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Trump's United States looks more and more like a banana republic

by M Kilian, H Wetzer and C Zaschke
"The country that was once an exemplary democracy is becoming a Third World banana republic," he says.For a week now, Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the election and future president. But the loser and previous incumbent Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge this. Trump claims he won the election and Biden wants to take the victory away from him. Trump calls the votes that cast for him "legal."
Trump’s United States looks more and more like a banana republic

US President Donald Trump threatens not to recognize the election results in November. Is he just a brilliant joker or is he serious about it?
Analysis on the threat of the US President

by Martin Kilian, Washington

[This article published on 9/27/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, Analyse zur Drohung des US-Präsidenten – Trumps Vereinigte Staaten ähneln zusehends einer Bananenrepublik | Tages-Anzeiger.]

"What country do we actually live in," asked democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden this week. He referred to the repeated threat of his rival not to clear the White House after a defeat in the upcoming election. Trump has been claiming for some time that he can only lose the election through mega-fraud in times of increased postal voting.

"First we have to wait and see what happens," the president recently replied to the question of whether he would guarantee a peaceful change of power. He did not want to commit himself.

The answer to Joe Biden's question is therefore not that simple. Maybe we live in the United States, or maybe we live in Anchuria, a fictitious republic that the American narrator O. Henry - real name William Sydney Porter - invented in 1904. In O. Henry's short stories his experiences in Honduras were reflected, he was the one who invented the concept of the banana republic.

Maybe we live in such a republic. For what distinguished a banana republic more than the refusal to recognize an election result and to vacate the seat of government after an election defeat?

Of course, it is possible that Donald Trump is only joking in order to raise the blood pressure of his political opponents. "The president says a lot of crazy stuff," said Republican Senator Ben Sasse, for example. But maybe Trump is serious. Then we live in Anchuria.

Civic militias see themselves as Trump's private army

When FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress that there had never been any large-scale electoral fraud, he was acting on a strong warning from Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows: If the President says that there will be large-scale cheating in the coming elections, then there will be. That's it!

And because that is the way it is, preparations are now being made as in a banana republic. Especially in the event of a narrow defeat for Trump, there will be massive election challenges in federal courts. And these could end up in the Supreme Court. Trump therefore wants to have his new judge Amy Coney Barrett confirmed before the ballot. Enough firepower in the Constitutional Court can never hurt!

In some states with Republican parliamentary majorities, there are apparently plans to have the "Electors", i.e. the members of the electoral college, appointed by parliament - regardless of the election results. If the counting is chaotic or there is alleged electoral fraud, state parliaments could nominate Trump well-disposed "Electors". In certain scenarios they would have the right to do so. This week it became known that contingency plans exist in Pennsylvania.

The election would thus be annulled, which most likely led to unrest. And that, according to Democratic Congressman Al Green, could "get out of control". But there is a proven antidote to this in a banana republic: the use of the military or a contingent of armed citizen militias, who see themselves as Donald Trump's private army.

He might not even need them and could instead invoke the "Insurrection Act" of 1807, which allows the president to use troops to suppress unrest. But as I said, perhaps Trump's sayings are just "crazy stuff", which is why we will still live in the United States and not in Anchuria after the November election. Even though Donald Trump's United States looks increasingly like a banana republic. O.Henry would have been the first to realize this.

Decision 2020 - the Tamedia podcast on the elections in the USA
The broadcast can be heard on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Overcast, Youtube or Podcast Republic. If you are using another podcast app, it is best to search for "USA: Decision 2020" or use the RSS feed directly.

Podium: Donald Trump is the most controversial politician of today. In November he faces re-election. What are his chances? What is his balance? Will Joe Biden beat him? And above all: What does it mean for the USA and the world if Trump reigns for another four years? Debate about it: Elisabeth Bronfen, Professor of English at the University of Zurich, Christof Münger, Head of International Affairs at the Tages-Anzeiger, Markus Somm, publicist.
Published: 27.09.2020, 11:42

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The Black House
Main actor in the US elections
Things have been going down rapidly with the USA since Donald Trump became president. Who would have thought that it would be even worse if he was voted out of office. The main actors in the last act of a tragedy.
by Hubert Wetzel, Washington, Christian Zaschke, New York

[This article published on 11/14/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

A storm sweeps over the White House in Washington D.C.

Marc Polymeropoulos, the concerned

The man who used to be a secret agent is worried. Marc Polymeropoulos has worked for the CIA for decades, he has been in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Europe, he has seen wars, dictatorships, overthrows. Now he lives in Virginia and wonders what has actually become of his own country, the United States of America. "The country that was once an exemplary democracy is becoming a Third World banana republic," he says.

For a week now, Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the election and future president. But the loser and previous incumbent Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge this. Trump claims he won the election and Biden wants to take the victory away from him. Trump calls the votes that were cast for him "legal" and the votes for Biden "illegal". This is a lie, perhaps the biggest and most dangerous lie that Donald Trump has told in his life, which is not poor in lies.

Marc Polymeropoulos spent 19 years traveling the world for the CIA, comparing Donald Trump's behavior to "people like Putin or Erdogan.
But this lie has gripped the country and holds it in iron grip. Right-wing media spread it, millions of people believe it. And there is a hard core of Trump allies who want to use this lie to undermine the election results in some states where Biden won. Then, according to the plan, the Republican parliaments there could declare Trump the winner. Would that be possible? Perhaps - if enough courts, politicians and, in the end, the Supreme Court participated.

The American president is not elected by the citizens, but by the electoral men and women in the Electoral College, and how they are determined is not entirely clear. It is therefore not impossible that Trump will still try to do exactly what he accuses Biden of: stealing the election victory and staying president.

That would indeed be the end of democracy and the rule of law in the USA. But what does Donald Trump care about democracy and the rule of law? "If that happens, a lot of scary stuff is conceivable," says Polymeropoulos. "Violence in the streets, riots, things like that."
When Marc Polymeropoulos sees what Trump is doing, it reminds him of the autocrats he used to deal with in the service. A few days ago, the president threw out the secretary of defense and part of the civilian Pentagon leadership and replaced them with Trumpists. Why? No one knows, but everyone is nervous: "Rulers who refuse to hand over power, who are putting loyal followers in important positions - Trump is moving in a terrain where people like Putin and Erdogan have been moving in the past," says Polymeropoulos.

Jen O'Malley, the campaign manager

The woman, who was campaign manager until just now, sees exactly how things will continue. Jen O'Malley has steered Joe Biden through the election campaign, or, as one might say more accurately: She made sure that there was as little as possible to steer. On her advice, Biden, as is well known, largely left the field to Trump, a tactic that paid off - albeit narrowly. That is: If everything goes according to plan. In the USA, it has come to the point where worst-case scenarios are designed and best-case scenarios. The absurd thing is that the best-case scenario simply describes what normally happens after an election.

Jennifer O'Malley is the first woman to lead a victorious democratic presidential campaign.

Little by little the states will announce their official final results. The electoral candidates will then be nominated accordingly. If there are any disputes about the nomination, these must be settled by December 8. On December 14, the electoral delegates in the respective states will meet and cast their votes. It has always been like this, and it will most likely be like this again this year. But since it is Trump who is sitting in the White House, O'Malley's work will not be finally done for a month.

Incidentally, 44-year-old O'Malley is the first woman to have led a victorious democratic presidential campaign. In the summer she wrote on Twitter: "Ambitious women write history, change the world and win. Our campaign is full of ambitious women who are giving their all for Joe Biden." You'll be hearing a lot more from Jen O'Malley.

Donald Trump, the golfer

Sometimes Donald Trump manages to combine his two great passions, golf and Twitter. On Thursday, the traditional Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia began. In the very Georgia that Trump has surprisingly lost and what is still to be talked about will soon become the focus of political interest. Former top players Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player opened the tournament, entering the course early in the morning with their caddies, who always wear white overalls in Augusta, which is why they look like painters.

The president hands in his club: When the media declared Joe Biden the winner of the U.S. presidential election, the most powerful golfer in the U.S. was on his way to his Trump National Golf Club.

The president informed the country of this event by tweet. This tweet was one of the few that did not include a warning on Twitter. Otherwise, Trump was primarily spreading conspiracy theories.
In capital letters throughout, he claimed that software used in some states had stolen more than two million votes from him. As a source he referred to his new favorite channel One America News Network (OANN), which is even further to the right than John Wayne, who was said to be on the right side of the wall.

His former favorite station, Fox News, has fallen out of favor with Trump, who has recently started to focus on journalism. Trump claimed, on Twitter of course, that the station's ratings were plummeting because they had forgotten what made them big. "They have forgotten the golden goose," he wrote. Trump can only have meant himself by that, and if you look at his orange painted face, it was a pretty funny comment.

Live and in color this face was rarely seen recently. On Wednesday Trump stopped by the National Cemetery in Arlington, a must-see on Veterans Day. Later on Friday he performed briefly in the White House Rose Garden. He talked primarily about the fact that it was mainly thanks to his government that a vaccine against the coronavirus could soon be available. With this vaccine, he said, the country's pensioners will be given the carefree retirement they deserve. Presumably Trump, who recently moved his primary residence to the pensioners' paradise of Florida, was not knowingly talking about himself. For once, he did not talk about the alleged election fraud. He scolded a little about New York, his former main residence, then disappeared without answering questions.

