I’ve long contended that Angela Merkel is the last line of defense for Western democracy which, as hyperbolic as it may sound, is under siege.
The rising tide of nationalism perpetuated by Donald Trump in the US, Theresa May in the UK, Marine Le Pen in France, and Frauke Petry in Germany, threatens to upend the post-World War II international order in favor of a system based on a kind of “us against them” mentality where the definition of “them” depends on whether we’re talking about trade or immigration.
Let’s take the US for example. If we’re talking about immigration, “them” is Mexicans and Muslims. If we’re talking about trade, “them” is Mexico, China, and apparently Germany.
On Sunday, Trump criticized BMW for the company’s plans to produce the popular 3 series (step up your game, the 7 series is where it’s at) in Mexico. BMW gently reminded Trump that the company employs 70,000 Americans whether directly or indirectly.
But BMW executives weren’t the only Germans in Trump’s crosshairs over the weekend and the cars the company makes weren’t the only German “vehicles” the incoming President attacked. He also took shots at the “iron Chancellor” herself, calling Merkel’s refugee policy a catastrophe. “I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals,” Trump told The Times and Bild in a joint interview over the weekend. “The EU,” he went on to say, “has become basically a vehicle for Germany.”
Now for one thing, something tells me Trump was prepped for the questions he received because I seriously doubt the brazen billionaire knows enough about the EU to understand why other “rebel” politicians (like former Greek FinMin Yanis Varoufakis for instance) have accused Brussels of essentially allowing Berlin to dictate policy.
But beyond that, this looks to me like the final assault on a world view that’s anathema to Trump, his acolytes, and his political counterparts in Europe (listed above).
Merkel is still holding the line for now, but Germany’s patience for the status quo will be tested in elections later this year. In the meantime, the Chancellor is keen on holding down the fort in what feels like a kind of Alamo-ish last stand to defend democracy. Here’s Bloomberg’s summary of comments Merkel made at a gala in Cologne:
- Chancellor Angela Merkel asks German business to join her in defending liberal democracy and free trade, saying “in every generation one has to fight for one’s ideals.”
- “I have the impression that we are once again at a crossroads,” Merkel tells a business chamber gala in Cologne
- Says halting protectionism is part of the struggle, won’t give up on free-trade deals with U.S., Canada
- “I have a lot of resolve, but the number of doubters is growing,” says she’s “deeply convinced” that “embracing competition rather eliminating it is best for human development and for prosperity in Germany”
- Appeals to audience to resist giving up those principles “too hastily for reasons of short-term gain”
As for Trump, Merkel effectively told reporters that America’s new President could kiss her ass. “We Europeans have our destiny in our own hands,” she said defiantly on Monday in response to Trump’s comments. “He has now set out his positions once again, but they’ve been known for a while. My positions are also known.”
Good luck Ms. Merkel, you’re going to need it.
Of course the irony in all of this is that should Merkel lose the battle, the savior of Western democratic ideals may well end up being a communist…