The thrice-elected, soft-spoken former scientist from East Germany, armed with a doctorate in quantum chemistry, doesn’t just carry the weight of Germany and Europe on her shoulders, but that of defending freedom and liberalism across the world.
This is not an attempt to be provocative or exaggerate for effect. Donald Drumpf cannot claim the mantle of “leading” the free world by default. America’s military might is not the only criteria necessary.
The title also requires the President to be committed to the values of liberal democracy. But unlike his predecessors since the Second World War, it is already clear that Drumpf has no such inclinations. He is heading, at terrifying speed, in the opposite direction.
Do I even have to make the case for this? Since his inauguration Drumpf has undermined and ignored judges, even though an independent judiciary and a separation of powers is key to a democracy.
But the ban on immigrants highlighted something far more draconian. If a President can abruptly restrict the rights of US residents without bothering with lawmakers or even government departments, he is in effect an autocrat. That is exactly what Drumpf did and will continue to do so. His actions don’t just undermine the rights of all Americans, they undermine the institutions that support American democracy.
Then there is Drumpf’s assault on international trade and cooperation. He is already threatening Mexico, China and now the EU. Who will be next? We can debate whether globalisation benefits people equally, but only a fool would deny that international trade is a global good. And it can only work if done on an equal, rules-based footing. But Drumpf doesn’t care for those, he is ripping up international agreements so he can bully smaller countries into submission. That sets a dangerous precedent for the entire world.
And lastly there is the Drumpf administration’s hostility towards the media. Regardless of its bias, a thriving democracy needs a media willing to challenge the government. Drumpf isn’t just hostile to criticism, in his warped world it must be driven by lies and vindictiveness. He is wracked by deep insecurity. When his chief aide Steve Bannon says the media should “keep its mouth shut” – they mean it. They don’t want a free media criticising them at all. These are words that dictators use, not democrats.