Almost four years ago I wrote an essay on Trump’s election and tried to analyse it in Nietzschean terms. This essay won the second prize of the essay competition of the Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie Hannover. With the kind support of Reinhard Müller, a Nietzsche scholar living in the US, I have translated it now into English. Given the possibility of four more years of Trumpianism, it should still be an insightful philosophical commentary.
It can be read on the blog of the Forschungsinstitut: Link
Of course, I would have written it differently now. I’m still of the opinion that one of our main problems today is the narcissism of our culture. Trump is a symptom of this culture, of this loss of a shared ground of debate, the growing inability and unwilligness of seeing things from different perspectives which Nietzsche analysed as the basic requirement for all cultural endeavours.
It has become more and more obvious to me, however, that this unwillingness is common also among Trump’s enemies and I would stress this aspect more directly today. In one of his deepest aphorisms, aph. 146 of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche writes: “Whoever fights with monsters should see to it that he does not become one himself. And when you stare for a long time into an abyss, the abyss stares back into you.”
Since 2017, the anti-Trumpist camp has partially become paralysed by staring into the abyss too long, partially it has become rather Trumpist itself. However, also I would stress more clearly from my current point of view, that an emotional, passionate, immediate response might not always be the worse choice, especially on the field of political struggle.
A truly “Anti-Trumpist” politics would be, in my view, not just an (allegedly) “sober” and “rationalist” politics but a different way of political emotionalisation. This insight is surely not opposed to the ethics of perspectivism but it stresses more clearly the necessity of also not loosing one’s own emotional orientation while at the same exploring other possible ones.
One can dislike, even hate, Trump but the Nietzschean ethics of seeing should teach us still to try to understand his perspective and especially the perspective of people voting for him. Simply to claim that millions of Americans are just stupid, is definitely the wrong attitude in this regard. While this insight might alter our feelings of dislike and hate and even calm them down a little bit, it should not paralyse us but rather should give our political struggle a deeper, stronger basis and a broader outlook.