Streetwise Professor

September 25, 2017

Whoops, They Did It Again! After the German Election, the Establishment is 0-for-3.

Filed under: Energy,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:36 am

I am experiencing considerable–what’s that word? oh yes!, schadenfreude–at the German election results. Although Angela Merkel’s party received the largest share of the vote, the results were a shocking setback for her. The CDU/CSU won the largest share of the vote, but this share was the lowest since WWII and represented a double-digit drop from the 2013 vote. Further, the CSU’s leader is mooting a split from the CDU. Merkel is almost certain to have to craft a coalition including three other parties–including the Greens–and this will be time consuming and constrain her power even once the coalition is in place. But the biggest setback at all was due to the stunning surge of Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), the nationalist (and typically referred to as “far right”) party, which not only surpassed the 5 percent hurdle for parliamentary representation, but garnered 13 percent of the vote.

On Friday, Merkel was lionized. Now she is a greatly diminished figure. So much for the New Leader of the Western World, the Tamer of Trump, the Vanquisher of Populism.

And it’s not like this should be surprising. This is at least the third major replay of the movie–first Brexit, then Trump, now Merkel/AfD. Like the Remainers and the Democrats, Merkel condescended to the broad strain of popular (and populist) unease at her policies, most notably her immigration policy. Indeed, she and the rest of “elite” German (and indeed, Western) opinion could barely contain their disdain, and indeed revulsion, at any of the hoi polloi who dared question the wisdom of admitting a million plus immigrants from Muslim countries, or who expressed so much as concern at the criminality (especially sex crimes) and terrorism risk associated with the immigration wave: such people were the German version of The Deplorables. To the contrary: Merkel et al used this criticism as an opportunity to engage in a spasm of virtue signalling, not to say moralistic onanism. Those who agreed with them were morally elevated: those who disagreed, or even questioned, were knuckle dragging crypto–or not so crypto–fascists.

And as in the UK and the US, the knuckle draggers had the vote–and used it to take their revenge.

It is hard to discern from biased media coverage just what AfD really is. Perhaps David Goldman (AKA Spengler) is right that it is “an America-hating ethnic nationalist monster crawling with Nazi nostalgia.” I seriously doubt, however, that most of those who voted for it fit that description. But in some ways the party’s alleged ugliness, and the scorn and derision heaped on it by Merkel and the establishment, were a feature and not a bug to those looking to express opposition to the establishment’s policies. In a parliamentary system, voting for a fringe party is a way of sending a message, and what better way to send a message to Angela et al than by voting for a party that makes them recoil in horror because of its often extreme views? The only way to snap them out of their virtue signaling and self-pleasuring reveries is a 2×4 upside the head: voting for an AfD that elite opinion considered beyond the pale did just that. For that purpose, the more reprehensible the party, the better.

Such a smack may be necessary, but it may not prove sufficient. For what the post-Brexit and post-Trump reactions of the elite demonstrate is that they are incapable of reconsideration or self-examination or self-doubt. They are so convinced of their own superiority (especially moral superiority) that they tend to double down on the derision and condescension. Thus, electoral shocks tend to be merely the first battle in a protracted and increasingly hysterical war between the soi disant elite and those they believe it is their right to rule. We see that in the US today, with no respites even on the Sabbath, as the current frenzy over the NFL demonstrates.

My schadenfreude is only increased by the fact that Germany lapped France  as the most annoying country in Europe some time ago. German annoyingness was the product of two currents, one of which is longstanding, the other more recent. The longstanding current is that of various German national neuroses, most notably the need to cope with the awesome responsibility for the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century, the two World Wars, and in particular the crimes committed in the second of these. To prove that they are different now, the Germans have long held themselves out as morally superior judges of everyone else. Notable examples include virulent German criticism of Israel (especially useful because if Israelis are no better than Nazis, the moral valence of the Holocaust is diminished) and of the US in Vietnam, and latterly Iraq. German criticism of lazy southern Europeans is a somewhat less egregious, but nonetheless notable, example of this tendency. Virtue signaling is a natural pastime.

The second current is Germany’s economic ascendance, especially in the context of the EU. Germany emerged from the Financial Crisis as the dominant economy in Europe, by far. Its main rival within the EU, France, fared not nearly so well, and this combined with British exit has left Germany preeminent in the EU. And they have not been shy to exercise this dominance–nor should they have been expected to, given the aforementioned belief in their moral superiority. Germany–with Merkel in the lead–has been the biggest force pushing for MOAR Europe, because in their current circumstances, More Europe means More German Power.

