The End of American Democracy: 30 Seconds to Midnight

A professor at Yale University talks about what history can teach us.

Matthias Kolb March 15, 2017

"History teaches us the tricks of authoritarians. We can’t allow ourselves to fall for them," says Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University and the author of numerous books of European history. (Gage Skidmore/ Flickr )

This arti­cle was first post­ed by Süd­deutsche Zeitung.

"We have at most a year to defend the Republic, perhaps less. What happens in the next few weeks is very important."

Tim­o­thy Sny­der is a pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty and the author of numer­ous books of Euro­pean his­to­ry, includ­ing Blood­lands and Black Earth. His most recent book, On Tyran­ny: Twen­ty Lessons from the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry, will be pub­lished at the end of the month. This is the Eng­lish ver­sion of an inter­view pub­lished in Süd­deutsche Zeitung on Feb­ru­ary 7, with some addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion due to cur­rent developments.

Don­ald Trump has been pres­i­dent for three weeks. How would you describe his start?

The first thing that we have to notice is that the insti­tu­tions have not thus far restrained him. He nev­er took them seri­ous­ly, acts as if they don’t exist, and clear­ly wish­es they didn’t. The sto­ry that Amer­i­cans have told them­selves from the moment he declared his can­di­da­cy for pres­i­dent, was that one insti­tu­tion or anoth­er would defeat him or at least change his behav­ior — he won’t get the nom­i­na­tion; if he gets the nom­i­na­tion, he will be a nor­mal Repub­li­can; he will get defeat­ed in the gen­er­al elec­tion; if he wins the pres­i­den­cy will mature him (that was what Oba­ma said). I nev­er thought any of that was true. He doesn’t seem to care about the insti­tu­tions and the laws except inso­far as they appear as bar­ri­ers to the goal of per­ma­nent klep­to­crat­ic author­i­tar­i­an­ism and imme­di­ate per­son­al grat­i­fi­ca­tion. It is all about him all of time, it is not about the cit­i­zens and our polit­i­cal traditions.

You wrote an arti­cle for Slate in Novem­ber, com­par­ing the rise of Don­ald Trump with the rise of Adolf Hitler. Why did you feel the need to pub­lish such a piece?

It’s very impor­tant that we use his­to­ry to our advan­tage now, rather than find­ing in his­to­ry taboos and ways to silence one anoth­er. The his­to­ry of the 1930s is ter­ri­bly impor­tant to Amer­i­cans (and Euro­peans) right now, just as it is slip­ping from our mem­o­ries. I was not try­ing to pro­voke one more fruit­less series of con­ver­sa­tions about com­pa­ra­bil­i­ty. I was try­ing to help Amer­i­cans who were gen­er­al­ly either shocked (peo­ple who vot­ed against Trump) or sur­prised (peo­ple who vot­ed for him, who gen­er­al­ly thought he would lose) find their bear­ings in a new sit­u­a­tion. The temp­ta­tion in a new sit­u­a­tion is to imag­ine that noth­ing has changed. That is a choice that has polit­i­cal con­se­quences: self-delu­sion leads to half-con­scious antic­i­pa­to­ry obe­di­ence and then to régime change. Any­way, I didn’t actu­al­ly com­pare Trump to Hitler, I didn’t use these two names. What I did was to write a very short his­to­ry of the rise of Adolf Hitler to pow­er with­out using his name, which might allow Amer­i­cans to rec­og­nize cer­tain sim­i­lar­i­ties to the moment they them­selves were liv­ing through. I know that these com­par­isons are a nation­al taboo in Ger­many, but at the moment its rather impor­tant that Ger­mans be gen­er­ous with their his­to­ry and help oth­ers to learn how republics col­lapse. Most Amer­i­cans are excep­tion­al­ists, we think we live out­side of his­to­ry. Amer­i­cans tend to think: We have free­dom because we love free­dom, we love free­dom because we are free.” It is a bit cir­cu­lar and doesn’t acknowl­edge the his­tor­i­cal struc­tures that can favor or weak­en demo­c­ra­t­ic republics. We don’t real­ize how sim­i­lar our predica­ments are to those of oth­er people.

You use the Weimar Repub­lic as a warn­ing example.

