eyes on the U.S.

Trump And The New American Way, A Worried World Is Watching

Man polishing a Trump campaign bus in Florida on Oct. 13
Man polishing a Trump campaign bus in Florida on Oct. 13
Benjamin Witte

PARIS â€" With all its historical warts, the United States has managed to hold on to its status as a model of a robust democracy. But the spectacle of Donald Trump’s run for the White House is reminding the world just how fragile democracies can be. Trump has used his campaign for the presidency to lash out at immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and women. For the past week, the focus has been on Trump’s words about, and behavior towards, women.

At a minimum, it is a display of how a powerful person feels entitled to have his way with those more vulnerable around him â€" hardly the democratic principles on which America prides itself.

French daily Libération's front page on Oct. 10

But beyond Trump’s personal failings, the world has also taken notice of the Republican nominee’s apparent willingness to discard the very tenets of democracy itself. The most extreme example (so far) may have been at Sunday’s debate, when he threatened to jail his opponent, Hillary Clinton, if elected. Comments like that, analysts say, are part of why his chances for victory are sinking fast. But they are also leaving a lasting effect.

As election day nears, Worldcrunch continues to follow the global coverage of the U.S. presidential campaign.

In an article titled "Trump and the End of Democracy," Dominique Moïsi of the French financial paper Les Echos described the Republican candidate as an "American Mussolini" who represents the "biggest threat to the democratic world since the end of the World War II."

Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times expressed similar concern about Trump’s authoritarian edge, calling the candidate not just as an embarrassment to the U.S., but a challenge "to the prestige of democracy everywhere." Trump’s threat to prosecute and jail Clinton was a case in point, he argued. "Political rivals to the president get imprisoned in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. America is meant to live by different standards," he wrote.

Other reactions to Trump’s dictatorial tendencies came on Twitter:

More than a few observers â€" including a former Mexican head of state â€" argue that Clinton could have done more in the debate to damage Trump, who came into it reeling from revelations about raunchy remarks he made 11 years ago. "Clinton should have won by a knockout," Felipe Calderón said in an interview with Mexico’s Radio Fórmula. "She had him. He was hers. And she let him go," the former president (2006-2012) added.

Luis Antonio Espino of the Mexican magazine Letras Libres had also hoped to see Clinton attack with conviction. "Trump is the first openly authoritarian and fascist candidate in U.S. history … and no one’s doing anything about it," Espino lamented.

Letras Libres is the same magazine that, several days earlier, published this eye-catching portrait of the Republican candidate:

Even if Trump loses, as many suspect he will, the residual effects of his rise are likely to persist. A Clinton victory, in other words, won’t necessarily solve the problem, more than a few analysts warn. "I don’t think he’ll win, but he won’t be defeated either," wrote Luis Cárdenas of the Mexican daily El Universal. "This isn’t about Trump. It’s about his millions of followers who have woken up and won’t be happy about losing."

Syria, Russia and Iran

While much of the post-debate talk was about Trump’s threats and insults, or the fact that the rivals refused, at the outset, to shake hands, the candidates did in fact delve into some policy issues during their encounter. Most noteworthy perhaps were Clinton’s remarks on Russia and Syria, which some saw as dangerously provocative. "What is at stake here is the ambitions and the aggressiveness of Russia," she said. "Russia has decided that it's all in, in Syria. And they've also decided who they want to see become president of the United States, too, and it's not me."

The debate, which was viewed by more than 66 million Americans, was also broadcast around the world.

Russia’s foreign minister apparently has tuned in to the race as well:

Indeed, even as wars are raging the biggest story for the moment is Trump’s stranger-than-fiction run for the presidency. With more and more of his fellow Republicans turning their back on the boisterous billionaire, Trump has declared himself finally "unshackled." Just exactly what that means â€" and whether someone ends up in jail â€" is anybody’s guess.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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