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Konrad Werner: Cheer up, it’s bad but it’s not that bad

Unless you think nationalist populism is an "alternative" for Germany (rather than what German people think all the time anyway), you might need some cheering up today. Here's Konrad to give it a try.

Image for Konrad Werner: Cheer up, it's bad but it's not that bad
Photo by Metropolico.org (Flickr CC; CC BY-SA 2.0)

Okay, Sunday didn’t turn out to be very super. The AfD got 15 percent of the vote in Baden-Württemberg, easily made third place in Rhineland-Palatinate, and in Saxony-Anhalt those fear-mongering fuckers did even better – 24 percent of the vote, as good as the SPD, the Linke, and the FDP put together.

What made it even more depressing is that turnout in all three elections went up by a lot since the last time they voted in 2011 (72 percent in BW, 71.5 percent in RP, and 63 percent in SA), slightly denting the theory that if only more normal people voted we could keep the Nazis out. Turns out Nazis have always been just as lazy as the lefties.

What makes all this so maddening is that the now basically absurd media coverage still keeps talking about Merkel’s “open-door” refugee policy. Her government is sending NATO ships to intercept refugee boats, is deporting people back to Afghanistan, is doing everything it can to prevent refugees from having any legal means of entering the country, and has just introduced the strictest asylum laws since the early 1990s. Meanwhile, she’s come up with a strange sort of refugee swap-deal with Turkey, while thousands of refugees are camping out in the mud in the town of Idomeni, Greece. If you still think this government gives a shit about refugees, just go and spend half an hour at the LaGeSo or at Tempelhof airport.

Still, it’s way too simplistic (and by simplistic, I mean wrong) to say that the AfD’s success is Merkel’s “punishment” by the electorate for her saying “Wir schaffen das“. For one thing, the biggest actual winner of last night was Winfried Kretschmann, the Green party’s state premier of Baden-Württemberg, who not only led the party to its first ever first-place victory, he did it by aggressively defending Merkel (the Green party in BW increased its share of the vote by 6 percent). In fact, in two of the three states, the CDU lost to parties that have a (slightly) kinder refugee policy than it does. In the other state, Saxony-Anhalt, the CDU finished first, as expected, and dropped only 3 percent of the vote since 2011.

Not only that, the losing CDU candidates in RP and BW – Julia Klöckner and Guido Wolf – both tried to win support by distancing themselves from Merkel and sounding more AfD-ish, a tactic that really backfired.

So before you all start emigrating to Canada remember that, in an election that everyone said was basically only about refugee policy, even in supposedly hopelessly right-wing eastern Germany, 76 percent of politically engaged people voted either for Merkel or for a party with a slightly more liberal policy about it. So keep your knickers on.

Listen to Konrad and Drew’s German news podcast here!