The Donald Trump campaign is mostly nonsense
Nonsense is the US president's greatest weapon : Donald Trump is voted out? Don't rejoice too soon!
Armin Nassehi is professor of sociology at the University of Munich and editor of the journal “Kursbuch”. This text is a revised version of the current “Monday block” on the “Kursbuch” website.
I would like to describe a déjà vu experience: I started a trip to the USA on September 26, 2016, during which I gave a few lectures and visited two universities.
I landed in Boston early in the evening, early enough to be picked up by a very friendly employee of the Goethe Institute, straight to a well-stocked bar, which was mainly young people from the student milieu, but also older university employees to have.
A big screen was set up, that evening the first television duel between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took place. I was tired - it was already two or three in the morning for my body. But the evening was electrifying.
In 2016, left-wing Americans were sure that Trump would dismantle himself and lose the election
Back then, people had not yet got used to Trump's way of speaking. Trump spoke confused and strange, it was hardly possible to find even a single argument in his sentences. Clinton, on the other hand, had all the arguments on her side and knew how to explain them.
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Trump limited himself to the attack, he got bogged down when he was asked why he had spread the thesis for so long that Barack Obama was not an American at all, he repeated that NATO was obsolete because it did not fight terrorism. He tried to hold Clinton liable for her husband signing the NAFTA free trade agreement as president.
The reaction in the bar was, of course, more interesting than the discussion itself. The main focus was on the sentences of the Republican candidate. The more absurd Trump's sentences were, the looser the atmosphere in the bar, the more relaxed the visitors.
The mood can be summed up in the following sentence: The matter is over.
Trump's attacks on Hillary Clinton were so outrageous that she could barely respond
To say now that I knew it back then would be a bit of an exaggeration - but I remember often asking how this Trump would be perceived in the milieus outside the left-liberal, university-academy-populated bar in Massachusetts. That was ridiculed as a strange defeatism of a guest from Good Old Europe.
On this trip I asked a lot of people: never once have I met someone who wasn't sure that Trump had actually already taken himself out of the race with this first television debate. In any case, what was noticeable at the time was the communicative dilemma in which Hillary Clinton was stuck.
Trump's “arguments” were so obviously nonsensical that they were difficult to connect to for communication. And the attacks on the person of Clinton were so blatantly strategic and outrageous that their refutation could only be taken as confirmation that the matter was worth discussing.
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We know how it turned out. My déjà vu experience now consists in the fact that we are currently looking forward to obvious nonsense from Trump almost every day - he dismantles himself in interviews, cannot cover up his incompetence and does not shrink from embarrassment.
He brags about having passed a dementia test ("I'm cognitively there"). Only this week did he claim again in a tweet that the postal vote was particularly susceptible to fraud (for which there is no evidence) and indicated that the election date should be postponed; a date set by the Constitution that has never been postponed.
2016 seems to be repeating itself: Trump's statements are so nonsensical that it is difficult to meet them
What seems to be repeating itself is the impossibility of facing such nonsense. Perhaps one can only prove or disprove communication if it makes clear a certain claim to validity or if an argument is in a certain consistency with other sentences. Where that is missing, any refutation will come to nothing.
[More on the topic: Memorable Corona Interview - Reporter doubts Trump's statements, then he pulls out three graphics]
So maybe Trump's way of speaking is the most ingenious form of communication in a political culture whose polarization is so great that something like a conflict over a specific matter cannot be conducted at all.
The idea of deliberation presupposes a divided horizon of argumentative spaces - if one of the two sides eludes this basic expectation, it becomes communicatively inaccessible and therefore particularly plausible for its own followers. This also applies to the other side, which can ultimately only speak to its own people. Worse still: If she gets involved in the game of refuting the other, she also gets involved in argumentation with his specifications.
Whoever repeats the absurd and replies to it recognizes it as possible truth
You have to imagine it this way: If I have to argue that postal voting is particularly prone to fraud and that the election date may therefore even have to be postponed in Corona times, I have already conceded that it could be so, otherwise I wouldn't have to say no. After Trump had nurtured the myth that Barack Obama was not an American, he finally presented his birth certificate.
He had accepted Trump's assertion that Obama may not have been born on American territory (which is a prerequisite for the right to stand as president of the United States). The situation then was similar to today. The more idiotic Trump's speeches and contributions to the debate look, the more they are able to determine the debate and the weaker they make the counter-argument.
One solution would be to dry up Trump communicatively
In any case, my déjà vu experience tells me: Don't get too excited about the American President's greatest nonsense. This nonsense is his greatest weapon - whether he knows about it or not is unclear, but it doesn't matter either. The fact that Joe Biden and Trump's opponents have so far refrained from too much communication is a little hopeful. Perhaps you have seen that the best evidence of a lack of connectivity lies in the lack of connectivity. Because the greatest power develops Trump's form of communication possibly through the reactions that move on unfamiliar terrain, because the communication offers do not want to be the better argument, but the attempt to be able to do without arguments as much as possible.
Perhaps then you actually have to deal with arguments more sparingly. Of course, then they have to be all the better. But the election campaign has not even started. The prize question is: How does an election campaign with as little communication as possible?
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