The Social Democratic Party (SPD) went into last week’s European elections with some bold, albeit vague campaign slogans: “Come together and make Europe strong” was one. “Europe is the answer” was another. Given the party’s humiliating performance, taking in a new historic low of just over 15 percent, one has to wonder whether they were asking the right questions.
The Social Democrats lean hard on “more Europe” as the solution to Germany’s problems, and are far more likely to praise French president Emmanuel Macron than defend the leader of their British sister party, Jeremy Corbyn. They banked on selling themselves as a stable, mildly progressive bulwark against creeping right-wing populism but seem to have lost this role to the Greens, who broke 20 percent in a nationwide election for the first time…
Catastrophic as the election may have been, it was anything but unexpected. The Social Democrats have been lumbering from one defeat to the next for nearly two decades, their toxic brand of what Oliver Nachtwey calls “politics without politics” costing them hundreds of thousands of members and millions of voters. The European elections were merely the latest confirmation of a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral for what was once the proudest, strongest socialist party on earth…
On paper, the party’s campaign talking points were practically indistinguishable from their competitors. So why did the Greens do so well while the SPD crashed and burned?
At the risk of oversimplifying things, the SPD in 2019 has a serious credibility problem. The Social Democrats have spent nine of the last fourteen years carrying water for Angela Merkel’s grand coalition in Berlin, burning through eight different leaders in the process. It seems whoever dares take up the mantle, whether party stalwart Sigmar Gabriel or the most recent disappointment Martin Schulz, puts their entire political career at risk. What’s left of the SPD’s base is sick and tired of the coalition, and anyone who associates themselves with it soon becomes a political liability to be disposed of after the next electoral defeat and superficial attempt at rebooting the party.
The Green Party and “far right” Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) are drawing off the SPD’s refugees, but if the boldface (added) below is true, they are anything but populist:
The reasons behind the Greens’ appeal are fairly evident, as the Fridays for Future protests dominated German headlines in the months leading up to the elections and climate change became a key issue for many voters. The Greens seem to offer a modern, progressive answer to climate change and tap into the cultural attitudes of urban and middle-class milieus. Unburdened by historical ties to labor unions or other working-class organizations, they can deftly navigate between groups and more authentically embody liberal Europeanism than their stale Social Democratic counterparts. More importantly, unlike the SPD they’ve been in the opposition throughout Merkel’s reign and can plausibly claim to represent a breath of fresh air. For the first time in their history, they may have a real shot at the chancellorship in 2021.
There are practical reasons for a coalition of Greens and nationalists that will unfortunately never happen, as borders and population control are the greenest policies of all. Of course, that’s if you take the Greens at their word. As for the nationalists, everybody takes them at their word, which I think is telling of the justice of their cause.
The SPD’s coalition partner, the Christian Democratic Union, is no longer led by the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her chosen successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, is already under fire for proposing speech restrictions ahead of elections and arousing suspicions of incompetence:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dismissed a report that she believes her successor as CDU party leader is not up to the job.
The claim, which she called nonsense, was made by two unidentified officials in a Bloomberg article on Tuesday.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer will take over as leader of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) next year.
She has been criticised in recent days for suggesting a debate on rules for how “opinion is manufactured” online.
The suggestion was prompted by a viral YouTube video, in which prominent vlogger Rezo accused the government of failing to tackle climate change and income inequality. Dozens of other YouTubers subsequently called on German voters to withhold their votes for the CDU and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats.
Populist nationalism is on the rise as elsewhere in Europe, but with much discontent going over to the far left Green Party I suspect the mainstream parties will align with them expressly to deny the AfD any role in a governing coalition.
Once a model socialist town named Karl Marx City, Chemnitz in the east German state of Saxony has witnessed dramatic political changes over the years.
In this edition of Insiders: Unreported Europe Ayman Oghanna visits the city which once fought for the fall of a totalitarian communist regime but is now fast becoming the symbol of Germany’s newly assertive far right, once again exposing the country’s east-west divide.
It started in August 2018 when a German man was stabbed to death, allegedly during a brawl with two refugees from Iraq and Syria. What followed, was a week of angry anti-immigrant protests that saw neo-Nazis, far-right groups and thousands of ordinary citizens marching together in Chemnitz against migration.
The protests stand as a watershed moment amongst the outpouring of anti-immigrant hatred that has swelled as Germany’s far-right grows bolder and stronger, following the 2015 migrant crisis.
At the heart of Germany’s newly assertive far right is the AfD, Alternative for Germany, a populist anti-immigrant party.
Whilst the AfD has only been around for six years, it has already achieved stunning success, becoming the third largest party in the Bundestag.
All in keeping with my pet theory that the right place to be, it turns out, was on the commie side of the Iron Curtain. These places have not been led along the primrose path to destruction and have some nerve left it seems.
Raumpatrouille Orion, the “German Star Trek”: