Steve Adler has been Mayor of Austin, the capital of the US state of Texas, for seven years. The 66-year-old Democrat had previously worked as a civil rights attorney for more than three decades. During his tenure, he was particularly committed to minorities and the homeless. Adler is originally from Washington D.C. This week he was visiting Berlin. Should Donald Trump be indicted for the events surrounding the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021? Yes, in any case. Anyone else would have had to answer in court long ago. Investigating Trump is justified and necessary. However, that would be associated with costs because the country is very divided. I’m not sure many Trump supporters are even following the hearings on the events. That’s disappointing, and it’s disappointing in a broader sense given the role of concepts like enlightenment and truth in American political discourse. But there is no alternative to a trial against Trump.
What’s wrong with him? It’s pretty clear that the President instigated and orchestrated the attack on the Capitol. This attack was intended to prevent the legitimate result of the presidential election from being recognized. That must have consequences.
Biden promised to unite the country and heal the wounds of the campaign. He wanted to build bridges between the opposing political camps. He obviously didn’t succeed. Should the Democrats continue to try to overcome extreme polarization? It is true that Biden has failed to deliver on that promise. Nobody could do that at the moment. But Biden tried. After all, a tightening of gun laws has now been decided, with the votes of Republicans. Such a non-partisan initiative seemed impossible until recently. In the future, political compromises will tend to come from below rather than from party leadership decisions. It is possible that at the national level there will also be agreement on certain exceptions to a total ban on abortion, for example in the case of rape or incest. A majority of Americans would support that, and it would be dangerous for Republicans to oppose that sentiment.
What can you, as a Democrat and Mayor of Austin, do to defend your values on the big gun control and abortion issues? In their state of Texas, Republicans are in the majority, and the Supreme Court is mostly conservative. We cannot change state laws or Supreme Court decisions. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless at the local level. When it comes to fighting crime, for example, we can prioritize and direct our resources in ways that make citizens feel safer. How will Supreme Court decisions affect November’s congressional elections? So far, Democrats have suffered from a lack of enthusiasm and engagement from their constituents. This could change now. The Democrats I speak to in Austin, in Texas, and across the country are feeling a definite tailwind. The way the Supreme Court has reasoned its decisions is a serious concern.
Society is divided, the parties are polarized. Will the judiciary also fail as a neutral authority? That is the greatest danger for American democracy. It began during the Trump presidency that the institutions of democracy were attacked and those institutions were delegitimized. It’s one thing to engage in heated political arguments about the direction in which the country should go. But questioning the legitimacy of institutions is something else.
There is a lot of bad news coming out of your state right now: the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, the discovery of 50 dead migrants in a truck near San Antonio, and a Republican party that recognizes Donald Trump as the legitimate election winner. What’s going on in Texas? I fundamentally disagree with the Texas government. In Austin we try to avoid conflict, but we’re not very good at it. But I believe that Texas will change and vote democratically again, which is also reflected in our city’s demographics. Republicans are losing supporters even in the suburbs. This was especially noticeable in the immediate aftermath of the school massacre in Uvalde. We are still shocked that so many children were horribly murdered. There was a lack of transparency in the governor’s reports on what happened in Uvalde. The media didn’t get the information fast enough. I feel the tide is turning. We’ll see more in the November election when Democrat Beto O’Rourke runs against Governor Greg Abbott. This vulnerability we feel now didn’t exist eight weeks ago.