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Finding someone to vote for is hard enough without politicians changing their positions as the wind blows. Merkel’s New Year’s address just confused every German going to the polls in 2017.
There are many reasons why our version of democracy sucks. Together they explain why nations made up of millions of well-meaning, kind-hearted souls (and yes a few cretins to be sure) still wind up doing horrible things to people in far away places while ignoring those close at hand. Let’s discuss something really simple. You, the voter, have a firm position on a particular issue that will guide your vote. What you’re looking to do is match your issue position with a party or politician and pledge your ballot to them. In political science, this goes by the highfalutin handle: “valence voting”.
It doesn’t take a genius to seen flaws in the setup. Aside from the fact that issues are complicated and having “one position” on anything is fraught – even when you figure out where you stand – how can you be sure where the politician does?
Let’s call this analogy: “A Tale of Two Merkels”. You’ve got a speech in 2010, an address in 2016, and six years in between that appear to have been rocketed-in from another planet.
In 2010 Angela Merkel said: “a multicultural society…to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other…has failed, utterly failed.”
Then, a few days ago Merkel announced: Islamist terror is the “greatest threat” to Germany.
Hold the phone! Say what now?! You’re the one who begged 2.14 million migrants (mostly from Muslim-majority countries) to come to the Fatherland in 2015 alone. With absolutely no security screening and no meaningful integration programs upon arrival: no language classes, no training, no history – literally migrant drag-and-drop, like these people are self-installing applications you’d get from an Apple store.
What’s a voter to do?
If you’re against immigration in general and don’t want funny clothes, odd accents and smelly food ruining everything, then 2010 Merkel is your gal. You vote, feel chuffed, blow the foam off your one-liter beer, and then…come 2014 you’re pulling out your moustache. Right, that’s it: Nein! Nein! Nein! You pull up your lederhosen and try and find a politician who matches your position: “things might get hairy around here real fast, what with and all these Muslim migrants…it’s a ticking time-bomb waiting to blow!”
Also on The Big Smoke
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- Steering the narrative: Muslims in media
- Today’s female leaders: Closing in on a fifty-fifty ratio
- Women at the helm of politics
To your surprise you have to stick a sausage in it. Islamophobia is the watchword accompanied by a Reichstag-chorus of “Islam is a religion of peace” and “Islam has nothing to do with terrorism”.
Ok, fine. You’re a stoic Teuton. You grit and bear and soldier on.
Now, with snow falling and memories of truck-smashed Christmas trees firmly in mind you contemplate next year’s election. You’ve got two choices. You can pick which of five parties thinks Islam has the most-least to do with all these “Allahu Akbar” truck, axe, knife and gun homicides you’ve been told not to think have anything to do with anything (and certainly nothing at all to do with Islam), or you could vote for the neo-Nazi party (AdF) that has a very easy to digest political platform: “fuck migrants”.
At first glance, this sounds good but them you realise roads, schools, hospitals and the economy matters too. Bugger!
Then, out of the crisp mountain air, you hear old mate Mother-Merkel say: “Islamist terrorism is a problem”. Yes! Brilliant! No… hang about… no, no, no… you’re not falling for this old pretzel again. Last time you valence-voted with Merkel you wound up with strudel in your lap…
Mein Gotte! What’s a Hun to do? If you’re an open-arms-hug-em-all liberal you can’t vote for Merkel? She said multiculturalism is an abject failure, and that Islam might possibly, maybe, kinda, sorta have something to do with terrorism (gasp!). And if you’re a grumpy old xenophobic curmudgeon who liked what the Fuehrer said in 2010, and what she’s saying now… but, but, she’s the one who invited them all here! Scheisse!
Voting isn’t easy. Especially when you have absolutely no idea where politicians or parties actually stands on issues. They blow in the wind like exigent weathervanes of opportunism; desperate to keep their state car, house, salary, servants, prestige, free meals, sycophantic press, clinging celebrities, the best seats at Bayern Munich games, and the first beer at the Oktoberfest… Poor old Hans!