The following op-ed analyzes the political prospects of Angela Merkel, the Christian Democrats, and the Socialists in the wake of the Great Refugee Crisis of 2015.
Many thanks to JLH for the translation from Junge Freiheit:
The Evil Stepmother
by Werner Patzelt
For decades, Germany has been fortunate with the CDU — and its chairpersons. But much is now hanging in the balance: trust in the chancellor, the role of the CDU and CSU as the only electable right-of-center parties, Germany’s prosperity. There have been four factors contributing to this.
There is the “social-democratizing” of the CDU. It has made the party as good as unassailable from the left. That pays off in polls and talk shows. But many non-left, non-middle, right-of-center Germans no longer feel they are represented by the CDU. Anyone who is truly on the right is rejected and closed out by the CDU.
“Moving cautiously” as a distinguishing feature
This draws many to the AfD (Alternative for Germany). As the SPD — which had moved to the middle under Helmut Schmidt — thus made place for the Greens, so Merkel is leaving space for the AfD. And is hoping that its mobilization by-words — euro crisis, immigration, integration — will not have the long life enjoyed by the Green battle against nuclear power. If they do, there is the danger of the CDU repeating the history of the Social Democrats’ shrinking.
That is the chancellor’s leadership style. That is how she has managed to be only a little attractive for everyone but a horror for no one. “Moving cautiously” became a confidence-inspiring version of “relying on trial and error.” And approaching something from the end did not have the sound of starting off into the unknown or of adventurousness.
A unity coalition against the people
But precisely this is what the chancellor’s refugee policy has forced upon the country. Since then, she has ruled in matters of immigration with a kind of unified, all-party coalition against the majority of the population. And the question must be asked: is she really increasing the people’s advantage, or at least shielding them from harm?
And there are the real challenges for our country: a shortage of young people as a risk for the social system; guarantees in the euro zone as a risk for the treasury; sending military units into a war zone as a risk to life and limb, and not only for the soldiers; immigration as a risk to social stability; the behavior of German leadership as a risk for the EU.
The Eurozone has already had its problems with Germany as its enforcer, and is quite annoyed by our morality-intoxicated behavior as a hippie state. But the CDU and SPD give very different answers to the many questions about how these challenges are to be weathered. Or just short-term ones, because it is necessary to continue to govern together. What a payoff for statecraft.
The chancellor to whom there is no alternative
And then there is the fact that there is no alternative to the chancellor. No longer at the top of the popularity scale, to be sure, but there is no comprehensively convincing reason to topple her. She has the knack of rebounding, and that is why so many are hoping for a kind of Fukushima experience. Also, the CDU is far ahead of the SPD in the polls. Why change horses when the wagon has gone along fine this far? And — in the eventuality of a forced retirement during the election period — who would join with whom as her successor?
Tactically, these are difficult times for conspirators. And the chancellor has not yet exhausted her strategic possibilities. Could not some disagreement with the SPD intensify to the point that they would have to either knuckle under or renounce the coalition? So that, after the requisite vote of confidence including the initiation of premature new elections, the CDU chair could announce (her candidacy);
Freed through no disloyalty on her part from the SPD’s hindrance of necessary decision-making, she would undertake a thoroughgoing correction of our immigration and integration policy — and indeed not casually: for no one could reproach her with not having tried everything that the Left, the Social Democrats and the Greens considered proper.
An immigration land acting sensibly
The election campaign would align the two “Unions” side-by-side again and Merkel’s destiny would polarize the country, as happened in 1972 with the destiny of Willy Brandt, and in 1983 with the destiny of Helmut Kohl. It would come to a kind of plebiscite on the changing of our country to a rationally acting immigration land, and the chancellor would be assured of extending her time in office — even if in an unloved coalition with the AfD. That would be a fair penalty for negligence of the right fringe.
The competition on the left would foam at the mouth, but — faced with a realistic immigration and integration policy with which our country was managing the challenges presented to it — would have to set out on the road to Godesberg. That is, nothing is more irresistible than political success.
Propelling Germany’s transformation
Ultimately, the chancellor would not have matters driven, but rather shaped by a happy ending. We still don’t know whether she could come up with the chutzpah for such a maneuver, the courage to implement it. We don’t even know if the advance of trust in her — severely taxed within the party — would support such chess moves.
But if Angela Merkel does not wish to be remembered as the matriarch of Europe, but as the stepmother of her party, then it is time not only to let herself be carried by the CDU, but to unite this party in the battle for a good cause: changing Germany to a cohesive immigration society.
Prof. Dr.Werner Patzelt is a political scientist and has held the chair for Political Systems and Comparison of Systems at the Technical University of Dresden. Further, he is a member of the board of trustees of the Saxon State Office for Political Education
|1.||Reference to the ‘Godesberg Program of 1959, when the SPD renounced full-out Marxism and turned toward a reformed capitalism. The implication seems to be that the SPD will have to undergo another major change.