I want­ed to remind my fel­low Amer­i­cans that intel­li­gent peo­ple, not so dif­fer­ent from our­selves, have expe­ri­enced the col­lapse of a repub­lic before. It is one exam­ple among many. Republics, like oth­er forms of gov­ern­ment, exist in his­to­ry and can rise and fall. The Amer­i­can Found­ing Fathers knew this, which is why there were obsessed with the his­to­ry of clas­si­cal republics and their decline into oli­garchy and empire. We seem to have lost that tra­di­tion of learn­ing from oth­ers, and we need it back. A quar­ter cen­tu­ry ago, after the col­lapse of com­mu­nism, we declared that his­to­ry was over — and in an amaz­ing way we for­got every­thing we once knew about com­mu­nism, fas­cism and Nation­al Social­ism. In this lit­tle arti­cle for Slate, I was try­ing to remind us about things that we once knew.

How sim­i­lar is the sit­u­a­tion between Ger­many of the 1930s and today’s Unit­ed States?

Of course, not every­thing is sim­i­lar. Some things are bet­ter now than they were in the 1930s but some things are worse. The media is worse, I would say. It is very polar­ized and it is very con­cen­trat­ed. In Ger­many before the state shut down Ger­man news­pa­pers, there was authen­tic vari­ety that we don’t have now. Peo­ple in the 1930s gen­er­al­ly had longer atten­tion spans than we do. On the oth­er side, the Unit­ed States is a larg­er coun­try, with pock­ets of wealth dis­trib­uted wide­ly, and it is more con­nect­ed to the world. The main advan­tage that we have is that we can learn from the 1930s. Again, it’s very impor­tant to stress that his­to­ry does not repeat. But it does offer us exam­ples and pat­terns, and there­by enlarges our imag­i­na­tions and cre­ates more pos­si­bil­i­ties for antic­i­pa­tion and resistance. 

When did you real­ize this lack of knowl­edge about 20th cen­tu­ry his­to­ry here in the Unit­ed States?

I got an ear­ly hint of that when I was tour­ing the Unit­ed States for my book Blood­lands: Europe Between Hitler and Stal­in. This was in 2011 and I real­ized that Amer­i­cans had real­ly for­got­ten about the crimes of Stal­in — which is strange because we were edu­cat­ed, dur­ing the Cold War about Stal­in­ist ter­ror. I thought that Amer­i­cans would be sur­prised because I was say­ing that num­ber of Sovi­et cit­i­zens killed (although still hor­ri­fy­ing­ly large) was much small­er than we had been taught. Instead I real­ized that Amer­i­cans had sim­ply for­got­ten that there was Stal­in­ism and ter­ror. That struck me: What else could we for­get? The idea of the Holo­caust is cer­tain­ly present, but it is almost total­ly lack­ing in con­text. And with­out con­text it is hard to see resem­blance. A Holo­caust that is reduced to a few images or facts can­not teach about larg­er pat­terns. And Amer­i­cans risk of stress­ing its unique­ness is that it allows peo­ple to dis­miss any learn­ing from his­to­ry. Peo­ple will ask: Is he wear­ing a Hak­enkreuz, did he kill six mil­lion Jews? if the answer is in the neg­a­tive, then they will reply: then his­to­ry has noth­ing to do with the present. Over the last 25 years, we have not only for­got­ten much of what we once knew but we have raised a whole gen­er­a­tion which doesn’t have these ref­er­ence points.

You would argue that this knowl­edge had exist­ed before but it was forgotten.

