the inauguration of the president-elect At noon on March 4, 1869, Johnson set off by carriage, the embodiment of a man who was as little up to the office as he was to the character requirements that democracy demands of winners and losers.

When Herbert Hoover, the president who let the USA stumble helplessly through the Great Depression, had to give way to his successor Franklin D. Roosevelt in January 1933, he marched out of the White House without a greeting; In the previous weeks he had tried to make as many decisions as possible that would put the victor off the power. On the day of the handover, he sat next to Roosevelt in the open car, his face petrified with reluctance. The New York Times wrote: While Washington celebrated the moment with joy and music, the losing side made the impression "as if it were in a besieged city".

The latter will, albeit in a completely different way, be Donald Trump's last greeting to American democracy when Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20 and it's finally over.