Unexamined Premises

Angela Merkel: Down, and Soon Out

Auf wiedersehen (Nietfeld/dpa via AP)

After another disastrous showing in local elections, German chancellor Angela Merkel will step down as the leader of her political party, the Christian Democratic Union, and not seek re-election as chancellor.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that she would not seek re-election when her term expires in 2021. Merkel, who has been Chancellor since 2005, made the announcement during a news conference today in Berlin. “It is time today for me to start a new chapter,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

“This fourth term is my last term as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the next Bundestag election in 2021, I will not run again as Chancellor. I will not run for the German Bundestag any more, and I do not want any other political office.” Merkel told reporters that being Chancellor has been a “very challenging and fulfilling task.”
Better late than never — or perhaps not. Merkel’s decision to admit upward of a million Muslim “refugees” in 2015, ostensibly in the name of humanitarianism but in reality to combat Germany’s anemic birthrate by importing the next generation of “Germans” and hoping against all evidence that they will assimilate into Teutonic society, was the inciting incident in her fall from grace, but its effects will linger long after she is gone.
And gone she needs to be, long before 2021. The fig leaf is that while she’s quitting as CDU party leader, she’ll stay in office until the next election. The reality is, with her power base gone, she’ll be vacating the chancellery long before that. Merkel has been unable to admit her catastrophic error, and has been busily trying to bridge the yawning gulf between bien-pensant thinking about “immigration” and the reality on the ground by cobbling together an ad hoc coalition government with her nominal opposition, the Social Democrats. That coalition has now effectively cratered. So what comes next?
Over the past three years I’ve received many calls from the British media asking me whether Angela Merkel had finally received a knockout blow. And I’ve always replied: she’s down but not out. Now, however, she’s down and out. Her party’s top brass have forced her to announce that she won’t be running for the leadership of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at their conference in December. At the time of writing, she wants to remain chancellor. But by this time next year at the very latest, she’ll be out of that job, too.
In the general election in September 2017 Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister the CSU (referred to collectively as “the Union”) lost 8.6% compared with 2013. The Union’s losses were equivalent to the gains of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Many inside the CDU called for the party to revert to a more conservative profile. But Merkel did the opposite, attempting to cobble together a “Jamaica” coalition with the Greens and the liberals of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). When the FDP walked out of the talks, Merkel had to continue the “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats (SPD), which neither side really wanted. Since then, the Union and the SPD have been haemorrhaging votes, while the AfD have managed to gain seats in all 16 regional parliaments as well as the Bundestag.
With the country moving to the right, the remedy seems simple: the Union has to follow. But in regional elections in Bavaria earlier this month, the CSU, which had tried just that, were clobbered, too. People who have abandoned the Union for the far right are not going to be won back easily. On the other hand, young people are voting for the Greens, whereas the AfD is still a party of disgruntled old white men. So if the Union moves so far to the right that a coalition with the ascendant Greens becomes impossible, Merkel’s successor might find him or herself in a situation where the only viable option is an alliance with the AfD.
This is actually even worse than it sounds. As I wrote in this space the other day, the postwar consensus has broken apart under the stress of “immigration,” and all the fawning coverage of her by the Leftist media (“the real leader of the Free World”) can’t paper that over. Germans have been slow to react against Merkelism, largely because they do what they’re told by officials and their media mouthpieces (which is pretty much the entire German media), but once aroused they can still be fearsome. In order to rebuild and then reunite the country, Germans accepted a left-centrist government, but Merkel will have left two dead parties in the middle, with the Greens and the AfD tugging from both sides.
Nothing good will come of this, so into the unknown we go. As Yeats wrote in his poem “The Second Coming“:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.