“Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel,” said Donald Trump at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, this week. “We have enough problems in our country. We don’t need more.”
If Trump’s new moniker for his opponent, replacing “Crooked Hillary,” raised eyebrows, it might have been in confusion. Americans show low recognition of Merkel, and a third have no opinion of her at all, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.
Turns out, Trump has solid strategic reasons to do so: He’s signaling to the far right, which despises Merkel for sullying German purity by letting in refugees.
“There is no question that the people who call him their ‘glorious leader’ know exactly what he’s talking about,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told Think Progress. “That is the audience that is concerned about this issue. Merkel is hated by Trump’s white supremacist supporters, and she and Clinton are seen in the same light.”
Indeed, Trump told the crowd that Merkel’s immigration policies for refugees fleeing violence and unrest in the Middle East have led to a rise in crime in Germany.
Trump may have been citing a report by Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office that reported a 79% rise in crime by immigrants in Germany over a period of time during which its immigrant population rose by 440%. The English language German newspaper The Local reported that refugees are actually committing less crime than Germans.
After his speech Trump distributed two press releases that referred to Clinton as “America’s Merkel,” and began using the hashtag #AmericasMerkel on Twitter.
Think Progress wrote that the nickname was a likely overture to the far right, ultranationalists and white supremacists. Merkel is a constant target far right and neo-Nazi internet forums, especially on sites like Daily Stormer, American Renaissance and the White Genocide Project.
Much of this hatred of Merkel comes from Europe’s Generation Identity movement, with has released videos and books accusing politicians like Merkel of trying to destroy white ethnic heritage.
“You impose tolerance and diversity but you mean self-hatred, self-denial, and self-abolishment. You love and support the foreign and hate and fight what is our own,” one video states.
Trump has clearly changed his position on Merkel since his 2013 praising the European leader:
Trump also has personal reasons for his attack on Merkel: Sour grapes.
Last year, after not receiving the title of Time magazine’s Person of the Year, Trump took to Twitter to vent his disappointment.
I told you @TIME Magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite They picked person who is ruining Germany— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2015