Of particular relevance in light of the election results, one of the most appalling manifestations of this has been Germany’s insistence on imposing its open borders policy on other countries, especially in eastern Europe (notably Poland). For its part, the Polish government knows how to hit Germany where it hurts (in its swollen sense of superiority) by threatening to demand trillions in reparations for WWII. (The issue of WWII illustrates Churchill’s aphorism about the Germans being either “at your throat or at your feet” very well. It is interesting to note how the Germans have been at times groveling to the Russians in recognizing their depredations in Russia during WWII, but have not behaved similarly to Poland, even though German crimes there were probably greater, and Polish responsibility for the war far less than Russia’s.)

German energy policy is another example. The Germans have been intent on forcing Nordstream I and now II on Europe because it benefits Germany, even though it leaves eastern Europe in the Russian energy thrall. Related to this is the schizophrenic German policy on Russia. On the one hand it has insisted on maintaining sanctions on Russia for Ukraine, but on the other hand it freaked out when the US tightened sanctions on Russia because this undermined German attempts to secure gas supplies from the Russians.  The Germans insist on sending a signal–as long as they don’t have to pay a price.

So even if–or especially if–AfD is as bad as Spengler says, its shockingly strong performance yesterday will have major political effects outside of the borders of Germany. It has proven that Merkel has feet of clay. It will lead to a protracted negotiation over a coalition that in the end will leave Merkel diminished and constrained. It will probably spark a vicious political battle in Germany over immigration and Europe that will derail Germany’s attempt at world domination by other means.

And as much as the western establishments will wail, these are good things. In fact, the wailing is probably the best indication of that which one could imagine.

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17 Comments »

  1. The best analyze i read on the last 24 hours. So true and so not copy-past as other dozens of articles that seem to understand nothing about real life politics.

    Comment by Raviv — September 25, 2017 @ 1:52 pm

  2. “Germany lapped France as the most annoying country in Europe some time ago.”

    If you are Catholic, this is equally true. I offer just one example (really, 10,000 examples would be a drop in the bucket) but when it was noised recently that the Church is growing in Africa (which is strongly orthodox), but shrinking in Germany (where there is a strong question of the orthodoxy even of the bishops), the German Bishop’s website responded that:

    “It grows [in Africa] because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions [of faith].” (ref. https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2015/11/german-bishops-website-on-africa-cardinal-sarah)

    !!

    You’d think they’d have at least some self-awareness regarding racism, but Germany continues to astound. As one of the most prominent German Cardinals responded when faced with concerns and criticisms from Africa of some of the German proposals, “they should not tell us too much what we have to do.”

    I don’t really have a response to the arrogance, other than to turn this all around and say both politically and religiously, Germany is of all, the one that “should not tell us too much what we have to do.”

    Comment by ThomasL — September 25, 2017 @ 1:52 pm

  3. @ThomasL-

    Germans gonna German.

    Fascinating story. Thanks for sharing!

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 25, 2017 @ 2:30 pm

  4. @Raviv-Thanks!

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 25, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

  5. Hi Prof, minor quibble: it’s Alternative (not Alliance) für Deutschland.

    Much like the American hysteria over white nationalists/Nazis, the mainstream media in Germany is unable to accept that a party can represent a reactionary, nationalist & populist conservatism without being beyond-the-pale “far right” (i.e. dog-whistle: NAZI!!!). It’s ironic that David Goldman uses the example of the party PURGING itself of a senior leader accused (arguably unfairly) of neo-nazism as evidence for AfD being an “America-hating ethnic nationalist monster crawling with Nazi nostalgia”.

    In most Western countries AfD could fit within mainstream conservative/right-wing politics. If you look at the post-polling data it looks like most of AfD’s electoral gains came from the party cannibalising traditional CDU/CSU voters, i.e. the conservative/reactionary Christian middle-class (hint: the “C” in CDU and CSU stands for “Christian”, people). It’s nationalist, eurosceptic, warming-sceptic and “family-centric”, i.e. opposed to feminism and improving LGBT rights. Thus clearly conservative/right-wing, but not “far-right” relative to the available spectrum. In fact, I’d argue that its ideology is so close to that of traditional CDU/CSU voters that it wouldn’t have made much headway electorally without riding voter-fury over Merkel’s open-door policy on immigration.

