The fall of the house of Merkel

The Economist reports that “The result of the regional election in the German state UILCGUW3MEI6RM7QMJQHFCPP5Yof Hesse on October 28th was a serious blow to Angela Merkel’s party, even if it was not quite the catastrophe some had feared. According to provisional results, her centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) won the most votes with 27%, giving it the right to form the next coalition government. And Mrs Merkel’s close ally, the incumbent minister-president Volker Bouffier, should stay state premier. But even so, the CDU lost 11.3 percentage points compared with 2013. Mrs Merkel has now decided to not stand for re-election as party leader in the party’s conference in December. Although she will remain in office for now, the job of party chairman is traditionally linked to the role of chancellor.” It is also reported that Chancellor Merkel has said that she will not run for her party leadership in December, she will not run again for chancellor in 2021, or any other political office thereafter.

The report says that what was most “worryingly for Mrs Merkel and her allies … [was that] … this was not a vote of dissatisfaction with Hesse’s regional government. The economy there is booming and the alliance between the conservatives and the centre-left Greens has proved unexpectedly harmonious and effective. It was instead a slap in the face for the central government in Berlin. Voters in Hesse punished both the conservatives and the SPD for a series of rows and scandals in Berlin, where the two parties, along with the CDU’s much smaller sister party from Bavaria, form the federal government.

justin-trudeau-kathleen-wynne-philippe-couillard-1I wonder if there is an analog here, in Canada. I have to ask myself if recent election results in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, where, in each case, a Liberal government was tossed out, has something ~ certainly not everything, in Ontario’s case ~ to do with dissatisfaction with the Liberal government in Ottawa and with the overall Liberal brand, especially with the free-spending deficit loving Trudeau Liberal brand.

Of course the eventual demise of Chancellor Merkel is indicative of other things: the rise of populism and of identity politics around the world, which I think, will define the electoral politics of democratic states for the next generation, and the overwhelming issue of migration which threatens to change the face of the Western world.

Fear, especially fear of change, has displaced optimism ~ sunny ways ~ in the minds of refugee-crsis-608086many people from Australia through to the United States of America. We are afraid of the inexorable ‘rise’ of China because we think that it must come at the expense of our prosperity and even of world peace. We are afraid that unchecked migration will destroy 2,000 years of cultural identity and traditions in just a generation or two.

Those factors and others are driving the rise of populism and of identity politics and threaten the socially moderate to progressive political consensus which emerged in the late 1940s and persisted, pretty consistently, until about the late 1990s. I suspect that consensus has been weakened in Canada, too, and that is bad news for both Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer because both are, to some degrees, socially progressive politicians, even though Mr. Scheer may be, in his heart, quite socially conservative. The Trudeau Liberals’ (valid) concern about climate change is not likely to be enough to counter the people’s fear of societal, cultural changes; equally, the Scheer Conservatives’ faith in markets and free(er) trade is unlikely to overcome the people’s desire for economic protection. In other words both major parties need to adapt, as Ms. Merkel failed to do quickly enough, to the growing demands for populist solutions.

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