Lorenz Caffier at the CDU Federal Party Day 2014. Photo by Olaf Kosinsky (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)
Well, here's another depressing post-election Monday. Meck-Pomm, Angela Merkel's home state, just gave the chancellor her worst ever electoral defeat, because the AfD beat the CDU into third place. In other words, one in five voters decided that mean-spirited anger coupled with zero "alternative" strategies was the political ideology that best represented their point of view.
It's not as dramatic as it looks in the media. Meck-Pomm is one of Germany's least populated states, with only 1.33 million people eligible to vote, and of those only around 820,000 people actually voted on Sunday, which means that this latest "political earthquake" is down to around 164,000 people hanging their hats on the racist AfD hook.
Still, it's definitely bad. This time, unlike the last round of regional elections, when the Greens were returned to power in the south, the comforts are pretty cold. Also: the NPD gathered only three percent of the vote, which means that Germany is free of actual Nazis in any of its state parliaments for the first time pretty much ever. But that's about it. The AfD has all the political momentum in Germany.
It's pretty easy to see how it's doing that: the AfD's strategy is to periodically emit a big public fart – shoot refugees! – and then sit back and sniff it (while all the other parties clamour for the same attention they get). Then the AfD blame the media for reporting what they say. The CDU is seriously spooked – bringing in the tightest immigration laws ever, and then playing the old burqa-ban card – a sure sign of a populist desperation. Even Merkel was persuaded to echo her "multiculturalism has failed" talk from years ago by suggesting that she "expected loyalty" from German Turks.
Well, it didn't work. Lorenz Caffier, Meck-Pomm's CDU candidate, who banged hard on the burqa-ban drum in the last few weeks of the campaign, then blamed Merkel for being too soft on migrants, failed to point out that A) he was the actual candidate and was always anti-Merkel, so maybe his burqa ban rhetoric didn't work out, and B) his own personal approval ratings tanked at 20 percent, compared to the 65 percent for the winning pro-refugee SPD candidate Erwin Sellering. So it's Merkel's fault that you're unpopular? Sorry, he said, but my defeat is not down to my blatant mendacious politics, but down to Merkel actually trying to administer the country and not letting people die. Fuck that. Caffier failed to learn the lessons of the Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg elections earlier this year, where the losing CDU candidates – Julia Klöckner and Guido Wolf – took the same approach, bashed Merkel and lost. In both cases, the centre-left parties won. The one state that the CDU won in – Saxony-Anhalt – was also the one place that had a rational candidate who wasn't afraid to say that Merkel had done right.
The Meck-Pomm election makes it look like people have basically stopped voting according to issues that actually affected their lives. The state hardly has any refugees or foreigners. But there's still hope, because somehow the people running the country are actually still winning elections.