Schol­ars knew much more know about the 1930s — whether we are speak­ing of Nation­al Social­ism, fas­cism, or Stal­in­ism. But publics are much less inter­est­ed. And we lack, for what­ev­er rea­son, the con­cepts that we used to have that allowed us to con­nect ideas and polit­i­cal process­es. When an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent says Amer­i­ca First” or pro­pos­es a polit­i­cal sys­tem with­out the two par­ties or attacks jour­nal­ists or denies the exis­tence of facts, that should set of a series of asso­ci­a­tions with oth­er polit­i­cal sys­tems. We need peo­ple who can help trans­late ide­o­log­i­cal utter­ances into polit­i­cal warn­ings. Thinkers of the mid­dle of twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry are now being read again, and for good rea­son. The Amer­i­can canon includ­ed native and refugee ex-com­mu­nists who came to this coun­try of the 1930s, refugees from fas­cism and Nation­al Social­ism in the 40s, and the Cold War lib­er­als of the 1950s. There was this time where we engaged in polit­i­cal the­o­ry and his­to­ry, where peo­ple thought about what fas­cism and com­mu­nism meant for democ­ra­cy. Now, one rea­son why we can­not for­get the 1930s is that the pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion is clear­ly think­ing about them — but in a pos­i­tive sense. They seem to be after a kind of redo of the 1930s with Roo­sevelt where the Amer­i­cans take a dif­fer­ent course, where we don’t build a wel­fare state and don’t inter­vene in Europe to stop fas­cism. Lind­bergh instead of FDR. That is their notion. Some­thing went wrong with Roo­sevelt and now they want to go back and reverse it.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s polit­i­cal strate­gist, Steve Ban­non, has said that he wants to make life as excit­ing as it was in the 1930s.“ The first two weeks have shown how big his influ­ence is, it seems much big­ger than Reince Priebus’s or Jared Kushner’s.

I can’t speak to intra-White House con­flicts. I can only say that Mr. Trump’s inau­gur­al address was extreme­ly ide­o­log­i­cal. Dur­ing the cam­paign he used the slo­gan Amer­i­ca First” and then was informed that this was the name of a move­ment that tried to pre­vent the Unit­ed States from fight­ing Nazi Ger­many and was asso­ci­at­ed with nativists and white suprema­cists. He claimed then not to have known that. But in the inau­gur­al address he made Amer­i­ca First” his cen­tral them, and now he can’t say that he doesn’t know what it means. And of course Ban­non knows what it means. Amer­i­ca First is pre­cise­ly the con­ju­ra­tion of this alter­na­tive Amer­i­ca of the 1930s where Charles Lind­bergh is the hero. This inau­gur­al address reeked of the 1930s.

When Ban­non calls him­self a Lenin­ist,” do Amer­i­cans know what is he talk­ing about?

No, they usu­al­ly have no idea. It is a good ques­tion. Amer­i­cans have this idea that comes from Jef­fer­son and the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion that you have to rebel every so often. And they some­times don’t make the dis­tinc­tion between a rebel­lion against injus­tice and the extinc­tion of the whole polit­i­cal sys­tem, which is what Ban­non says that he is after. The Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion actu­al­ly pre­served ideas from Britain: the rule of law being the most impor­tant. The whole jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion was that the British were not liv­ing up to their own prin­ci­ples, were not includ­ing Amer­i­cans in their own sys­tem. In a broad way that was also the argu­ment of the civ­il rights move­ment: the sys­tem fails itself when it does not extend equal rights to all cit­i­zens. So there can be resis­tance and even rev­o­lu­tion which is about meet­ing stan­dards rather than about sim­ple destruc­tion. What Ban­non says cor­rect­ly about the Bol­she­viks was that they aimed to com­plete­ly destroy an old régime. We can slip from one to the oth­er very eas­i­ly, from rebel­lious­ness to a com­plete nega­tion of the sys­tem. Most Amer­i­cans had a rule of law state for most of their lives, African Amer­i­cans are an excep­tion, and so most Amer­i­cans think this will be there for­ev­er. They don’t get that a dis­rup­tion” can actu­al­ly destroy much of what they take for grant­ed. They have no notion what it means to destroy the state and how their lives would look like if the rule of law would no longer exist. I find it fright­en­ing that peo­ple who talk about the destruc­tion of the Amer­i­can state are now in charge of the Amer­i­can state.

Trump put a por­trait of Andrew Jack­son on the wall of the Oval Office, anoth­er pres­i­dent that was a pop­ulist. But peo­ple around him seem to have a wider agenda.

In the same inter­view with the Hol­ly­wood Reporter in which Ban­non talks about the excit­ing 1930s,” he talks about how he is oper­at­ing in the dark­ness. He com­pares him­self with Satan and Darth Vad­er and says in essence that he mis­leads the pub­lic and the media deliberately.

The White House state­ment for the Holo­caust Day on Jan­u­ary 27 didn’t men­tion Jews. At first it looked like a mis­take, but now it is offi­cial that it was intentional.