    Comment by Fyodor — September 25, 2017 @ 4:34 pm

  6. @Fyodor-Thanks. Changed. Speed kills.

    I think you are likely correct. This is the way the moderate/conservative CDU/CSU voter registered a protest with Merkel. The reason I wrote that I didn’t know exactly what AfD represents is precisely that trying to learn anything through the media filter is impossible–especially since the epithet “far-right” is used more promiscuously than a $20 hooker.

    As for Goldman, I basically used what he wrote as a foil. Even if he is right about some elements of AfD, I doubt he is right about all who voted for them, and they did so precisely because the Overton Window did not permit them to express their disagreement with Merkel in any other way but voting for a party with an odious reputation among the establishment.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 25, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

  7. This is a topic where David P. Goldman should not be relied upon. He’s better on finance and economics.

    Comment by Thomas Jefferson — September 26, 2017 @ 10:11 am

  8. Speaking of throwing the Nazi label around this guy effin nailed Antifa perps at Berkeley-

    David Marquis, who identified himself as a senior at the school, said he was tired of the protests on campus. Marquis was outside the protest area and described the scene.

    “If you look at them, it’s ridiculous,” Marquis told the Los Angeles Times. “You’ve got a guy with purple hair with a f—ing lightsaber talking about Hitler. It’s hard for me to take any of this seriously.”

    Comment by pahoben — September 27, 2017 @ 6:04 am

  9. I think you’re better sticking with analyzing the US culture war. Everytime you write about Europe it seems to consist mainly of a bunch of fairly lazy stereotypes and cliches.

    You’re on very flimsy ground trying to find commonality with Brexit and Trump; these were shocking and unexpected results which are having seismic effects on the respective countries. The AfD result is nothing like that – the results were in line with the polls (12%) – which quite a few points below their peak last year at around 20%. Peak AfD has passed and the party is already semi-imploding with the leader resigning. Polls show that immigration has fallen remarkably quickly as a concern of German voters as the initial refugee chaos has subsided (currently around 10th after more mundane stuff like pensions, jobs, schools and crime). Yes Angela will have to lead a coalition but that’s a fairly routine arrangement in the Bundestag. So there’s nothing earth shattering in this election result (compared to Brexit and Trump).

    Your reading of the German national character is fairly off too from my experience of living there briefly, working with them professionally and fairly regular exposure to German media (living in a small neighbouring country now) – your “morally superior judges of everyone else” claim is simply unrecognisable. Yes there are some broadly recognisable unattractive German traits but moral superiority is not one I’ve observed. And ou’re way off accusing Germany of being anti-Israel, no-one is more pro-Israel both in public and in private diplomatic circles.

    Germany has not “imposed it’s open border policy on other countries” – such a claim shows you’ve little idea of what’s going on in the EU wrt refugees. The problem is caused by the flawed and old “Dublin regulation” which insists that a refugee may not move around with in the EU – they must apply for and be processed for asylum in the country of arrival. This means most of the refugees (genuine and those piggybacking on the Syrian humanitarian crisis) end up in Greece, Italy or Spain (and for a while Hungary). Of course such a regulation is apealing to northern and central EU countries but is completely unfair to Greece and Italy in particular – they are expected to house and care for nearly all the refugees arriving in Europe and police their borders to ensure the immigrants don’t “leak” into the rest of the EU. These southern European states had been screaming for a change to the Dublin regulation and Germany (and a few other countries) lent political support to their claim. Seems completely reasonable to me – what’s the alternative?

    The only place where you’re spot on is in your criticism of German energy policy.

    Comment by derriz — September 27, 2017 @ 2:10 pm

  10. @derriz
    I think your post mis-characterizes actual events so maybe I don’t properly understand your post. The preferred migration path was initially through the Balkans and hence through Macedonia. Macedonia who is not an EU country closed its border with Greece. Macedonia closing its borders had nothing to do with the Dublin Resolution-they are not even an EU member. This is similar to events 2400 years ago when the Macedonians and Macedonian troops under Alexander the Great resisted his plan to introduce Persian customs into Macedonia. Apparently Persian customs were more in tune with the psychological needs of a megalomaniac who believed he was the son of Zeus. He even used Persian troops to put down discontented Macedonian troops. His cause of death is still undetermined and my favorite story is that Aristotle participated in his poisoning.

    Another big blow to the Balkans migration route was Hungary closing its borders. I don’t understand your thesis at all at that point. You state that Germany isn’t enforcing Wilkommenskulture on its neighbors but then you imply open borders should be enforced but is not because of what you consider the unfair Dublin Resolution.

