Behind the story Why Americans ask me more and more often about the AfD during the US election campaign

While Trump has been an issue in Germany for years, the AfD has long been an unknown phenomenon in the USA. That has changed, how star-Reporter Jan Christoph Wiechmann found out.

I didn’t think that the AfD would follow me all the way to America, more precisely to Atkinson, New Hampshire, population 7,150. I had only traveled 300 kilometers on the journey through the 2024 election year and had passed the first snowstorm in the Northeast when the visitor to a Trump event asked: “So you’re a reporter from Germany? Are you the ones who are so negative about the AfD report?” He pronounced “AfD” without an accent, as if it were a well-known brand in the USA. Like BMW. Or VW.

“Quite critical,” I replied.

“I don’t talk to people like that,” replied the bald man, who looked about 50. His wife had already left – full of contempt for the German reporter.

Later on stage, Donald Trump raved about Victor Orbán and Javier Milei, just as he had previously raved about Putin and Bolsonaro, his brothers in spirit. The only thing missing was that he also called Björn Höcke. Two rows in front of me sat a group of about ten young men who spoke German to each other. They wore the shaved neck and side parting that is fashionable today, but I can never get the sight of the HJ parting out of my head.

I asked the young men in German what they were doing here, but they just looked at each other and turned away without saying a word. One can well imagine that they wanted to learn something from Trump, the godfather of all ultra-right. If there’s one thing the AfD doesn’t have yet, it’s a Trump or Orbán or Wilders or Bolsonaro or Milei.

If you see Trump live these days – compared to the 2016 and 2020 election campaigns – then you see a radical old man who is in no way inferior to the AfD – or vice versa. Migrants should be deported, judges fired, drug dealers shot, journalists rounded up, NATO countries attacked. With such radical demands, the AfD would probably not even get a majority in its strongholds.

As president, Trump would not have allowed his own mother into the country

And Trump always says: America First. Patriots First. It sounds a bit like “Germany for the Germans” from the man whose mother was a poor immigrant from Scotland. Consequently, he would have to say about his own mother and his German grandfather what he says about all desperate migrants today: “They are poisoning the blood of our country.”

As president, he would not have allowed his own mother into the country.

During the last elections in 2020, I was not asked about the AfD in America and especially not before that in 2016. It’s different this time. In both camps, Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats used to say: Be happy that someone like Trump isn’t possible in Germany. Today, at election rallies like in the small town of Concord, people often say: Aren’t the Nazis coming to you too?

How should one explain the AfD to the world, just 80 years after Hitler?

When it comes to Germany, I used to be asked about the great, limitless motorways (where there should actually be speed limits). Or the great, full-bodied beer (which now tastes much fuller in America’s hundreds of microbreweries). Or the great Jürgen Klinsmann (who hasn’t had anything going on for decades). Or the great Arnold Schwarzenegger (who is not German). Or Adolf Hitler.

So now onto the AfD.

How should one explain the strengthened AfD to the world – just 80 years after Hitler? The good thing about being a journalist is that you can take refuge in questions instead of having to give long explanations. So in Atkinson I came back to the question that we will probably ask hundreds of times on this tour of America: How can it be that you actually want this nationalist demagogue as president again?