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Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine and the largest-circulation newsweekly in Europe, is out with a cover story that decries President Donald Trump’s incendiary approach to governing. The cover illustration depicts a hubristic Trump holding a match in the Oval Office, while outside, as seen through the window behind him, Washington, D.C. burns. The cover headline, “Der Feuerteufel,” translates literally as “the fire devil” but is used to mean firestarter or firebug, while the subhead, “Ein Präsident setzt sein Land in Brand,” translates to “A president sets fire to his country.”
In promoting the cover across social media, the magazine—one of the most influential journalistic institutions in Europe—is sharing a statement that translates as, “George Floyd’s death triggered a wave of protest. Many blacks, already on the losing side due to the coronavirus, are fed up with everyday racism in their country. And what is Donald Trump doing? He’s fueling hatred to distract from his own failure. And trying to secure his reelection with highly questionable methods.”
Der Spiegel has also published an English-language version of its cover story—written by Guido Mingels, Roland Nelles, Ralf Neukirch, René Pfister and Marc Pitzke—under the headline “Democracy on the Defensive in Trump’s America.” The story’s subhead reads “Coronavirus, economic collapse and now mass demonstrations for racial equality: The United States is facing a trio of deep crises. Instead of offering leadership, President Donald Trump is exacerbating divisions and showing authoritarian tendencies. With the presidential election still several months away, the country’s health is at stake.”
A key passage in the story:
Trump and his political accessories are using the rhetoric of authoritarianism. Militarized police forces haven’t just been using violence to quell plundering and rioting, they have also been attacking peaceful demonstrators. Journalists have been arrested as well.
Should we be worried about the United States? Is a fundamental shift taking place in a country that is synonymous with deeply rooted democracy? The current chaos on the streets of America isn’t just the product of the country’s economic and societal tensions. The president himself has repeatedly exacerbated those conflicts with his rhetoric. Trump, it seems, needs the chaos. He feeds off it.
Few other democratically elected leaders have as much power as the U.S. president, a reality that can lead to abuse. Trump has made personal loyalty the most important qualification for those with whom he surrounds himself. He harbors deep admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and once voiced his support for the violent crushing of the pro-democracy protests on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, saying it was a sign of strength.
The Russia investigation and his impeachment did not show him the limits of his power, and instead awakened in him a desire to hit back hard and to get rid of anyone within government who does not fulfill his every whim. In the waning months of his first term in office, just a few months before Election Day, he is increasingly putting his authoritarian tendencies on full display.
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