On Saturday night, at the end of a speech on immigration, I was asked by a lady in the audience about Sunday's impending election in Germany. She had met a young Teutonic chappie who said he was voting for Angela Merkel, and she couldn't understand why. And I said that Frau Merkel was certain to win the election, but what would be important to watch would be the respective strengths of the losing parties: my questioner's chum was voting Merkel because he feared the rise of the "far right" - ie, AfD, Alternative für Deutschland - but I suggested that AfD would do better than expected.
That was a rather boring and cautious prediction, but the post-Nazi complex proportional-representation electoral system was designed by the Allies specifically to produce boring results, and to make anything non-boring all but impossible. And by those standards Sunday was the biggest stunner in seventy years.
First of all, a dominant political figure is no longer such. You need an estimated 355 members (depending on the number of "overhang" seats - please, don't ask) for a majority in the Bundestag. Previously, Mutti Merkel's Christian Democrat/Christian Social Union had 311 and so governed in a "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats - or "GroKo" (a neologism coined by abbreviating Große Koalition). This is the equivalent of a Republican/Democrat coalition in Washington, or a Tory/Liberal coalition in Ottawa, or Tory/Labour in London, Liberal/Labor in Canberra: It's essentially a two-party one-party state. Regardless of which of the two potential governing parties you vote for, you wind up with the same left-of-center/right-of-left-of-center coalition. This cozy establishment partnership had governed in Germany for eight of the last twelve years, but it is not a symptom of a healthy stable democracy: "GroKo" isn't merely short for Große Koalition; it's also short for "There is literally no alternative".
On Sunday GroKo fell apart. Before the election, the "grand coalition" held 504 of the 598 seats plus the then 33 "overhang" seats (again, don't ask: it'll make your head hurt). Today it's down to 399. Both major parties - Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU and Martin Schulz's SPD scored their worst results since the foundation of the German Federal Republic in the rubble of the Third Reich. Frau Merkel lost 65 seats and Herr Schulz 40. The latter has said that the SPD will not be part of any new government. So GroKo is over.
Meanwhile, having been told there is no alternative, German voters went looking for one and found Alternative für Deutschland. Founded a few months before the last German election, AfD has all the problems that any new party attracts in democratic societies, but it fought a nimble election campaign, with witty and effective advertising. The poster of two lissome lovelies in swimsuits with the tag "Burqas? Here we prefer bikinis" attracted most attention, and caused a fit of the vapors on this side of the Atlantic among the pearl-clutching pajama boys who police American progressivism. More telling was the poster above, an explicit rebuke to Mutti Merkel that all these strapping young "Syrian" "teenagers" were needed because of Germany's collapsed birth rates: A pregnant woman accompanied by the slogan "New Germans? We'll make them ourselves" - which, indeed, is the only solution to the problem that doesn't involve the utter extinction of some of the oldest nations on the planet. Nevertheless, Vox pronounced that this poster was straight out of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale: To the nincompoops of American liberalism, the party that doesn't want women hidden away in faceless, anonymous body bags is the harbinger of the new patriarchy.
The reaction of the German establishment was even loopier. The former leader of the Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, warned that "for the first time since the end of the Second World War, real Nazis will sit in the German Parliament". AfD has some coarse types among its membership, but, even down the murkier end of the batting order, they're not actually Nazis, and demonizing their voters will not work. Last year I spoke to dozens of women who had either been sexually assaulted themselves (in Cologne and elsewhere) or had their daughters assaulted (in public swimming baths) by "refugees". None were "right-wing"; almost all were liberal and thought of themselves as such. Yet a significant proportion told me they were considering voting AfD because every other party denied there was any issue here, and were insistent, as are the likes of Herr Gabriel, that you can't even talk about it.
So, if you can't talk about it, best not to talk about it next time the pollster asks who you're voting for. Hence the now familiar phenomenon of the "unacceptable" party outperforming its pre-election polls. The shut-up crowd learn nothing. Anti-AfD protesters were out in the streets last night shouting down the new Nazis - which seems a pretty sure bet to intensify the phenomenon of "shy" AfD voters, and accelerate the divisions between West and East Germany. It is not a sane or prudent response to what ought to be a sobering moment for GroKo types: A party that did not exist until four years ago is now the third largest in the Bundestag with 94 seats.
Below them, Germany's traditional third party - the Free Democrats - were pushed into fourth place, and "the Left" (an admirably straightforward party name) and the Greens make up the rest. That's another reason why the SPD has announced they're out of the grand coalition. If Germany were to remain governed by a Merkel/Schulz GroKo, the next largest party in the Bundestag gets to be the Official Opposition - and that would be AfD, and nobody in Berlin's establishment wants to normalize AfD any more than Sunday's election results did.
To be sure, Mrs Merkel came out on top and, after haggling and horse-trading, will emerge as Chancellor of a pantomime-horse coalition comprising CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens. So she "won" - on Hillaire Belloc grounds:
Always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.
As that young German lad told the lady who asked me the election question, he was worried about the rise of the AfD. So he kept a-hold of Nurse - but two thirds of his countrymen did not. Just to be clear on that, Trump's lousiest approval ratings are more than the percentage of German voters who backed Merkel.
Where did their votes go? The AfD got just under 13 per cent, which by comparison with, say, the SPD's 20 per cent is pretty impressive. But these tallies were not evenly distributed. In the former West Germany, AfD got about 11 per cent, which is a good result. In the former East Germany, it got just under 22 per cent, which is a spectacular result. AfD came second in East Germany, and, among East German men, first.
So a united Germany is now a microcosm, within a supposed single state, of the broader split within a supposedly united Europe: Just as western EU politicians are still hot for "refugees" and ongoing Islamization, eastern EU politicians are implacably opposed. Germany mirrors that same division.
Things will ebb and flow in the coming electoral cycle, according to how explicitly suicidal Frau Merkel et al make their immigration policies and how many trucks and vans the more excitable Mohammedans are willing to plough through the sidewalks of Berlin, Nice, Barcelona, Stockholm, London and wherever's next. But this issue is not going away, because it's an existential threat: One reason why East Germany, and Hungary and Romania and the rest, managed to endure Nazism, fascism, Communism and the other hellish perversions of the 20th century, is that through it all they retained at least the consolations of culture. Islamization denies them even that.
And, if Herr Gabriel & Co don't like AfD, they should consider a point I've been reiterating for over a decade:
If the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain topics, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable ones.
East Germany has already turned. If you don't want others to join them, you need to provide an alternative yourselves.
~We had a busy weekend at SteynOnline. If you missed Mark's analysis of the Obama Administration's conscious subversion of its successor, or (on a cheerier note) his twentieth-anniversary observances of LA Confidential and his celebration of two great ballads, we hope you'll want to catch up with some or all of them.
For another perspective on the consequences of Islamization, Mark's trip to Northern England to meet "grooming" victims is recounted in the current issue of The Clubbable Steyn, which comes free with membership in The Mark Steyn Club: You can sign up for a full year, or, lest you suspect a dubious scam by a fly-by-night scamster, merely a quarter.
And don't forget our new gift membership for a friend or loved one. Among the other benefits of membership is our series of audio adventures, Tales for Our Time - and the thrill of clobbering Steyn by logging-in and commenting below. For more on The Mark Steyn Club, please see here.
Comment on this item (members only)
Viewing and submission of reader comments is restricted to Mark Steyn Club members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here: