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Bending the Continuum in Political Space Travel

by epochepoque Sun Sep 4th, 2016 at 03:56:09 PM EST

It's been said that the political spectrum does not look like a straight line but resembles a horseshoe. More so in these times where the middle is hollowing out. Today's state election in Merkel's home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (MV) and Berlin (two weeks from now) offer curious examples of left-right crossover.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

The Heart Left, the Gaze Right - Raphael Thelen, Hannes Jung - Zeit

As he felt estranged from the SPD, Cristoph Grimm became an AfD member. Now he is fighting for his new ideals in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern while ignoring inner contradictions.

... Grimm had been a SPD member for 33 years. But he left three years ago. Because he blames men like [state prime minister] Sellering for robbing him of his political home.

... Grimm felt moved by the 1968 generation: for the workers, against the bosses! He joined the young socialists and the SPD, marched against nuclear power: "I got a lot tear gas in my face" he says. ... Three years after reunification he went to East-German Grevesmühlen to help build the local administration. ... But five years later his faith in justice in German democracy received a hit. He had signed freelancer contracts for his work. After his projects were finished he was simply dumped. ... He moved to Dassow as a lawyer ...

All the years he remained a faithful SPD member but in 2003 something happened that estranged him from his party. "The agenda 2010 was treason against the clientele of the SPD" says Grimm. "I signed my inner notice." The agenda 2010 that eliminated workers' rights and surrenders countless unemployeds to the job centers was the kind of bosses' politics against which he had demonstrated in his youth.

Then in 2010 came the Greek crisis and with it German calls for austerity. He no longer recognized his SPD, wrote letters to leading politicians, became involved in his SPD district. He didn't want to give up on his party.

At the same time he starts browsing on right-wing populist sites. The uncomplicated opinions affirm his anger... In 2012 he called Bernd Lucke, signed one of his petitions. ... In 2013 he wrote to the SPD board: "Neither Greece, Portugal, nor Spain are being rescued ... but only the creditors of those countries. ... My membership book is enclosed."

After leaving the SPD he became one of the founding AfD members in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. And as such he became the direct candidate in district 27.

He used to fight against Kohl and Strauß, now he is in the same party as Ralph Weber, law professor in Greifswald, who wore a t-shirt by the neonazi brand Thor Stainar. "I know Professor Weber. It's his right to wear those Thor-Stainar clothes."

If the AfD gets only half as many votes as polled the he will become a full-time politician and intends to fight for more direct democracy because: "Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble have a secret plan to dissolve the nation Germany in Europe, like lump sugar in coffee." In his TV ad he looks straight into the camera and says: "My heart still beats left."

The vacuity of the middle leaves room for people to combine the worst of the left and right and apparently that's a lot of room in MV. It's a state that has lost hundreds of thousands of people from a population that used to be 2 million. It still suffers from high unemployment though the economy has stabilized in recent years and things are on a slow upswing.

Another negative distinct feature is the group of right-wing extremist NPD members in its state parliament. Recent polling suggests that they will be kicked out because of the rising AfD. In fact the AfD could pull ahead of the CDU which would be a remarkable disaster for Merkel's party. Just a few months ago the CDU looked poised to take over from the SPD incumbent in the grand coalition. Then came the summer of violence that rekindled the linchpin issue of migration. Overall, the AfD could replace the Linkspartei as the leading protest party in the East.


Berlin differs from MV in its disaffections. Decades of at-best mediocre grand coalitions have macerated politics such that there is no party near a majority. Here we have Sibylle Schmidt who worked for taz, the left wing newspaper, who is now a candidate for the AfD.

How an Old Leftie Found Her Way to the AfD in Kreuzberg - Gerd Nowakowski - Tagesspiegel

For decades former "taz" worker Sibylle Schmidt belonged to the left subculture. Now she is standing for the AfD because she doesn't feel understood by the other parties.

...There could only be losers... The right wing populist are at 15% and the SPD at 21%... It is possible that the AfD is not a temporary phenomenon like the Republicans... but a different phenomenon - underpinned by people who like a diverse and liberal city who don't have anything against Muslims but who are against Islamism, oppression, parallel societies and racist behavior by young migrants.

Take Sibylle Schmidt. Mother of three, husband Peruvian, who can be seen on AfD posters, was a well-known player in the left subculture for decades. ... she worked for taz's marketing department and worked in SPD committees since 2005. One cannot accuse her of having no clue about the multicultural reality of Berlin.

From the left to the right like Horst Mahler? Perhaps that's too simple. Among the candidates of the AfD there are quite a few Schmidts. The agenda is crude, the party doesn't offer any solutions... It just profits from the mistakes of the other parties...

But those questions are real. Major parties seem to have a problem when topics don't fit into their programs. ... Criminal arabic clans could only become big because the police had to cut its budget for a decade. ... that a society should be able to make demands on immigrants. Especially someone who wants a liberal open Berlin should want this. But that seems to be difficult.

... The binding forces of parties decreases as citizens feel a chasm between political slogans and personal experience. This chasm of estrangement could lead to significant losses for the CDU in middle class districts. If a party only accepts racist voters as a possible explanation for the AfD's success it has already lost.

I'm not sure this is a source of levity but to my cynical mind it is: Bushido, a leading gangster rapper in Germany, of Arab extraction, who has friends in the Arab underworld of Berlin apparently wants to cast his vote for the AfD.
Fellow rapper: You know what the worst thing is? The people who have only been here for a few years but are up in arms about how many refugees are coming now.

Bushido: Yeah... Fuck it, I'll vote AfD anyway!

Fellow rapper: Isn't that the son of a bitch nazi party? Just like that?

Bushido: Yeah, I don't give a fuck! I'll never vote for the CDU again. Those bastards. [Insults against CDU senator Henkel follow]

He already voted AfD in the last general election. Whatever beef he has against the CDU locals, it's not completely contradictory to his views about migration. Back in the day (2010) in a Spiegel interview he said:
Bushido: That's nothing... If we talk about integration then we need to talk not just about you Germans, whether you accept us. We need to talk about the new Germans who live here: whether they are willing to assimilate, to learn the language, to have respect.

... On the contrary: as much as we immigrants walk all over you in your own country, we can't complain. It's clear we love Germany. We suck those social benefits out of your pockets and still have no respect for the Germans. We think of you as potatoes, as victims. That's the way some people think. But I find that disrespectful.

The AfD didn't lose any time and invited him to their post election party.

Until then, enjoy this German documentary about AfD converts, featuring a founding member of the Greens. An anti-nuke activist who somehow manages to ignore pro-nuke stance of the AfD. "They make German politics exciting again."

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Sun Sep 4th, 2016 at 04:01:14 PM EST
SPD:  30,05 Prozent (Forschungsgruppe), 30,5 Prozent (Infratest)
CDU:  20 Prozent, 19 Prozent
AfD:   21,5 Prozent, 21 Prozent
Linke: 12,5 Prozent, 12,5 Prozent
Grüne: 5 Prozent, 5 Prozent

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Sep 4th, 2016 at 04:04:13 PM EST
All parties lose some percentage points to the AfD.

SPD -5,1-5,6
CDU -4,0-3,0
Linke -5,9-5,9
Greens -3,7-3,7
NPD -2,5-3,0

Except of the FDP but they're still irrelevant and out at 3%.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Sun Sep 4th, 2016 at 04:21:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
SPD: 30 Prozent
CDU: 19,4 Prozent
AfD: 21,5 Prozent
Linke: 12,2 Prozent
Grüne: 5 Prozent
FDP: 2,9 Prozent
NPD: 3,5 Prozent

The AfD not only drew support from all parties but activated a big pool of former non voters.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Sun Sep 4th, 2016 at 05:23:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a development that's symmetric to the SPD and the left. The splintering that happened a decade ago with the SPD and Linkspartei is now mirrored by a splintering on the right between CDU and AfD. Merkel used to be lauded for perenially marginalizing the SPD by taking huge chunks of the center by adopting some center-left positions. However, that boa constrictor strategy left her party vulnerable on the right flank. She'll probably be remembered for bringing a permament division into her own camp, more than for finishing off the SPD.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Mon Sep 5th, 2016 at 07:59:31 PM EST

SPD: 30,6 Prozent
CDU: 19,0 Prozent
AfD: 20,8 Prozent
Linke: 13,2 Prozent
Grüne: 4,8 Prozent
FDP: 3,0 Prozent
NPD: 3,0 Prozent

SPD: 26
CDU: 16
AfD: 18
Linke: 11

So it is either SPD-Linke or SPD-CDU. Local SPD boss says both will be explored.

My pessmism tells me that we shall not see a SPD-Linke coalition going left. Either SPD-Linke that is so neoliberal that Lnke loses its footing or neoliberal SPD-CDU. But that is just my pessimism talking.

by fjallstrom on Tue Sep 6th, 2016 at 08:41:55 AM EST
Checking the polls for Berlin, I note that Piraten will most likely exit. FDP might to a comeback and AfD will most likely enter.

Current government SPD-CDU does not look likely to retain their majority. A three party coalition will probably be needed, red-red-green looks like a likely majority. Unless SPD decides differently.

by fjallstrom on Tue Sep 6th, 2016 at 08:54:49 AM EST
Germany's left has more to lose from the AfD than Merkel

"Holding your course pays off!" The Social Democratic Party's Facebook post following Sunday's victory in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania echoed the pitch the party had made throughout the election campaign - their candidate Erwin Sellering, the northeastern state's premier, would offer much-needed stability in uncertain times.

The SPD duly won over 30 percent of the vote and will almost certainly continue its coalition government with the center-right Christian Democratic Union in the state.

But the victory party was tinged with relief - and fear. While international headlines have been feverishly reporting Chancellor Angela Merkel's defeat in her home state, the left half of Germany's political spectrum - which usually counts eastern Germany as a stronghold - also suffered significant losses at the hands of the insurgent Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Highs for the SPD

Despite an increased turnout on the last Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania election (61 percent as opposed to 51 percent in 2011), all the major parties in the state lost a share of their vote. The SPD, the CDU, the Left, and the Greens dropped between four and five percentage points each - a result that of course had a more devastating effect on the latter two, as they were smaller parties to begin with.

by Zwackus on Thu Sep 8th, 2016 at 12:55:46 AM EST
It gets weird. Sahra Wagenknecht, leader of the Left faction in the German parliament, and Frauke Petry, party leader of the AfD, have given a joint interview to the FAS newspaper.

AfD and the Left: Reft and Light can be confused - Zeit

The fact that Wagenknecht, the leader of the very lefty left [...] met the leader of the very right AfD will be a the breaking of a taboo for many Left politicians.

... the last state elections showed a big congruence in the votership of both parties: many Left voters went to the AfD. ...

Petry made some offers: AfD is in favor of humane refugee camps and explicitly supports immigration. ... Completely new sounds by the AfD leader that had hitherto stressed isolation.

Wagenknecht weakened the demand of her party for open borders. "... a good demand in the future when everyone lives in prosperity" - thus not for the real world.

... common ground also in other areas: rejection of the Euro ("misconstruction" says Wagenknecht), criticizing the EU as undemocratic, demanding the repatriation of authority, no to TTIP and Ceta, ...

a left right coalition, like in Greece? Wagenknecht of course declines. Because the AfD is "nationalist and racist". ... Petry offers cooperation "in some points". ... both collect a lot of protest votes, according to surveys a quarter of the votes.

Wagenknecht herself will get into trouble with her party. She's been suspected of AfD-like positions. And now she's talking with Petry. For some people in the Left party it will be too much.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Oct 2nd, 2016 at 03:55:50 PM EST
Is the actual interview online somewhere? The Left party is one of those things you can freely make things up about and "respectable" journalistic outlets have been more than eager to run with right is left and left is right stories since there is journalism. Here from Reuters about Austria's new chancellor:
Austrian chancellor gambles on far right's populist tactics | Reuters -
Four months after he took over a coalition government stunned by the far-right Freedom Party's electoral success, Austria's new chancellor has taken a populist turn, adopting positions remarkably close to those of his anti-immigration rivals.

But Christian Kern's new tactics, on Turkey joining the European Union and a trade deal with Canada, have yet to erode the Freedom Party's lead in opinion polls. And trying to beat the anti-immigration party at its own game could backfire.

Note the lack of anti-immigration content in these positions he shares with anti-immigration populists to beat them at their anti-immigration game.
by generic on Sun Oct 2nd, 2016 at 04:26:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's behind a paywall.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Oct 2nd, 2016 at 04:37:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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