All politics may be local, but the German national election reflected major trends in the political culture of a country at the center of both the European Project and the Transatlantic relationship. These trends need to be understood by Americans who casually assume that Angela Merkel won again. In fact, her party received one vote in three, hardly a mandate. More broadly, the election demonstrated the continuing fragmentation of political power in unified Germany, the sustained alienation of its eastern population from the political cultures of both Germany and Europe, and the increasing delegitimization of German political and economic elites.
In Sunday's national elections in Germany, Angela Merkel presided over a major political failure for her party and her country. Yes, Merkel will remain chancellor for a fourth term, probably in a fragile three-party coalition. However, a historic mission of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has been to prevent the emergence of a viable political party on the far right at the national level. Chancellors and CDU leaders from Konrad Adenauer through Helmut Kohl understood this mission and fulfilled it. Merkel has failed, largely due to her pursuit of an ever-larger political center through coopting leftist policies and programs. She thus left ample space on the right for the new Alternative for Germany (AfD) which gained 13 percent of the vote on Sunday.
Global financial markets currently obsess about the fate of a small Balkan country’s sovereign debt and its impact on the Eurozone. However, if the burden of Greek debt were to disappear overnight, the miracle would just reveal the underlying weakness of the Greek economy and its dependency on Europe for the foreseeable future.
Ukraine suffers more afflictions than Job. Most Western attention focuses on responding to the military confrontation with Russia and then on the economic and political consequences of two decades of oligarchic misrule. However, Ukraine also inherited at independence a genuine crisis in health and demographics, the product of catastrophic policies of the Soviet era compounded by the continuing stress of the post-Soviet transition.
Twenty-five years ago, the opening of the Berlin Wall transfixed the world, but somewhat obscured a bigger story: the peaceable seizure of the state by that part of East German society that did not want to go to the West.