Why more Germans are anti-Trump than anti-immigration
Since Donald Trump became President, Germany has seen a spike in its citizenship applications from the United States. Buzz60
It turns out there has been a backlash. But it is against Trump more than immigrants.
As Germany’s national election on Sunday nears, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is responsible for opening the doors to migrants, seems headed toward a historic fourth term. Her conservative Christian Democratic Union party holds a comfortable lead, and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) has seen its support shrink since its high a year ago, according to Germany’s Forsa Institute.
“Traditional parties in Germany are enjoying more popularity now because of Trump,” said Philipp Geiger, spokesman for the Social Democratic Party, the other mainstream party running second to Merkel’s CDU.
The Social Democrats gained 23,000 new members in the past year, double what the party expected, Geiger said.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats saw a slight uptick in membership after Trump’s election.
By contrast, the AfD is now polling between 8% and 12%, down from 14% six months ago and 16% a year ago, polls show. Merkel’s effective management in absorbing so many migrants is a key reason. Despite the huge influx, Germany’s unemployment remains low and the economy is humming.
“The problem with the AfD is … they can tell you what is bad and complain about certain issues, but they can never tell you any alternatives,” said Olaf Boehnke, a senior adviser in Berlin with Rasmussen Global, a political think tank in Brussels.
German media have dubbed the gains by Christian Democrats and Social Democrats the “Trump Effekt” — broad voter rejection of Trump and his anti-immigration, anti-European Union and anti-internationalism views. Only 11% of Germans consider the American president trustworthy, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
“Support of a united Europe and involvement in international policy and disavowing isolationism has become more popular in the past year,” Geiger said.
“The problem we have with Trump is his unpredictability,” the Social Democrats’ leader, Martin Schulz, said during a Sept. 3 debate with Merkel. “With whom are we supposed to talk?”
Merkel has rebuked Trump’s policies on several occasions and called on Europeans to “take our fate into our own hands” because they no longer have a reliable American partner.
Merkel — Europe’s longest serving leader — has taken steps in the past year to blunt any anti-immigration backlash by slowing the influx of refugees to appease conservative voters. But she also has strongly condemned right-wing extremism that embraces nativist policies.
The AfD was founded in 2013 in opposition to the euro currency used by 19 countries. It shifted to an anti-immigration platform in response to Merkel’s open-door policy. Despite its drop in the polls, the party likely will meet the 5% threshold needed to win its first seats in the national parliament, or Bundestag.
Florian Hartleb, a political analyst, said it’s “wishful thinking” to believe that the “hour of populism in Europe is over just because the bell isn’t tolling as loudly.”
“Despite their difficulties, the AfD is still strong,” Hartleb said. “This is the first time in the post-war era in Germany that an extreme right-wing party will enter the German Bundestag.”