The Holo­caust ref­er­ence is very impor­tant on our side of the Atlantic. If Amer­i­cans have a ref­er­ence point in world his­to­ry, it is pre­cise­ly the Holo­caust, the Holo­caust and let’s say Nor­mandy, the Sec­ond World War, are the one aper­ture into a broad­er his­to­ry, one where republics fall and extremes tri­umph. So if Steve Ban­non turns the Holo­caust into talk about a lot of peo­ple have suf­fered” what is hap­pen­ing is that he is clos­ing that aper­ture. The next step is to say that main­ly Amer­i­cans are the vic­tims. His­to­ry then dies com­plete­ly and we are trapped in myth.

Which are the dif­fer­ences in how Ger­mans and Amer­i­cans remem­ber the Holocaust?

Let me answer this in a dif­fer­ent way. Nor­mal­ly when I speak to Ger­man jour­nal­ists, I try to empha­size parts of the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust that Ger­mans over­look or min­i­mize, and how those can allow Ger­mans to over­look cer­tain kinds of his­tor­i­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty or draw lessons that are too nar­row. In the Unit­ed States it is obvi­ous­ly very dif­fer­ent. It is not a mat­ter of tak­ing a debate about nation­al respon­si­bil­i­ty and try to make it broad­er by mak­ing it more inclu­sive of what we know about the his­tor­i­cal Holo­caust. It is rather a mat­ter of how a dis­tant non-Ger­man nation can try to see pat­terns, analo­gies, polit­i­cal lessons. And right now the com­par­i­son we need to pon­der is between the treat­ment of Mus­lims and the treat­ment of Jews. It is obvi­ous­ly the case that the point of the Mus­lim ban is to instruct Amer­i­cans that Mus­lims are an ene­my: a small, well-assim­i­lat­ed minor­i­ty that we are sup­posed to see not as our neigh­bors or as fel­low cit­i­zens but as ele­ments of an inter­na­tion­al threat. More than that, Trump’s pol­i­cy is a provo­ca­tion, which is prob­a­bly meant to pro­voke an event like the assas­si­na­tion of the Ger­man diplo­mat Ernst Eduard vom Rath on Novem­ber 71938.

When Ban­non calls the press the main oppo­si­tion par­ty“ that should make every­one con­cerned. This is not only intend­ed to cheer up Trump supporters.

When you say that the press is the oppo­si­tion, than you are advo­cat­ing a régime change in the Unit­ed States. When I am a Repub­li­can and say the Democ­rats are the oppo­si­tion, we talk about our sys­tem. If I say the gov­ern­ment is one par­ty and the press is the oppo­si­tion, then I talk about an author­i­tar­i­an state. This is régime change.

Last week Trump called those who take part in demon­stra­tions thugs” and paid pro­tes­tors.” This doesn’t show respect for First Amend­ment rights, it sounds more like Putin.

That is exact­ly what the Russ­ian lead­er­ship does. The idea is to mar­gin­al­ize the peo­ple who actu­al­ly rep­re­sent the core val­ues of the Repub­lic. The point is to bring down the Repub­lic. You can dis­agree with them, but once you say they have no right to protest or start lying about them, you are in effect say­ing: We want a régime where this is not pos­si­ble any­more.“ When the pres­i­dent says that it means that the exec­u­tive branch is engaged in régime change towards an author­i­tar­i­an régime with­out the rule of law. You are get­ting peo­ple used to this tran­si­tion, you are invit­ing them into the process by ask­ing them to have con­tempt for their fel­low cit­i­zens who are defend­ing the Repub­lic. You are also seduc­ing peo­ple into a world of per­ma­nent Inter­net lying and way from their own expe­ri­ences with oth­er peo­ple. Get­ting out to protest, this is some­thing real and I would say some­thing patri­ot­ic. Part of the new author­i­tar­i­an­ism is to get peo­ple to pre­fer fic­tion and inac­tion to real­i­ty and action. Peo­ple sit in their chairs, read the tweet and repeat the clichés: Yes, they are thugs” instead of it is nor­mal to get out in the streets for what you believe.” He is try­ing to teach peo­ple a new behav­ior: You just sit right where you are, read what I say and nod your head. That is the psy­chol­o­gy of régime change.

Today’s media envi­ron­ment is very dif­fer­ent from the 1930s, every­thing hap­pens so fast.

This is part of what con­tem­po­rary author­i­tar­i­ans do: They over­whelm you with bad news and try to make you depressed and say with res­ig­na­tion: Well, what can I do?” I think it is bet­ter to lim­it your­self. Read the news for half an hour a day, but don’t spend the whole day obsess­ing about it. Amer­i­cans have to pick one thing to be con­fi­dent about, and then act on it. If you care about and know about refugees, the press, glob­al warm­ing — choose one and talk with peo­ple around you about it. Nobody can do every­thing but every­one can do a lit­tle bit. And peo­ple doing their lit­tle bit will meet oth­ers doing the same, and the depres­sion lifts.

You post­ed 20 Lessons from the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry“ on your Face­book page in Novem­ber. Did your stu­dents here at Yale ask for advice? 

No, that wasn’t it. It was unprompt­ed, I was in Scan­di­navia dur­ing the elec­tion. I thought Trump would lose, that it would be close but he would lose. On the plane on the way back I start­ed think­ing about what we could learn from his­to­ry. When I had writ­ten about Trump ear­li­er in 2016, it was about his con­nec­tions to Rus­sia. The 20 lessons was the first attempt to bring some­thing I under­stand about Euro­pean his­to­ry to my fel­low Amer­i­cans in a way that is polit­i­cal­ly salient. I don’t usu­al­ly write direct­ly about Amer­i­can pol­i­tics; I am an Amer­i­can but inso­far as I have some­thing to offer it is rather because I know some­thing about con­tem­po­rary and his­tor­i­cal East­ern and Cen­tral Europe. Nobody asked me, but this was a way for me to start act­ing. We have to do some­thing. This is what I can do.

Do not obey in advance“ is the first rec­om­men­da­tion in this Face­book post. You also ref­er­ence the Reich­stags­brand“ as a warn­ing sign. How should the Amer­i­can pub­lic react?

Amer­i­cans love to use the word play­book,” which is a metaphor from sports. There is a play­book from the 1930s that some peo­ple in the pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion are fol­low­ing. This includes pick­ing a minor­i­ty in your coun­try, asso­ciate it with a glob­al threat and use the notion of a glob­al strug­gle as a way to cre­ate nation­al sol­i­dar­i­ty while neglect­ing the nation’s actu­al prob­lems. The Reich­stag Fire is the cru­cial moment when Hitler’s gov­ern­ment becomes a Nazi régime. An event of that type, whether unex­pect­ed, pro­voked, or planned by the gov­ern­ment, can be a turn­ing point in the Unit­ed States today. This goes back to the begin­ning of our con­ver­sa­tion: If we think about the 1930s, then we can be aware of events, and of cer­tain forks in the road. If a ter­ror attack hap­pens in the Unit­ed States, that is sim­ply the Trump admin­is­tra­tion fail­ing to keep its most basic promise. It is not a rea­son to sus­pend the rights of Amer­i­cans or declare, have a state of emer­gency. His­to­ry teach­es us the tricks of author­i­tar­i­ans. We can’t allow our­selves to fall for them.

There were a lot of demon­stra­tions in hun­dreds of cities, but the opin­ion of Trump sup­port­ers has­n’t changed. They are not moved by the huge crowds. Would this be too ear­ly to expect?

These are two dif­fer­ent things. With some­thing like the Mus­lim ban, it is impor­tant a lot of peo­ple react very quick­ly because if the gov­ern­ment can slice off one group, it can do the same to oth­ers. This is a polit­i­cal log­ic that requires quick action rather than wait­ing for pub­lic opin­ion polls. Amer­i­cans were actu­al­ly bet­ter than Ger­mans, they got out right away. Some Amer­i­cans do seem [to] under­stand the log­ic, they move quick­ly. So the air­port protests are not in the first instance about com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the Trump sup­port­ers; they [are] about mak­ing clear to the admin­is­tra­tion that we rec­og­nize what you are doing and that we oppose this log­ic. Indi­rect­ly, the protests com­mu­ni­cate to the major­i­ty that there are two sides to the issue, and that they should think for them­selves. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Trump sup­port­ers is dif­fer­ent. You have to have peo­ple out, wav­ing flags and describ­ing them­selves as patri­ots, even as they decry and resist par­tic­u­lar poli­cies. It is impor­tant for peo­ple to con­sid­er that author­i­tar­i­an­ism, though it claims all the nation­al sym­bols, is not patri­o­tism. Over time, protests that are for a bet­ter Amer­i­ca are impor­tant to change minds and swing over Repub­li­cans — and I should say that I have already seen a num­ber of Repub­li­cans whom I know per­son­al­ly in the protests. It needs time, this is more about six months or one year. They just elect­ed him three months ago, for now there is still the frame in place that that he will change every­thing and improve their lives, oth­er things can seem like details so long as this basic hope remains. It might take a while for peo­ple to real­ize that mak­ing Amer­i­ca into a Trump fam­i­ly wel­fare state is not in the inter­est of Amer­i­cans whose name is not Trump. One of the main prob­lems is the Inter­net and the polar­iza­tion and sim­ple unre­al­i­ty that it gen­er­ates. It is impor­tant to talk about these issues in per­son. I have a lit­tle book called On Tyran­ny and I will do my best to talk about it with peo­ple who think in var­i­ous ways about politics.

We are here in New Haven, a lib­er­al bub­ble. Do you encour­age your stu­dents to do that?

They are doing it. An under­grad­u­ate who is from New York took the train all the way to the south­west, just to talk to pas­sen­gers. Young peo­ple have to do that. The risk is that they shift from tak­ing free­dom for grant­ed to tak­ing unfree­dom for grant­ed, with­out real­iz­ing that it is pre­cise­ly their choice and their voice that can make the dif­fer­ence. And keep in mind that these con­ver­sa­tions can cre­ate com­mon ground. Some of the rea­sons some peo­ple vot­ed for Trump make sense. You sim­ply dis­miss all of them accord­ing to your own stereo­types. It is not always as sim­ple as the East Coast peo­ple will tell you. Trump has unleashed pub­lic racism of a kind we have not seen for decades. That is true. This racism in turn releas­es ener­gies that can change the whole sys­tem. Also true. But at the same time, he would not be pres­i­dent with­out white peo­ple in cru­cial states who vot­ed for Oba­ma twice. So you can’t sim­ply dis­miss all of these peo­ple as racists, because in some cas­es their votes also brought us our first black pres­i­dent. A lot of Trump vot­ers would have vot­ed for Bernie Sanders, who is a Jew­ish social­ist. There are prob­lems and that have to do with glob­al­iza­tion and inequal­i­ty that can’t be wished away. Maybe not every cit­i­zen can artic­u­late these prob­lems in the best way, but many vot­ers have good rea­sons to be wor­ried about glob­al­iza­tion. Hillary Clin­ton did have actu­al poli­cies that would have helped — that’s the tragedy. But she wasn’t able to com­mu­ni­cate that she under­stood the problem.

On Face­book there are a lot of count­downs: 3 years, 11 months, 1 week until Pres­i­dent Trump’s first term is over. How is your mood, do you see hope? 

The march­es were very encour­ag­ing. These were quite pos­si­bly the largest demon­stra­tions in the his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States, just in sheer num­bers on one sin­gle day. That sort of ini­tia­tive has to con­tin­ue. The Con­sti­tu­tion is worth sav­ing, the rule of law is worth sav­ing, democ­ra­cy is worth sav­ing, but these things can and will be lost if every­one waits around for some­one else. If we want encour­age­ment out of the Oval Office, we will not get it. We are not get­ting encour­age­ment thus far from Repub­li­cans. They have good rea­sons to defend the repub­lic but thus far they are not doing so, with a few excep­tions. You want to end on a pos­i­tive note, I know; but I think things have tight­ened up very fast, we have at most a year to defend the Repub­lic, per­haps less. What hap­pens in the next few weeks is very important.

Matthias Kolb is the U.S. polit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for the web­site of Süd­deutsche Zeitung, Ger­many’s lead­ing dai­ly news­pa­per. He cov­ered both the 2012 and 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions being based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., but tries to leave the city as often as pos­si­ble to do sto­ries about life out­side the D.C. bub­ble. He is also a con­trib­u­tor to Ger­man pub­lic radio Zündfunk.
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