Germany’s Greens Are in Trouble. That is a Good Thing.
Recent polling out of Germany indicates that the race to succeed Angela Merkel is looking better and better for the incumbent Christian Democrats, who were thought to be in serious danger of being overtaken by the German Green Party only a couple of months ago. As recently as late April, the Green Party leader, 40-year-old former trampolinist Anna Baerbock, was being touted as a breath of fresh air after 16 years of the stodgy Merkel.
That was then.
By mid-June, a poll released by the Allensbach Institute showed the Christian Democratic Union ahead of the Greens by 8 percentage points: 29.5 percent to 21.5 percent. Over this past weekend, a new poll saw the Christian Democrats holding steady, while the Greens slipped another percentage point.
So with just about three months to go before German voters head to the polls, the Greens look like they’re on their back foot.
And a good thing too, because the Greens, in the person of Baerbock, represent some of the worst tendencies in Western liberalism, especially in her support of foreign intervention in the name of human rights. Indeed, Baerbock has made it a point to take a more hawkish stance than the conservative Laschet on Ukraine, which she supports for full NATO and E.U. membership. Baerbock has also called for sending military aid to Kiev, a policy that Merkel has long (and wisely) resisted. For this, Baerbock has drawn fire from one of the few remaining left, anti-imperialist outlets in the U.S., which has characterized her foreign policy as a combination of “aloof complacency, ignorance and aggressiveness.”
In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Baerbock sounded like a German version of our own Samantha Power, asserting that she would consider deploying the Bundeswehr abroad even in the absence U.N. sanction, and noting that in some cases “action and inaction is sometimes a choice between plague and cholera…There are moments when military action can prevent the worst taking place.”
To no one’s surprise, Baerbock’s promise to support Kyiv come-what-may and her promise to scrap the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has won her praise from American neoconservatives. The NATO-funded Atlantic Council confidently predicts that “the Greens [sic] party would be aligned with the Biden administration on a slew of issues—despite its anti-establishment past. And that includes a tough line on Russia and China.”
Indeed, Baerbock has, consciously or not, adopted a number of the latest neocon talking points as her own, describing a world now divided between a “competition of systems: authoritarian powers versus liberal democracy.”
This is in stark contrast to the rhetoric of CDU front-runner Armin Laschet, who in a recent interview with the Financial Times expressed misgivings about waging liberal culture wars abroad. “I’m not sure,” said Laschet, “that always speaking out, loudly and aggressively, in public about a country’s human rights situation really leads to improvements on the ground.”
“Often you can reach more in the area of human rights by addressing issues in private conversations with leaders of other countries than by talking about it in press conferences,” he added.
Yet, in other respects the Green Party’s hawkishness resembles that of American progressives who, in a fit of adolescent rage against Donald Trump, spent much of the past four years turning themselves in to the party of cold war, military intervention, and national security state overreach. All this as they quite happily abandoned what had been for decades their core constituency of blue-collar workers in favor of an alliance with Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the identitarians of the American academe.
As a critical article by the German leftist Sascha Doring pointed out, today the Green Party’s message “mostly resonates with a young, middle-class, and university-educated electorate, generally more focused on individual consumption habits and shutting down industries such as soft coal mining and manufacturers of cheap meat, either through direct closures or raising food prices,” which naturally puts them at odds with working-class voters.
Should the Greens come to grief on September 26, may it serve as a warning to the Democrats that their embrace of military intervention and corporate America at the expense of the working class is in need urgent of reconsideration.
James W. Carden is a former advisor at the State Department who he has written for numerous publications including The National Interest, The Los Angeles Times, Quartz, and American Affairs.