The implosion of Germany’s Social Democratic Party in the national elections is the big news from Berlin. With just 20.5% of the vote, a party that governed Germany intermittently since the Second World War has dropped off the political radar. SPD leader Martin Schulz distinguished himself from Chancellor Angela Merkel with one idea, namely fairer income distribution, and the voters shunned him. Merkel will take a fourth term as chancellor, almost certainly in a coalition with the small free-enterprise party, the Free Democrats, and the Green Party–a so-called “Jamaica Coalition” after the colors of the island’s flag (black for the Christian Democrats, yellow for Free Democrats, and green).
All is not well in Merkel’s house, however: with just a third of the total vote, Merkel’s Christian Democratic coalition lost nearly 9 full percentage points of the electorate compared to the previous national election, while the Social Democrats lost about 7%. Voters turned away from both major parties, and backed the populist-right Alternative fuer Deutschland (up 8%) and the Free Democrats (up 6%).
Some American conservatives cheered for the AfD, thinking it a Trump-like populist movement. It is no such thing. It is an America-hating ethnic nationalist monster crawling with Nazi nostalgia. Its dominant figure, one Alexander Gauland, derided Americans as “a people thrown together by chance without its own culture.” I reviewed the AfD’s ugly background in a February essay in this space, “A deplorable vote for Angela Merkel.” Fortunately for Germany as well as the United States, the AfD’s 13% of the total vote will enable it to make noise and little else, for no other party will speak with it.
All the respectable parties banded together to defend Merkel’s “we-can-do-it” open-door policy to Middle Eastern migrants, a million and a half of whom turned up on Germany’s doorstep during the past year and a half. The whole exercise was a scam and a goof, undertaken as an exercise in collective do-gooding in a country that still hates itself for its crimes during the Hitler period. Tuvia Tenenbom exposed the fecklessness of it all in a recent book that I reviewed in this space Sept. 10. Germans who objected to the influx and its attendant social pathologies voted for the AfD to register a protest, knowing that the AfD had no chance to exercise power. The German Establishment will take note.
It is noteworthy that the Free Democrats, the party of lower taxes and free enterprise, polled well over 20% among voters under the age of 30. That is good news. Young Germans want economic opportunity rather than redistributionism. Merkel polled best among the elderly, particularly elderly women, that is, pensioners. To accommodate the deadbeats of southern Europe, Germany let the European Central Bank push interest rates into negative territory. For retirees living on fixed income, that is economic asphyxiation. She has a mandate to normalize interest rates in the interest of German savers, so expect to hear some screams from Rome, Paris and Athens during the next year.