Sunday, February 21, 2016

German conservatives playing the good cop - bad cop game

To most of the outside world, Germany's main conservative party is the CDU (Christian Democrats), the party of chancellor Merkel. Some people may have seen the combination CDU/CSU and gone to Wikipedia or somewhere else to find that the latter is the name of the Christian Social Union (CSU), which is typically presented as the CDU's Bavarian "sister party".

Germans are used to the CSU leadership enjoying its role as the "outspoken" conservatives, as those who complain about anything that looks like social progress, as the early warners of "too much immigration", as the people who wanted to keep the crucifix in every school classroom.

And when they overdid it, their standard fallback was something along the lines "you know, the Bavarians, they can be loud and raucous, but they are fundamentally nice folks". Which may well be true if you talk about the people, but the conservative leadership is anything but.

This division of labor, whether intentionally or not, has served the conservatives well. Periodically, a "populist right" appeared in Germany, for example "Die Republikaner" (the republicans), only to fade away again after a few years.

The current version of "populist right" is the AfD. If you compare the stated goals and ideologies of AfD and Republikaner, there isn't much difference at the core. Both drew heavily of former CDU/.CSU personnel as founding members, both have struggled to fend off accusations of being as radical as the "official" neo-Nazis of the NPD.

Most of the policy differences between AfD and Republikaner stem from the time when they were founded. The common currency Euro was far away when the Republikaner were founded. To them, the Maastricht Treaty (which was the big European integration topic at the time) was the enemy, to the AfD, the Euro symbolizes much of what they see as wrong with the EU.
Both parties do immigrant bashing, just different groups, and with AfD more heavily focused on religion.

None of this comes as a surprise, but the single issue the blogster finds worth pointing out is another one.

We cannot allow unlimited and uncontrolled immigration.

They use German asylum law to gain access to our social benefits system.

Stereotypical AfD statements.

Except that the first one comes from then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who recast himself as the nice person who brought about German reunification.

The second one is by CSU member and Kohl Interior Minister Zimmermann.

The point being? That there is an unbroken continuity of national conservative (that's really how they call it) ideology and policies going back many decades, which only becomes "a problem" to conservatives when another party runs on this platform. 

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