Beer Tent Politics

Germany’s Next Top Export: Moralizing

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Angela Merkel’s democratic high ground is actually more of a glass house. Daniel Karmann/DPA [M].

The temptation was irresistible. A new toss at power hit an old friend, whose sense of purpose once helped a destroyed European continent regain peace: the United States of America. Europeans have been tempted to take advantage of United States’ geopolitical isolation ever since the German chancellor announced a change in the world order. The Europeans, Angela Merkel said, must now take their destiny into their own hands. Read: The next chapter of the EU should bear the handwriting of Germany.

This daring perspective is aided by the learning curve of the dilettante delivered to the White House by the American electoral system. And because Germany is in the middle of its own election season right now, moralizing is on the agenda. We cannot depend on anyone anymore – pause for applause in the beer tent – and for this reason, America is now on the EU’s blacklist. Donald Trump learning to be president has sent Europe onto a learning curve of its own, one that just might be too steep.

Concepts for filling the power vacuum are already circulating. “Our” values and norms, Europeans say, are top exports needed now more than ever, because the Americans have been taken hostage by a novice president. But our faded European values and norms aren’t on the high road, they’re in a glass house. America is more than Trump, and Europe is more than the hero Juncker and the anti-hero Merkel.

If the EU means to play down its own defects by questioning Trump’s reliability, the “More Europe, less America” equation will not be successful. The ideologically loaded topic of climate change, served up in a German beer tent, can be traced back to the clever mix of volatile goals the German chancellor has in view: The good guys fighting climate change beats the bad guys’ arms trading. That’s politics on a purely symbolic level. Broken promises of the trans-Atlantic past are meaningless in light of new power players, and we can’t really call the EU reliable, either.

Announcing a new era in a beer tent sends the commentary about it to barroom levels, where applause is guaranteed. “Total failure of the USA” and “Isolated America” are just two of the headlines about Merkel’s statement. Treating the president of the United States like a target is only fair when the protections of the American Constitution no longer apply to his opponents. European democracies were once in close consensus with the US. The verbal destruction of one of the most powerful louts in the world by his equally fallible opponents in Europe, who act like they are the epitome of democracy, is not protected by the German Constitution’s clauses regarding human dignity.

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