It seems to be no easy task to save conservatism in Germany. Angela Merkel never tried, former head of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Frauke Petry just failed spectacularly, and only Bavarian politician Horst Seehofer considers himself capable of accomplishing the feat. Why is this? Why did Ms. Merkel write off conservatism from the very beginning? And why isn’t the AfD able to seize the territory so painfully abandoned by the CDU? Why can only Horst Seehofer position his Christian Social Union (CSU) as the last refuge of conservatism in German politics? And why does he see no potential successors?
Frauke Petry also clearly failed because of personal shortcomings. But key to her recent ousting at the party convention in Cologne was a late attempt to shift the AfD from its fundamentally oppositional stance to a sort of reactionary conservatism. Not because that has always been Ms. Petry’s conviction, but because she must have realized that the unimpeded dynamism of the AfD was pushing the party ever further into radicalism – and away from any prospect of attaining political power.