Why do liberals call Trump a dictator

"Trump stands for the longing for a strong leader," says the American author Robert Kagan

In the US, a struggle is under way between those who believe in equal rights for all and those who insist on the privileges of whites. This conflict once escalated during the civil war, says author and advisor Robert Kagan.

NZZ am Sonntag: Since Donald Trump has been in power in the USA, it has been shown what a grave crisis liberal democracy is in. The traditional “leader of the free world” seems to be no longer interested in western values ​​such as freedom and democracy.

Robert Kagan: Donald Trump is fighting what he believes is a liberal international conspiracy. He believes the democratic governments are taking advantage of the United States and with it the common American. At home he only speaks against liberalism, abroad he actively works against it. He supports anti-liberal forces, he likes the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the ruling party in Poland and the nationalist Marine Le Pen in France. He likes anything that threatens the liberal democracies. Added to this is his admiration for Russia's ruler Vladimir Putin and the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Does he want to be as powerful as her?

If you look at history, there are always phases in which people believe that strong leaders are needed. Trump represents this longing for a strong leader. And the people who support Trump don't worry about the negative consequences for democracy.

The fundamental liberal values ​​are enshrined in America's Declaration of Independence. They say that all people are equal before the law and have a right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. You're part of America's identity. And does the president no longer believe in that?

There has always been a great struggle for American identity in America. In the first 80 years of the American Republic there were groups that fought for slavery and the supremacy of the whites. There has always been the argument that America's identity is race and the culture of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant. This of course contradicts the universal rights of the Declaration of Independence. I am shocked that not only Trump but also his conservative supporters indulge the idea of ​​American nationalism. Trump voters want to create an American nation at a time when white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are a minority. That's impossible. Trump has become the spokesman for this American blood-and-soil nationalism.

Robert Kagan

The 61-year-old is an author, political advisor, senior fellow at the US think tank Brookings Institution, columnist for the Washington Post and, according to Politico Magazine, one of America's 50 most influential thinkers. The former neoconservative is the author of books such as “The Jungle Grows Back. America and Our Imperiled World »(2018). In the wake of Donald Trump's rise, he left the Republican Party in 2016.

America has always been seen as a country where anyone can make it, regardless of skin color, origin or family. Why is the struggle between the Liberals and what should I call it ...

The word is racists.

Why has the fight between the liberals and the racists broken out now?

Some people see economic reasons for this conflict now breaking out: the consequences of the great recession of 2008, the stagnating incomes of the middle class. That certainly contributed to it. But the economy is not the most important factor.


It is the backlash of whites against the new freedoms and privileges of non-whites. White Americans have always been threatened by the Declaration of Independence. People don't just strive for freedom, as liberalism assumes. They also strive for security. Security that gives them their race, their culture, their family. Charismatic leaders give this feeling of security.

"The founders of the United States did not foresee that political parties would act solely out of self-interest."

How much damage can Trump do in terms of human rights or the rule of law? We are just watching the last convulsions of the failed democratic attempt to be impeached.

Trump doesn't do the damage alone, that's the bad thing. He has psychological problems, a narcissistic personality.

This may be. But he was elected.

I worry about the people who are willing to support him. This is the entire Republican Party, for example. It is Republicans in the House and Senate who are trampling on our rule of law. They follow Trump instead of the Constitution. The same goes for the Supreme Court. It is increasingly emerging as a political body rather than a translator of the constitution. The problem is the lack of adversaries in the party. The founders of the United States did not foresee that political parties would act solely in their own interests and not in the interests of the institutions. This absolute party loyalty and that - in German the word probably means the Führer principle - is what shapes our American vocabulary like never before.

Where is this going?

At the end of the day - when that is I don't know - the Declaration of Independence, the American system will triumph, as it has in the past. I don't know how we'll get to victory. In 1861 we got there only through civil war. I don't know how much damage has been done by then. Of course, it also depends on whether or not Trump will be re-elected this year.

Republicans are unconditionally rallying behind Trump to stay in power. But the opposition does not know how to take advantage of this. The Democrats have moved to the left and are putting forward candidates who are actually ineligible to the general public.

The answer to Trump would be a Democratic middle-class candidate. The party actually seems to be ready to bet on the socialist Bernie Sanders. If it came to a duel between Trump and Sanders, it would be a disastrous choice for the population. But these developments are also known from history. The center collapsed in the Weimar Republic, too, and only the extreme parties remained on the political stage: the Nazis and the Communists - not the Nazis and the Social Democrats, for example. For such a comparison I would be in trouble in the US, on both sides.

«Why can Bernie Sanders be an attractive candidate? In no other time would he have had a chance to be one of the top candidates. "

Will Trump win the elections?

That is probably. Of course, the problem goes beyond Trump. Why can Bernie Sanders be an attractive candidate? In no other time would he have had a chance to be one of the top candidates. Nobody was ever as extreme as Sanders. A man like Sanders makes former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, who campaigned for arms cuts, the end of the Vietnam War, and an unconditional basic income, look like a conservative Republican. There is fundamental dissatisfaction in the US. That drives the country to extremes.

Does the fear of losing privileges have to do with the fact that the American century may soon be over and the Chinese are about to challenge the Americans for world domination?

You must not underestimate how little interest Americans are in what is happening outside the United States. And that also applies to China. The big exception was the Cold War and only because of the fear of communism. Democracy and capitalism are going through a crisis, a crisis of confidence. As in the interwar period in the last century. The emergence of fascism would have been inconceivable without the loss of confidence in democracy and capitalism. Because of the inadequacies of liberalism and the economic crises, there will always be such phases.

What are the arguments against democracy?

People are currently wondering whether they are really represented in a democracy. Of course, democracy is not perfect at representing everyone's interests. But that is not what democracy is there for. Democracy is there to protect the rights of the people and not to represent the interests of every citizen. Not everyone can win. People feel that they are getting off badly and so they lose faith in democratic principles. This is currently happening around the democratic world. The question is how do we get out of this impasse? We are currently experiencing a major crisis, not a Trump crisis.

Isn't it possible without these dangerous crisis phases?

Liberalism is actually a radical, revolutionary concept. It is not a natural progression in human evolution, as Francis Fukuyama once wrote. Human nature does not lead directly to liberalism. It will always be a struggle. We who believe in liberalism, i.e. the protection of human rights, we cannot just wait for other people to solve our problems. We must all be engaged in this fight. The Americans have forgotten that at the moment. Many believe that the next elections will save the USA or the state institutions. But that's not how it works, history shows. People have to go out and fight.

But are you optimistic?

Yes, the question is what happens when the liberal democracies properly collapse. Rebuilding these structures will be difficult - even if Trump is not re-elected this year.

How will foreign policy develop?

I have an American view of politics. When the USA appeared on the world stage as a great power, geopolitics changed completely. After the Second World War, America succeeded in eliminating Germany and Japan as aggressively acting powers, pacifying Europe and Asia and securing the world order with alliances. But the USA no longer wants to play the role of world policeman. But I believe that they have to take on this role again. Security in Asia and Europe is based on the USA. If the USA no longer plays along, the world threatens to fall apart.

Perhaps another military conflict will force them to do so again. Many are already talking about a new Cold War. This time with China.

Yes, the Americans only acted as a world power after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The lesson from this was that the US cannot stay out of major conflicts. My concern is that we can come back to another Pearl Harbor moment. That must be avoided. The Americans must resume their role as a world power in order to avoid the worst.