Instapundit tweeted a link to this Der Spiegel piece on the success of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party against Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. It’s a lengthy and illuminating piece.
The immigration crisis is just the final straw for conservative German voters who have watched the Christian Democratic Union drift leftward. “He then lists all of the things that the CDU has done wrong in recent years: abandoning nuclear power, introducing a minimum wage, same-sex marriage…It is a rebellion targeting a CDU leader who has continually led her party to the left.”
But it’s more than that.
At its core, the rise of the AfD is the story of strife and of growing alienation between the chancellor and a portion of the German electorate. The triumph of the AfD is nothing less than a revolt against Angela Merkel.
It is a rebellion targeting a CDU leader who has continually led her party to the left, stripping many conservatives of a political home. It also targets a chancellor whose open borders policy in the refugee crisis may be attractive to left-leaning Germans, but is one which strikes more conservative voters as high-handed. Hotelier Schäfer, for his part, thinks it is naive to believe that so many Muslim refugees can be integrated into German society. “We are endangering our freedom when we take in too many people who don’t want this freedom,” he says.
Above all, however, the revolt is aimed at the chancellor as a symbol of the country’s elite — an elite which has supposedly lost sight of the people and their concerns. For many in Germany, Merkel has become the personification of a “ruling class” — a class that not only includes the CDU, the center-left Social Democrats and the Greens, but also business leaders, union leaders and the media.
When Merkel took over the CDU, she took a dispassionate view of the doctrines and rites that defined her party. She cleaned out the CDU’s political platform the way others dispose of worn socks from their sock drawer.
Old CDU traditions were of secondary concern for the new party chairwoman; she was more focused on expanding her party’s electorate. Instead of seeing politics as the great battle over the shape of society and grand ideas, she reduced it to strategy and the consolidation of power. She moved her party so far to the middle that it soon became difficult to distinguish it from the Social Democrats. She didn’t wrestle with the SPD over political positions, she simply copied theirs — and took over popular elements of the Green Party platform as well. Under her leadership, the CDU became a kind of Germany Party that leaned neither right nor left. Rather, it was “alternativlos,” as Merkel liked to say — there was no alternative.
A vital part of any healthy democracy is having alternatives and parties that are distinguishable from each other. At the moment, it’s no longer possible to tell what it is that separates the CDU from the SPD or the Greens. The party is whatever Merkel says it is. There are close to no correctives left in Germany and there is no longer a balance of power. The more Merkel tries to peddle her policies as being without alternative, the greater the anger within the populace will grow.
The entire political situation in Europe arises from elites doing all they can to insulate their institutions and power from the crass rabble know as “voters.” But voters across Europe and America are sick and tired of the Permanent Incumbent Party doing what’s best for elite interests and ignoring the will of the voters.
And the longer elites refuse to change course, the more terrible the reckoning will be when it comes…