The German elections this weekend are boring. The two parties that govern today together, the center-left SPD and the center-right CDU together will have well more than 50% of the votes. The CDU has about 35%, the SPD 22%, and there is no chance of the SPD overtaking the CDU. 4 smaller parties each have around 10%, with the AfD, which is to the right of the center-right CDU probably getting something like 12% of the vote. So, is that a sign of a growing Nazi resurgence in Germany, or is there a simpler explanation?
The reason why the AfD has more votes than usual is that they are the only party with a strong anti-immigrant position (not counting the regionally limited CSU). The center-right CDU in Germany is well to the left of conservative parties elsewhere, like UK conservatives or US Republicans. Citing Christian values the CDU has welcomed a large number of refugees to Germany, Syrian and other, in previous years. This large influx of immigrants wasn’t unopposed. And so it isn’t really surprising that 12% of voters end up supporting a party that is anti-immigrant, the AfD being their only option in this case. Compare that to other countries, where anti-immigrant parties and policies are in the majority. The news is 88% of voters voting for pro-immigrant parties, not 12% voting for anti-immigrant parties. What you see is an anti-immigrant protest vote, by people who wouldn’t necessarily vote for the AfD if they had any chance at all to actually come to power.
Personally, I have been an immigrant for the last 20 years, and so of course I am pro-immigration. But I do believe that liberals have done a lousy job to explain the advantages of immigration, and to address the various fears of voters regarding immigration, from job competition to crime. I do think that an anti-immigration party has to exist in a democratic society. And we should stop calling people “Nazis” just because they are anti-immigration.