Germany Moves Right, Again
The Weekly Standard catches on to what I’ve argued here for several years: The Germans Turn Right
France’s National Front, the UK Independence party, the Republican party in the Trump era . . . Germany used not to have groups like those. The rawness of the country’s memory of Nazism gave it an aversion to the style of politics now called populist. But something has destroyed the German party system. Possibly it is globalization or the mere passage of time. More likely it is Merkel’s invitation in the late summer of 2015 to refugees fleeing the war in Syria—an invitation she saw fit to extend without consulting parliament. Germany got over a million immigrants in the months that followed, virtually all of them Muslims, the vast majority young men, and most of them from places other than Syria. At the time Merkel appealed to the common decency of Germans: “If we have to apologize for showing a friendly face,” she said, “then this is not my country.”
Perhaps it is not. “Nazis,” said Merkel’s foreign minister, the Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, “are going to speak in the Reichstag for the first time in 70 years.” That is an oversimplification. The AfD was founded in 2013 by a group of policymakers and economists concerned Germany would need to bail out Greece and other failing European economies in the wake of the financial crisis. It was a single-issue party, and that year it fell just short of the 5 percent required to get seats. In 2015, as the first reports emerged of migrants moving north across the Mediterranean, the party spokeswoman Frauke Petry had a brainstorm. Her backers, much more worried about Islamization than inflation, helped her oust the nerdy leader Bernd Lucke. The party now had a different profile. Petry was ebullient, eloquent, Anglophone, and East German, and beloved by the rank and file. Her party added to its core of concerned businessmen new groups of cultural conservatives and nationalists, not to mention extremists of all varieties.
Refugees began pouring into the country months later. On New Year’s Eve 2015-16, groups of North African immigrants isolated, surrounded, and groped hundreds of women on the square in front of Cologne’s cathedral. The details were not known to the public until weeks later, thanks to the obstinacy of local police in covering it up and of politicians in minimizing it. Soon the AfD was racking up seats in state parliaments, and lots of them—getting a quarter of the vote in the eastern region of Sachsen-Anhalt and even 15 percent in yuppie Baden-Württemberg. (In this fall’s national election, the AfD was the number-one party in Saxony, taking a third of the vote in Petry’s Saxon stronghold.)
At the end of 2015 I wrote a post titled, “This One Chart Explains the Next 10 Years of Political Change“
I’ve said that whoever picks up the immigration issue will run to victory because they will have the public support and zero political opposition. In fact, the establishment will fight them so hard that they will create a binary political situation. Instead of shifting to the right to maintain power (the Pareto optimal, robust position) the ruling class is moving into a fragile position that increases the likelihood and size of potential losses. Sweden Democrats are iced out of government, a big loss for them in terms of political power, but if the people want to throw out the government, now they have one option only: Sweden Democrats or perhaps an still non-existent far right party. If the GOP establishment does support Hillary Clinton, the argument that America has only one political party will be an observable fact. In France, if the left and right team up to defeat the National Front, voters will have the same choice going forward.
The political opposition is anti-fragile. If there is a major terror attack, if there is a major economic dislocation, if there is an unpopular war, then the opposition can go from obscurity to total political power in one election cycle.
…To summarize. The electorate increasingly wants a major change and it may desire a multi-generational political realignment. The ruling class responds by circling the wagons. This keeps outsiders from gaining political power, but by doing so, it increases the need/desire to throw out the entire political class.
Now, this reality has come to Germany. This chart below shows where voters place the various political parties on the political spectrum. Notice the Free Democrats and Merkel’s CDU drift so far to the left that they are now considered left-wing parties.
The only question now is the length of the negative mood trend. If this a short-term cycle, then this is the 1970s. The high-water mark hasn’t been hit, but it will quickly be eclipsed by a new wave of positive mood. If instead this is a larger cycle, there’s still a decade or more to go (at least) before it ends. Mass deportation of Muslims is not a zero probability event, nor even a low probability event depending on how negative mood gets. Civil war and world war are also serious possibilities for many nations because their leaders continue choosing the absolute worst of all possible policy paths.