Apart from these two appearances, Trump has been stashed away in the White House since Biden was declared the winner of the election. There is much speculation about what he does there, but since it is known a) how much he likes to watch TV and b) how much he likes golf, and since c) the Masters runs until Sunday evening, there is no reason to fear that the President will be bored at the weekend.

Joe Biden, the statesman

Joe Biden behaves like someone who knows that he has won the election and will soon be president. On January 20, 2021 to be exact. That's what the constitution says, and the numbers are on Biden's side. At Electoral College, as things stand, he has at least 306 votes, 36 more than necessary to win. 78 million citizens elected him, a good five million more than Trump. When Biden was asked a few days ago how he felt about the president's refusal to concede defeat, he made little effort to be polite. "If I'm honest, I think it's an embarrassment," he said.

Joe Biden does not get involved in Trump's games and is unwaveringly preparing for his presidency.

Instead of arguing with Trump, Biden is preparing to take over the affairs of state. He has appointed his future chief of staff, and he has put together a group of advisors to help him deal with the Corona pandemic once he takes office.

The virus doesn't care who is president, it is raging more fiercely than ever in America. Every day, around 150,000 new infections are discovered and more than 1000 people die every day. In spring the cooling trucks for the corpses were in New York, now they are in El Paso. When Biden presented his Corona working group, some US media were surprised to discover that the new president apparently actually intends to seek advice only from doctors and health professionals.

AOC, the wing fighter

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the greatest talents among the Democrats. However, some in the party wish the New York Congresswoman would use her considerable energy and eloquence more often to take down Republicans instead of constantly attacking other Democrats. Since it became clear that the party lost at least half a dozen seats in the House of Representatives election, Democrats have been arguing about their course. And AOC, as she is called, the leader of the left wing, is in the middle of this fight.

Ocasio-Cortez wants to push the party to the left, to where she sees the political majorities of the future, a colorful coalition of young voters, women, blacks and Latinos. Many Democrats, who have to win elections in conservative, white and perhaps somewhat old-fashioned America, consider such a shift to the left dangerous. They believe that slogans like "Defund the police" (Take money away from the police) have caused losses in the congressional election.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a figurehead for the Democrats, but she also repeatedly beats up colleagues who position themselves on the right side of the party.

"Defund the police? Defund, my butt", tweeted a few days ago, for example, Senator Joe Manchin, one of the last Democrats who can still achieve victories in the hard-as-trumptious West Virginia. This was just an R-rated way to announce that anyone who wanted to cut off the police's funding could go screw him. "Butt" means butt.

Ocasio-Cortez answered on Twitter, where ten million people follow her, with a photo. In the foreground is Senator Manchin applauding during a speech by Trump in Congress. Behind him sits Ocasio-Cortez, she looks coolly and scornfully at the back of his head. And somehow you can guess who will win when a 31-year-old Latina and a 73-year-old white man duel on Twitter.

Susan Collins, the surprise

Susan Collins should actually no longer sit in the Senate. Hadn't everything spoken against her? In the polls, the Republican was four percentage points behind her Democratic challenger Sara Gideon. She also had considerably more money at her disposal. Last but not least, the president was openly hostile to her after she had recently voted against Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's candidate for the Supreme Court.
Collins has represented the state of Maine in the Senate since 1997, and the fact that she defended her seat is perhaps the most surprising result of this election. For the Republicans it is now eminently important because it may ultimately be due to Collins' persistence that they retain the majority in the Senate. In addition, her election is a sign to the party: it works without Trump. Admittedly, what is true for Maine is not true for Montana, for example. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that Collins won precisely because she distanced herself from Trump.
Susan Collins, 68, has been a senator since 1997, and with clever tactics she surprisingly secured herself another six-year term in office.
In the past, she had flirted with the Democrats several times before important decisions were made in the Senate. "Susan Collins is worried," it was always said then, for example before the election of Brett Kavanaugh as a constitutional judge. In the end, she always ended up swinging to the party line, which is why Collins' "concern" became a kind of running gag in political circles.

In the case of Coney Barrett, her concern did indeed lead to a result at one point. However, Collins knew, of course, that her vote would not be the decisive one. Thus, her moment of strength was ultimately also motivated by electoral tactics in view of her basically rather liberal state, and the maneuver worked.

Nate Silver, the unreasonable

Nate Silver is one of the best-known statisticians in the USA. One reason for this is that he makes analyses of baseball games, and little do many Americans love so much as to delve into the statistics of this sport, which is considered "America's Pastime", America's favorite pastime. This is also and above all because Silver evaluates polls on elections on his blog FiveThirtyEight. In 2016 he gave Trump a 29 percent chance of winning the election, which was more than almost all other election researchers had predicted. In 2020, like everyone else, he predicted an overly clear victory for Biden, which is why there has been a debate in the US for days about whether the survey industry should pack it in.

