Germany’s politics wonks had their gaze turned to the northern port city of Kiel this weekend. That’s where the youth organization of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) held its big convention. The organizers had invited not only party boss and chancellor Angela Merkel but also all the up-and-coming cadres hoping to replace her. Would the youth leaders rebel against Merkel? Would the potential successors exploit her weakness and launch their attack?
No, and no. Just before two regional elections where their conservative bloc is likely to fare badly, the Christian Democrats, young and old alike, rallied around their flag, their boss, their chancellor. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (known as AKK), the CDU’s general manager and Merkel’s heiress-apparent, called for unity and an end to blame games. Wolfgang Schäuble, the party’s eminence grise and president of the Bundestag, praised Germany’s democracy as stable enough to abide even a CDU minority government under Merkel in case the Social Democrats abandon this coalition. (That’s what I have been arguing for a year, most recently here.)
All this suggests that Merkel won’t be toppled just yet. My hunch now is that she will be re-elected as party boss at the the CDU’s congress in Hamburg in December, and that she will then make way for AKK or somebody else the next time around. The Christian Democrats have once again displayed the astonishing internal discipline that makes them special in German politics, and that sets them apart from the putsch-happy Social Democrats. Not for nothing do Germans call the CDU a Kanzlerwahlverein (“club for the election of chancellors”).
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We’ve been updating you occasionally on the clashes between protesters and cops in an ancient forest near Hambach. The woods are adjacent to the coal-mining operations of RWE, a German energy behemoth. RWE wanted to cut them down to excavate more coal. So environmentalists squatted in the forest, living in tree houses. When the police moved in, things got a bit rough. One journalists fell out of the foliage and died.
But now the protesters have won a battle, if not the war. A court has put a stay on RWE’s further clearing (the technical reason was that the bats living in the forest would be endangered). Various activists are already building new tree houses. RWE’s boss, Rolf Martin Schmitz, now has a huge problem. RWE will lose millions, and may have to close the entire mining operation in the vicinity.
Then again, shouting at each other in the treetops is a terrible way to debate the bigger problem: how, exactly, can Germany wean itself from coal, especially lignite? It is already phasing out nuclear power. Gas is cleaner than coal but also more expensive. And solar and wind energy are too intermittent to rely on, pending technological breakthroughs. A “coal commission” is currently tasked with finding an answer. I’ll be curious.
Since they were founded in 1977, the Log Cabin Republicans have been raising eyebrows in America. They are a gay and lesbian caucus within the GOP, a party with more than its fair shares of homophobes and fire-and-brimstone types. Now Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD), a populist party on the right, is creating an even more brazenly in-your-face group. Yesterday, it formed a sub-committee for AfD Jews.
The group’s speaker, Vera Kosova, explained that the purpose was to demonstrate that the AfD wants no beef with Anti-Semitism in any form. That, however, sounded odd to most other German Jews. In a statement, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, along with 16 other Jewish associations, accused the AfD of being anti-democratic and Anti-Semitic. This new Jewish sub-committee, they are implying, is a cynical fig leaf to camouflage a sinister ideology.
I’ll venture that the AfD also sees its Jewish caucus as a useful head fake to distract from another kind of bigotry. If Jews were the most vulnerable minority in Germany’s past, Muslims are the most vulnerable group today. The AfD’s tacit logic seems to be: Let’s play nicely with Jews, at least in public, so we can go harder after Muslims.
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