Jüri Saar: The anatomy of the Trump and EKRE political adventure
It would be extremely foolish to stick with the recent political line in a situation where all alternatives are preferable – whether a new coalition or extraordinary elections, Jüri Saar writes in a comment initially published in Sirp magazine.
Feverish events that took place in Washington D.C. on January 6 will surely be analyzed from a criminal perspective and several dozen investigations have already been launched.
There is no doubt that they will identify persons who directly participated in the mutiny, as well as those who facilitated the violence and those who enabled it by failing to perform their duties for one reason or another. The American criminal-justice system is capable enough as previous experience tells us and just decisions will be handed down promptly.
We also need to analyze and isolate the political-technological mechanism that made it possible for such incredible things to happen in a democratic country's parliament in the early 21st century. Jeopardizing the security and constitutional order of a superpower by breaking into the Capitol.
What about the series of events that began with business- and showman Donald Trump's campaign and eventual inauguration as president and culminated in a failed mutiny attempt? As all Western democracies have something to learn from this, including Estonia.
What took place in America over the last four years cannot be accurately described as a new political agenda called Trumpism because Trump is not a politician and his supporters do not form a group of people with set political views. The fact that the latter, similarly to those emulating them in Estonia, demand to be called conservatives locked in a desperate struggle against liberals without any real grounds is of no significance.
Trump constituted a political product teetering on the verge of anarchistic populism that was only taking shape when it wilted before it got a chance to bloom. The trend could have eventually become Trumpism just as Hitler's stay in power later became Hitlerism, while that luckily did not come to pass in America.
The question is of the process of the formation of a collective Trump that accompanied the legitimate democratic coming to power of Donald Trump.
We need to keep in mind that Trump did not create a party but rather took over the existing Republican Party or the Great Old Party (GOP) as it is called in the States. Whereas Trump's first choice to help him become president was the Democratic Party. His eventual choice was based on purely pragmatic reasons according to which creating a new party in the established system is almost impossible.
This is regularly reflected in U.S. presidential elections where alternative candidates must settle for the joy of participation and stand no chance whatsoever of being elected. This means that in order to win, one must use an existing party that needs to be reshaped. This conclusion also applies in Estonia. Let us recall how the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) took over the People's Union with its members and honorary chairman instead of creating a new party from scratch.
Similar tactics of Trump and EKRE
Trump employed the well-known tactic of finding as many dissatisfied and not very capable people as possible – in other words, people with great pretentions and ambition that they feel have been unjustly overlooked.
The actual reasons for their dissatisfaction or the prospects of satisfying them do not matter. What matters is promising the disgruntled that all their wishes will come true in the future. This ensures one the necessary majority for winning in-house elections and the process of hijacking a party is completed.
The ultimate goal is to employ the exact same tactic on the state level where the entire electorate is manipulated instead of party members.
To fan hopes, abstract targets that no physical person, institution or structure can identify as are attacked. In Trump's case, they included "the elite, deep state and mainstream media" all of which took a relentless battering, while criticism remained amorphous. Whereas Trump and his "guard" were most definitely products of the very same elite, deep state and mainstream media.
Once in power, these targets gradually became more specific and ranged from "idle Democrats" to "liberal totalitarians seeking absolute power."
As power is consolidated, the targets become more specific and personal and are eliminated when necessary to eventually arrive at a mentality where "those not with us are against us."
It pays to point out a tactical shift that occurred in Trump's rhetoric and choice of targets after he secured executive power – attacks on specific people.
While Hillary Clinton had been Trump's only personified target during his presidential campaign, everyone who failed to live up to the president's expectations now became fair game. They also included former loyalists who had been obedient but made a mistake somewhere.
This tactic created a constant air of danger for all potential dissidents and those who dared speak their mind in the party and public office. It was communicated as "draining the swamp."
The exact same scheme was adopted by the creators of EKRE in Estonia who also make use of Trump's expressions. EKRE leaders have displayed the same kind of behavior where society is threatened and intimidated with consequences that will follow if they are not given power for a "solution to satisfy the people."
Let us recall Mart Helme's threat of public unrest when the coalition was being formed and his habit of threatening interior ministry officials while serving as minister for what he described as meddling in politics.
Trump could not manage all of it on his own and formed a close circle of loyalists that included members of his family and others who had demonstrated undying loyalty in the past.
Those outside that circle were very seldom treated to kind words from the president and were quickly replaced upon exhibiting independent thought. The axe could hit anyone, no matter how high the person was in the public hierarchy.
To be frank, it is nothing short of baffling how they all subjected themselves to the president's whims with virtually no pushback, which might have something to do with unwritten rules in American political culture.
The core of EKRE is also made up first and foremost of members of a single family and it is to be believed that more important matters are first decided in that circle and officially approved later.
With the exception of the Tartu incident, EKRE has not seen much in the way of in-house opposition so far. While the authority of EKRE is many orders of magnitude smaller than that of Trump as the party is but one coalition partner, one should never underestimate the power of insolence.
We need to be grateful to the head of the Police and Border Guard Board [Elmar Vaher] who exhibited true loyalty to the Estonian state and refused to bow to illegal pressure from Martin Helme to resign.
In just four years, Trump managed to create a virtual parallel state in America that functioned exactly as he wanted or dreamed the previous night. The top brass of that parallel state included the president's close relatives and a select few others who were given state offices without specific obligations and whose power consisted of being in constant contact with the president.
This core also included the president's personal lawyers who took care of his personal affairs followed by state affairs of the highest order. The fact that this parallel state was looking less like the United States of America with each passing day caused both domestic headaches and problems with traditional foreign friends.
His habit of communicating decisions and possible changes via Twitter was for a long time considered to be a harmless oddity of Trump as the "165-character Hemingway" who produced over 45,000 tweets by the end of his term.
In truth, the problem with this kind of an information system runs much deeper as it allowed Trump to create a parallel direct communication channel that bypassed the official White House and its established system of communication. Foreign diplomats and heads of state were soon forced to subscribe just to stay on top of developments.
This allowed the president to seamlessly switch between being the president of a world superpower and an ordinary citizen who according to the First Amendment has unlimited freedom of speech.
Trump, with past experience from reality shows, also used commercial networks the heads of which he threatened with the possibility of going somewhere else or establishing a network of his own.
The entire system of notifying the public functioned as a kind of dog whistle for supporters where target groups could learn about the president's wishes without him issuing official orders for which he could be held responsible.
This kind of communication is favored among organized crime leaders who try to have someone else do their dirty work for them. The president acted like a tyrant whose wishes his obedient subjects must read in his looks. Subjects kept a fevered eye on his tweets and TV performances, trying to pick up on dark clouds that might be gathering above their station.
We can also see attempts to create a similar parallel state in Estonia. A private investigation into money laundering coordinated by a single lawyer in Estonia and taking place alongside an investigation by the Prosecutor's Office constitutes unprecedented misuse of official position.
Minister [Martin] Helme's attempt to give a U.S. lawyer with a suspicious resume a big pile of money and criminal investigation capacity alongside access to state information is clearly illegal.
Our prosecution's recent statement according to which what is happening is unprecedented has not merited enough attention. However, its meaning becomes clear when perceived in the context of Trump's actions.
The role of an alternative media channel has been attached to Tre Raadio where father and son Helme go on a verbal rollercoaster every Sunday. Insults fly left and right and the hosts do not hold anything back.
What is said on the program is meant to show what the men are capable of and to send a message to loyalists that alongside official government channels, the ministers are free on their private network.
As if to demonstrate that it is possible to be a government minister and also a physical person who uses a radio channel to realize their right to free speech. EKRE's coalition partners look on and offer their apologies.
The November 3 presidential elections in America produced a shocking result for Trump and his supporters. It was the only way this simulation of administration could end. The president's chances at reelection were also hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe economic consequences.
The president and his close circle hysterically denying the election results was noteworthy as his efforts to create a parallel state was left unfinished because of the will of the people, figuratively speaking. Claiming that Biden's victory meant betraying 75 million people who voted for Trump is demagogic and inaccurate.
It is the same hoax peddled by EKRE leaders when they talk about the 100,000 votes they got at elections and conveniently fail to mention that they did not get the remaining votes. Elections, like any competition, have a winner and also work to legitimize state institutions.
It is also peculiar how more than a few U.S. congressmen accepted that they were elected fair and square while calling into question the results of the presidential election, not even realizing the damage this is doing to institutions of power.
After desperate attempts to legally prove there had been election fraud failed, Trump supporters got sloppy and made fatal mistakes. First and foremost, calls to election officials in Georgia that were recorded and made public that included threats mixed with calls to commit election fraud and are now being investigated.
