Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy was at first laughable – a humorous topic of conversation for pleasant circles of political aficionados. One could delightfully amuse oneself about the churlish, foppish, crazed real estate tycoon from New York. The comparative consideration of the speeches of Trump and the fascist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, brings such evening gatherings to shudder at the similarities. The common appearance of Trump and Brexit organizer Nigel Farage, who relinquished all responsibility after the Brexit vote, lets at least those who are politically paranoid believe in a conspiracy of populist will-o’-the-wisps.

When Trump secured the Republican presidential candidacy with a mixture of ruthlessness, cold-bloodedness and stark populism against most of the augers, it at first appeared to be a catastrophe. Yet the tragedy was followed by a farce that is now becoming surreal: On Wednesday, Trump visited Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City, where the Mexican president bizarrely received him as a guest of state instead of immediately passing him off as an enemy of the state because, at his election events, Trump characterizes Mexicans as a band of drug smugglers, rapists and criminals and demands in his speeches that Mexico pay for the construction of an over 3,000 kilometer long border wall.

Trump is the incarnate portent of the decadence of the dysfunctional American democracy. How could one like Trump get so far? And how could the Republican Party become such a rundown party that raises one such as Trump on its shield? It is truly a far way for a party whose pillar Ronald Reagan demanded 29 years ago at the Brandenburg Gate the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and whose present presidential candidate wants to build a new wall. And so Trump at the same time becomes a symbolic figure of our time: In the late 1980s, it was a matter of tearing down walls and in the late 2010s, a matter of building of new ones.

In 1987, the year of Reagan’s speech in Berlin, there were thawing relations, perestroika and glasnost. 2017 promises to become a further year of crisis after the difficult years since 2008 – even more so, should Donald Trump be elected the 45th president of the United States.