Nate Silver was pretty much off track with his forecasts, but still thinks he did everything right.

Silver says he does not fully understand this question. After all, he had prophesied the right winner. And that Trump did better by an average of three to four percentage points is quite normal. However, Silver had also predicted that Biden would win by a double-digit margin in Wisconsin, for example. There, Biden is ahead by less than one percentage point, which is why the numbers are being recounted. It is now puzzling everywhere why the polls were so inaccurate again, and the tenor is: somehow it must be due to Trump.

Silver's colleague Frank Luntz, a conservative election researcher and analyst, found clearer words. "The political polling profession is finished," he said, "the result is devastating for the industry.
Mitch McConnell, the election winner

The biggest winner in this election is probably Mitch McConnell. He is a Republican and Senator from Kentucky, a state famous for racehorses, bourbon whiskey and baseball bats. McConnell is the leader of the Republican majority faction in the Senate. And if his party wins one of the two open seats in Georgia on January 5, McConnell will also remain the majority leader, making him one of the most powerful men in the US. That is his most important goal in every election.

But to achieve it, he needs Trump's help. McConnell knows that the still-president is indispensable to mobilize the Republican voters in Georgia on January 5. And he knows that Trump would be mortally offended if he said out loud what everyone knows - that the president has shamefully lost his re-election while many other Republicans have won. That's why McConnell made a speech earlier this week that, in its circumspect caution, demonstrated the senator's full tactical skill, but also his ruthlessness and willingness to risk the welfare of American democracy for his power-political advantage.

Mitch McConnell will probably be allowed to lead the Senate for at least another two years. The 78-year-old has thus achieved his goal of the 2020 elections.

In his speech, McConnell first acknowledged the election results, at least those of the victorious Republican congressmen and senators. Then he announced that Trump had "one hundred percent" the right to look closely at those results that he considered strange and to weigh all legal options.

McConnell was wary of repeating Trump's lies about fraud and election victory theft. But he did not contradict Trump either. McConnell's strategy for dealing with Trump has always been to let him babble. The election did not change that. For McConnell, some Washington observers speculated after the speech, it made no difference whether Trump or Biden was president next to him anyway.

Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Whisperer

When Stacey Abrams ran for governor in Georgia in 2018, she was the first black woman to run in such an election. She narrowly lost, but her influence in the Democratic Party did not fade. In 2019, she was the first black woman to respond to the President's State of the Union address. She is considered the main reason why the Democrats won for the first time since 1992 in Georgia, because she tirelessly collected money and mobilized black voters in particular.

Now the hopes of the Democrats once again rest on Abrams. On January 5, the two representatives of Georgia in the Senate will be elected in a run-off vote that became necessary because no candidate achieved an absolute majority in the first round of voting. The Republicans are considered the favorites in both elections.

Stacey Abrams won Georgia for Joe Biden and now she wants to secure the two remaining Senate seats for the Democrats, a nearly impossible task.

But if the Democrats were to succeed in a double surprise, a 50:50 stalemate would result in the Senate. In this case, the designated vice president Kamala Harris would be responsible for casting the deciding vote.

Stacey Abrams is therefore once again collecting money for the two Democratic candidates. If anyone can succeed in giving the Democrats another decisive advantage in Georgia, it is her. Of course, the parties look primarily to Biden and Harris, to Trump and the White House. But at least in the second place, all eyes are on Abrams and Georgia. Only the President, as I said, looks to Georgia for other reasons.

Christopher Krebs, the Trump disenchant

Christopher Krebs is preparing for his expulsion. The lawyer heads a hitherto rather obscure agency in Washington with the acronym CISA. That stands for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. CISA reports to the Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for defending the integrity of elections in the United States against attacks from enemies.

Krebs takes this task very seriously. And he has identified the President of the United States as the greatest enemy in the recent American election. Since Election Day, he has been constantly on Twitter and on his administration's website, tearing apart all the lies, rumors and allegations that Trump and his people have been spreading about allegedly rigged voting machines that have stolen votes from Republicans.

Christopher Krebs has cemented Trump's electoral defeat. He must therefore expect to be thrown out by the president before the end of the year.

On Thursday, CISA, along with other authorities, issued a statement that not only openly contradicted the president - an act of insubordination usually punishable by dismissal in Trumps Washington - but also confirmed his election defeat. "The November 3 election was the most secure in American history," the statement said. In the paragraph after it, in boldface, this sentence read: "There is no evidence that any electoral system deleted, lost, altered or otherwise unreliably operated any votes."

For America, this was the best news of the week.
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