Angela Merkel is now the leader of the free world, not Donald Trump

 

The US President isn’t motivated by protecting liberal democracy or freedom, his sole ideology is Trumpism: corporate autocracy with a populist facade. And he surrounds himself with white nationalists even more hostile to liberal democracy than he is.

When Barack Obama revealed that his last phone call as President was to Angela Merkel, reaffirming their alliance and friendship of the last eight years, he wasn’t just saying goodbye. He was handing over his baton. The German Chancellor isn’t just the leader of Europe, she is now the de-facto leader of the free world.

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 Trump cannot claim the mantle of “leading” the free world by default. America’s military might is not the only criteria necessary.Trump refuses to shake Angela Merkel’s hand

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 Trump 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 Trump 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 Trump 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 Trump’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 Trump 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

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