    Also in fact a lot of German funding goes to NGO’s that are clearly anti Israel.

    Comment by pahoben — September 28, 2017 @ 2:59 am

  11. Of course in principle Merkel is anti Israel but cannot be seen to be anti Israel. Merkel is near the apex of globalization efforts and is opposed to any state like Israel that has a strong national identity.

    Comment by pahoben — September 28, 2017 @ 3:08 am

  12. derriz

    As a fellow European, I can’t say that I agree with your description of the situation.

    “Angela will have to lead a coalition but that’s a fairly routine arrangement”. Yes it is, but tel me the last time it required three (four if you separate out the CSU) completely ideologically different parties to do so? Meanwhile the CSU is kicking out in fury.

    “Seems completely reasonable to me – what’s the alternative?” How about enforcing the external borders? Not unilaterally declaring Europe open. And when the blowback from your deranged policy becomes too strong, don’t try and dump on Eastern European countries whose governments reflect their peoples desire not to have people from a completely alien culture imposed upon them? Or is Poland wanting to be Polish an outrageous thing now?

    “your “morally superior judges of everyone else” claim is simply unrecognisable”. Did you actually live in Germany? And if so, did you never read an editorial. It’s the bloody national pastime: telling other people what to do. The streak of hysteria in the German character has always been there; it’s the reason that most of the disastrous ideas in world history have a strong German root.

    Comment by Recusant — September 28, 2017 @ 6:23 am

  13. @derriz,

    you must be living in a small isolated village in your small neighbouring country, otherwise you could not have failed to notice that Germany has been kicking and screaming for a while now trying to impose “refugee” quotas on Eastern Europe.

    Comment by Ivan — September 28, 2017 @ 5:47 pm

  14. @all
    I guess I’m fairly jaundiced by what I consider lazy Germany bashing. It’s lazy because it’s quite easy – given their history – and is nearly always based on subjective feelings and impressions like the moral superiority claim rather than their actions.

    Since they have picked up most of the tab both in terms of loans and EU budget payments for the likes of Greece blowing up their economy, I give them a pass for their occasional displays of condescension towards the recipients of their largess. Same way as I give the US a pass when some whine that they are arrogant in their foreign dealings, etc. You pay the piper, you call the tune. Any non-US western country that whines about US foreign policy is welcome to step up to the plate militarily. Same as Germany’s critics – lots of European countries are happy to whine about Germany but are far less quick to offer to put their sholder to the wheel financially. This was particularly striking with the Greek crisis when the UK media went into hyperdrive criticising cruel Germany for not giving the Greeks a blank cheque but of course none called on the UK government to hand over billions to the Greeks. It’s easy to make demands on other tax payers.

    And like it or not, Germany “solved” the 2015 refugee crisis for Europe by singlehandedly taking on the social burden and financial cost of processing a million refugees; while the likes of Hungary and Poland have been “burdened” with providing refugee status to less than 200 – yet all the “kicking and screaming” I hear is coming from countries like Hungary and Poland and is obviously political bluster.

    Comment by derriz — September 29, 2017 @ 10:09 am

  15. Since they have picked up most of the tab both in terms of loans and EU budget payments for the likes of Greece blowing up their economy, I give them a pass for their occasional displays of condescension towards the recipients of their largess.

    As if this oh-so-benevolent largesse is not simply a way for Germany to ensure there is a market for its exports among people who can’t afford them. That’s what the Euro is, a way for people without much money to buy German cars and other products. Germany set up the Euro quite deliberately to further its own social and economic interests, so yes, they should pick up the bill.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 30, 2017 @ 1:57 am

  16. @derriz
    Really off the mark with respect to bashing and German history at least in my case. My criticism of German policy is of current policy and nothing else. Your posts seem consistent with Soros funded Open Society NGO positions. I see it much differently as clash of civilizations and trivialization of indigenous populations by encouraged migration. I wouldn’t have been at all critical of Germany if they had closed their borders to migration and urged the remainder of the EU countries to do likewise.

    Comment by pahoben — September 30, 2017 @ 4:23 am

  17. @derriz

    *And like it or not, Germany “solved” the 2015 refugee crisis for Europe*

    The problem is Germany created this crisis singlehandedly. Without Germany’s insane policy there would be no crisis to solve.

    Comment by Ivan — September 30, 2017 @ 6:32 am

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