german election #2: greens, jamaica and dealing with the afd mindset

A month on from the German election, this post reflects on compromises and risks as the Greens continue Jamaica coalition talks, and also gives a personal take on how to respond to an emboldened and increasingly vocal AfD-mindset.

the greens: could jamaica be a compromise too far?

One of the biggest and thorniest topics up for discussion between the Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union (the conservative ‘C-parties’), the Greens and the free-market liberal FDP is climate change. In 2007 Germany declared it would become carbon neutral by 2040, and would reduce Co2 emissions by 40% by 2020. Certainly no mean feat, and progress has been slow; however, that’s the clear pledge made by the outgoing conservative-social democrat Grand Coalition.

But now, with coalition talks underway, both the C-parties and the FDP are reluctant to commit to concrete measures designed to achieve these targets, arguing that they should be aspirational, rather than binding. This of course puts the Greens in a particularly difficult position.
protest-455714_1920

The party has already conceded its manifesto policy of introducing a (modest) wealth tax and, together with the other Jamaica parties, has confirmed it’s on board with continuing the pursuit of the so-called ’schwarze Null’ (zero deficit spending) and the ‘brake’ on new debt. Taking into account the other policy proposals currently on the table, the emerging picture suggests that under a Jamaica coalition wealth inequality will remain unchallenged, if not increased under growing privatisation, while those at the bottom will have to endure further austerity. To be honest, social justice isn’t a strong policy competence area for the Greens, despite their insistence that they are not a party for the better-off. Still, it’s deeply disheartening to see these concessions.

However, climate change is another matter. The Greens, often amiable to compromise, cannot countenance being seen to give ground on this fundamentally important issue. Not only is climate change a major global crisis threatening (indeed already affecting) each and every one of us, the environment is of course the Greens’ very own raison d’être. Appear weak on climate change and the writing is surely on the wall for the party.

Appear weak on climate change and the writing
is surely on the wall for the party

The other Jamaica parties are well aware of this. Consequently, it could be possible for them to leverage the Greens’ (presumably) resolute commitment to emissions targets in order to gain concessions on other key policy areas. Not just on tax and social justice, where the Greens are less than convincing anyway, but also on education and of course immigration, another crucial issue that finds the Greens at odds with their potential partners in government.

It’ll be fascinating to see the response of the Greens’ membership consultation in December: will the prospect of a return to government prove irresistible? Could there be such thing as a compromise too far?     

‘engaging’ with the AfD mindset? 

Now a parliamentary group, the AfD is more visible (and audible) than ever, both inside the Bundestag and in public life. That means the rest of us have to find a way of dealing with the AfD mindset and vocabulary as these move from the fringe to the mainstream. The kind of scenario when you’re having what seems like a perfectly normal conversation with someone, only for them to stun you with a racist comment.

Generally speaking I’m not the type to shout people down, but neither am I prepared to nod and smile at poisonous rubbish for the sake of social nicety. However, nor am I willing to indulge someone by engaging them in debate in this kind of situation. Look where ‘engaging’ with the right has landed us. Always good for ratings, AfD representatives have been wooed by political talk shows, given generous airtime and emboldened to voice their nationalist, right-wing and socially regressive agenda. I don’t want to give personal airtime to these views in my day-to-day conversations.

So the next time someone complains that in Germany you’re ‘not allowed’ to talk about XYZ (while freely and aggressively expressing the very same XYZ) or suddenly interjects with some AfD-style, right-wing/nationalistic trope, I’ll just meet it with a pointed silence. It might kill the conversation, but at least it’ll deny these comments further ‘airtime’ and leave no doubt that they are unwelcome. I wonder what the reaction will be? 

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image credit: niek verlaan @ pixabay 

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