Nils Minkmar

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A recent Spiegel essay argued that the contemporary dynamics of Germany’s political-party machinery makes it impossible for that country to elect a Trump-ish figure. That’s likely true, but what if a significant segment of the citizenry would like to elect someone with his nativist mindset (though not his benighted mind)? Could the gaskets eventually blow in a different and more dangerous way? Not that Germany has a history of horrible political outcomes. Oh, wait!

In “I’ve Never Seen So Much Hate,” a new piece in the same publication, Nils Minkmar interviews psychologist Stephan Grünewald, who’s conducted studies on a cross-section of the electorate. An excerpt:


What did you discover?

Stephan Grünewald: 

In the in-depth interviews, all people wanted to talk about was the refugee crisis, refugee crisis, refugee crisis. Despite being so elegantly left out of the campaign, it is still a sore spot that hasn’t been treated by politicians.


What exactly is the problem?

Stephan Grünewald: 

The crisis two years ago plunged voters into a dilemma for which they still haven’t found a clear response. Do I open the door, or do I close it? On one hand, they want to be part of the welcoming culture, but they are also afraid of being overwhelmed by foreigners and of no longer being able to recognize their own country. As a result, they want policymakers to develop a plan, to establish a compromise position. But they haven’t, and now voters feel abandoned.


What is the consequence of this?

Stephan Grünewald: 

Voters are disoriented, full of uncertainties. They describe Germany either as an ailing, run-down country or as a secure island of affluence in a sea of risk. It’s all very fragile and leads to emotional outbursts. I have never before seen so much anger and hatred among test subjects.•

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Let me say this one more time as clearly as possible: A 70-year-old sociopath is not going to change for the better, especially when his most disgraceful behavior hasn’t cost him anything in life, has actually helped him.

As someone who grew up in Queens watching the Lampanelli-Mussolini mash-up that is Donald Trump grow increasingly bizarre, belligerent and bigoted, I cringe every time I read or hear that the gravity of the primary, the general election, the White House, will somehow mitigate this man. He’s beyond palliation–far beyond. I joked at one point that Trump might land in the Oval Office or a prison cell, but I thought both were possible. Seems even more likely at this point. 

In the latest puzzling display of surprise over the continued freak show of the Man With No Brain But Two Mouths, a Spiegel article by Markus Feldenkirchen, Thomas Hüetlin, Nils Minkmar and Gordon Repinski carries this display copy: “The hope that Donald Trump might become more presidential as his inauguration approached have proven misguided.” Such hopes will continue to prove so.

Insufficient Dignity

For months, many have been talking about Trump’s lack of maturity and his insufficient dignity for one of the most powerful and honorable political offices in the world. And yet his press conference on Wednesday left even party allies stunned.

He showed himself to be a man with more faith in Russian President Vladimir Putin than in the findings of America’s own intelligence agencies. A man who reacts aggressively to all forms of critique. A man who sought to intimidate CNN reporter Jim Acosta and refused to answer the reporter’s questions because he doesn’t approve of the broadcaster’s coverage.

It was an appearance that lacked everything that one has come to expect from U.S. presidents: self-control, diplomacy, reserve and restraint. He spent much of the press conference praising himself and his team and there wasn’t a moment of irony or self-doubt. Even in the U.S., where referring to one’s own strengths is much more common than it is elsewhere, such a degree of conceit is unusual.

For many, victory is paired with humility. Trump, by contrast, hasn’t passed up a single opportunity since Nov. 8 to boast about his “big” election victory and he continues to cast insults at his defeated opponent Hillary Clinton. Those who thought that Trump’s almost conciliatory Christmas address meant that the president-elect was changing his tune were quickly disabused of that notion.

On the weekend before last, actress Meryl Streep used her speech at the Golden Globes to criticize Trump for his mocking of a physically disabled New York Times reporter during the campaign. The incident was Trump’s revenge against the reporter, who had exposed one of the GOP nominee’s lies. Trump was quick to strike back at Streep. He claimed that he was not making fun of the reporter’s disabilities, even though videos make it clear that that is exactly what he was doing. He then took to Twitter to call Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and “a Hillary flunky.” It was yet another tweet-storm showing how far removed Trump is from reality.

His reactions have become totally predictable, no matter whether he is responding to a perceived slight from an employee, a reporter, an actress or the intelligence community. There is no nuance in his retribution; it is always excessive.

Trump’s behavior can often be reduced to a simple question: Was somebody nice to me or not? It usually doesn’t get much more complex than that. As such, the key to understanding the new U.S. president lies less in his political pledges or in the hopes of his followers and more in the make-up of his personality.•


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