Merkel’s Party Finishes Third in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Yesterday was election day in the German Lander of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and to their shame, the voters there put the neo-Nazi Alternative for Germany [AfD] in second place. The leftish Social Democrats are the largest party earning 30.2% of the vote. The AfD’s 21.4% was more than Dr. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union could muster; they failed to get one in five with just 19.8% of the vote. Local AfD leader Leif-Erik Holm said: “Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship today.” Maybe, but it certainly is the beginning of a fight for the soul of the German right, a fight the Christian Democrats must win.

The AfD will, of course, object to being characterized as neo-Nazi. That, however, is precisely what they are. Back in March, the overt neo-Nazis who lead the National Democratic Party called on their supporters to vote for the AfD in regional elections. The AfD claimed, “We have no overlaps with the NPD whatsoever.” But if that were true, why the endorsement?

The right in every country in the 21st century faces a choice, to be conservative or to be nationalist. Conservatives have traditionally supported free-market economics, which includes the free movement of labor and capital. They have backed corporations receiving tax breaks and have prevented laws that would punish firms from moving job overseas.

Nationalists don’t accept the conservative view of the world. Market economics that harm members of the nation are suspect. Free trade and free movement are undesirable. Immigration in particular is a problem for them; the culture trumps the market as far as they are concerned.

The problem, of course, is that these two different views of the world can no longer paper over their differences. Until recently, fear of the left (especially Soviet communism) kept these two in an alliance that focused on keeping the left out of office. The threat from the left is gone, and the market-based view of the world has taken a battering in the last decade.

German history has made it particularly difficult for the nationalists to argue their case because the last time they ran things, they plunged the world into war and committed genocide. That is a heavy legacy to overcome. Of course, there have always been apologists for the insanity, and not all of them have been German. Indeed, the German people since 1945 have been exceedingly careful to admit their past in ways the Japanese, Italians and Russians have not. However, with the failure of the market-right to deliver a better life, the nationalist-right has an opening.

To their credit, the other parties of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have vowed not to work with the AfD in the local legislature. But the local result suggests that the right there is evenly split between the two camps. Locking the AfD out of a coalition is nowhere near as desirable as not electing them in the first place.

The CDU can do some things to fight back. The temptation will be to borrow some of the AfD’s policies on immigration, gay rights and climate change (which it doubts and it opposes Germany’s drive to sustainable energy). That would be to allow the poison to spread. After 11 years as Chancellor, Dr. Merkel is past her political sell-by date. She needs to go, and it would be best if she resigned in advance of the next general election next year.