Angela Merkel's Feet of Clay

The collapse overnight of negotiations to form a new German government is yet another shock to the liberal world order, not of the same magnitude as the Brexit vote or the U.S. presidential election, but of the same character. Chancellor Angela Merkel's tenure in office is now in jeopardy. After failing to form a coalition between the odd trio of Christian Democrats, Free Democrats and Greens, Merkel may have to call new elections, which are likely to produce the same intractable stalemate as before. There are many ways in which the deep division in German opinion about the migrant flood might be papered over--Merkel's partners in the outgoing government, the Social Democrats, could change their mind and remain in a coalition with the Christian Democrats--but the crack in German society has been exposed and will only deepen in the future.

The migrant issue is the elephant in Merkel's parlor. The Christian Democrat-Social Democrat coalition was Germany's equivalent of Washington's Swamp Fusion Party and tolerated no criticism of Merkel's decision to let almost a million and a half migrants (some of whom actually were Syrian war refugees) into Germany during 2016 and 2017. A protest vote brought smaller parties into the Bundestag on an anti-migrant platform; in Germany's eastern half, the Alternative für Deutschland swept the ballots, and in the West, the small Free Democrats won votes on a platform of tax cuts, reducing immigration, and skepticism about Euro bailouts of Greece and Spain. The Social Democrats imploded while the Christian Democrats lost ground.

Merkel has barely a third of the votes in the Bundestag, and the Social Democrats withdrew from the coalition negotiations after their election debacle. Merkel won't negotiate with the Alternative für Deutschland, which is crawling with anti-American ultra-nationalists with a whiff of Nazi sulphur about them. That left the Free Democrats and the Greens, who want to extend immigration rights not only to the migrants who stormed Germany's borders a year and a half ago, but also to their families.