The erosion of German democracy

Der Spiegel reports: In recent weeks, the sense of concern in the Chancellery had become increasingly palpable. With just a year to go until the next parliamentary elections in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel had still not announced whether she would run for a fourth term or not — and her silence was not seen as a positive omen.

Last week, though, the mood among the chancellor’s staff in Berlin began to brighten. Donald Trump’s election in the United States, many of her aides felt, made it more likely that Merkel would campaign for re-election. And on Sunday, she finally put an end to the speculation and announced her candidacy.

In the press conference following her announcement, Merkel made certain to deny media pronouncements — made by, among others, the New York Times — that the German chancellor was now the de-facto ruler of the free world. Such a notion was “grotesque” and “absurd,” she said.

But is it? Trump’s victory, after all, has changed the world. Up until Nov. 8, it seemed unimaginable that the West could in fact be in danger of destroying itself; that the very citizens who enjoy the freedoms guaranteed by Western liberalism could endanger the West by their own loss of faith in democracy. It proves that philosopher Jürgen Habermas was right to speak of “the shattering of political stability in our Western countries as a whole.” The fundamental values of democracy — enlightenment, the rule of law, respect and decency — are no longer self-evident. And that holds true in Germany as well.

Trump’s election victory has now presented Germans with the question: How well does our own democracy work? Could someone like Trump be possible here too? [Continue reading…]

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