Some Trump loyalists managed to interpret the fact the president's call was recorded and that the recipient made it public as yet another act of disloyalty to the president. Again, overlooking the fact that loyalty to the constitutional order must always come before personal loyalty to any person.
The president's actions before the events of January 6 have been recorded in detail, from calls to convene in Washington at the time of the congressional meeting on ratifying election results where things were supposed to "get wild" to an organized rally on the day.
What else than a call to mutiny should one call systematically riling the people up by claiming that the greatest election fraud in history has been committed before urging them to go to Capitol Hill to "cheer" a part of delegates who did the right thing according to Trump and "not cheer so much" for others.
A gallows tree, weapons, explosive devices and materials to make more found near the Capitol and the surrounding area suggest that the message was heard loud and clear.
Another clear sign of that is the protesters' calls to lynch Vice President Mike Pence after he dared read out loud the final election results. People went to a lot of trouble to turn the Capitol into a crime scene.
The fact that the leading man Donald Trump took his armored limousine to the White House to watch events unfold on TV instead of taking up his place at the head of rioters only demonstrates his cynicism regarding potential consequences. Television coverage painted a vivid picture of both the general swarm of weirdos and professional coup artists.
The events were made even more colorful by the simpleminded taking selfies in the Capitol building and saying they did not want to miss the "action." It is to be speculated that casualties among congressmen would have seen attempts to lay down martial law.
The possibility has been talked about by one of Trump's closest allies, failed soldier Michael Flynn whom the president just pardoned. It is to be hoped that these circumstances will also be ascertained after some time.
Social media heads awaken
Finally, heads of social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook) woke up, realized their influence and level of responsibility in the series of events that culminated in rioting and violence and cut off Trump and his close circle.
Trump's allies have said that these channels being closed caused Trump to go ballistic. He was probably acutely aware that his direct line to loyalists only existed in the technical solutions of said platforms. It is no wonder Trump Jr. reacted to the bans by claiming attempts to suppress free speech.
The reaction of Trump supporters in Estonia to these events was not difficult to forecast because they realize that what happened in the USA and its aftermath means their time is also short.
First, we should mention how they refused to accept the results of presidential elections in USA through the voice of two ministers appearing on a Sunday radio show. After that came the ridiculous claim that the violence was an Antifa provocation.
Next, we were treated to claims that Trump and other Republicans never urged violence against the Congress. As if EKRE spin doctors had already put to bed a matter regarding which the U.S. authorities are only beginning their inquiries.
In subsequent shows, EKRE leaders already concentrated on the problem of American society being split, how many privately owned firearms there are in the country and how that number is ballooning.
Such a position is referred to as crying crocodile tears, meaning that while one has turned on the waterworks, there is no grief behind it. Rather, it came off as yet another threat. The only thing supporters of the individual and collective Trump in Estonia truly bemoan is the disappearance of their shameful American example from the political arena.
How should we evaluate the results of the political adventure that took place in America? Criminal proceedings will provide answers in terms of the extent of damages and the responsibility of specific people as concerns the violence. However, what we need to be looking at is Trump's entire presidency, including what lead to the first impeachment and his peculiar relationships with totalitarian rulers.
The American people have lost the most as the number of COVID-19 victims in the country will soon exceed the number of people USA lost in World War II (ca 400,000).
The president has mostly engaged in denial since the tragedy began. It is impossible to say how many fewer people USA would have lost had the administration handled things differently, while it remains a fact that the pandemic has never interested Trump as much as the desire to have power without responsibility.
The U.S. has also suffered many foreign policy losses, while those will soon be compensated considering the might of the country. Domestically speaking, the heaviest price will be paid by those simpleminded supporters of the individual and collective Trump who failed to see what was happening for what it really was. Actions of the political product known as Trump are largely to blame for the Republican Party losing its majority in both houses.
The actions and lack thereof of the current government in Estonia will also primarily impact the people as too much of leaders' energy is spent on addressing second-rate matters.
Our political institutions have suffered considerable damage irrespective of who is in the opposition or coalition. The biggest political losers in this situation are the Center Party and Isamaa that birthed the current (outgoing – ed.) coalition and failed or refused to notice what their coalition partner was doing.
Just like in the States, the damage has been done in Estonia, while I hope that an emergency can be avoided by acting sensibly from here on out. It would be extremely foolish to maintain the recent political line as all alternatives are preferable – whether a new coalition or extraordinary elections. In any case, the time to decide has come.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski