On Sunday the 28th of October the state election in Hesse concluded with a major loss for the established two "Volksparteien" CDU and SPD, and a big percentual gain for the Green Party and the AFD, Germanys rightwing party that emerged in 2013.
Instead of discussing the results of the election, nor the viewpoints of the parties, I want to focus on the course of the public debate that led up to this, specifically how the odds are very unfavorable for the right in general.
Right wing politics, nationalism, EU skepticism are synonimous with nationalsocialism in Germany. The public perception of "right" is probably skewed beyond repair. Even tho nationalsocialism is arguably a left wing ideology, the broad brush is applied to anything right of the center. Everyone affiliated with the AFD is labeled a Nazi, that is only driven by irrational fear of foreigners.
How did we get there?
In the US and most countries the right is accepted as a mainstream political force. In Germany the rhetoric equates it most of the time with Nazism. The indoctrination of this starts at young age in school, often federally funded.
Of course there is no reason to be opposed to campaigns against any form of political extremism, even though their effectiveness is somewhat dubious. But the rhetoric is always very unfavorable of any right wing ideologies, let´s have a look at some campaign names that target supposed right wing extremism.
Amongst campaigns against racism, anti-semitism, nazism, there are campaigns "against the right". Sadly this is the association that pops up in the heads of most people in Germany and the right is deligitimized as a whole.
The Green and Left party of Germany run their election campaigns with the explicit goal to fight Nazism. Again, there is no differentiation between extremism and conventional right wing viewpoints.
"Edge against the right - Right wing extremism in Munich and Bavaria"
"Your Vote against the Right - Fight racism and incitement"
The nuance is totally lost and the defamation of anything right of the center is at all time highs. It boggles the mind to which lenghts the defamation goes. No debate of substance is taking place anymore, the political discourse is centered on accusations and labeling. Political Correctness stiffles the discourse to the point where only the mere accusation of Nazism is enough to scare many people not to reveal their political beliefs or back down, to the point it might threaten their employment. Labeling someone a Nazi strips him off all human rights, makes the person subhuman, which in return does legitimize destroying their property doxxing, threatening and attacking them in the eyes of most. It offers an easy way to defame the opposing political party without having to discuss anything substancial, the mere labeling of Nazism is enough to shy people away from associating themselves with e.g the AFD.
No matter how far fetched this accusation is, it is the most powerful tool to discredit people in todays Germany.
It goes so far that a black representative of the AFD, Archille Demagbo, is uninvited from a school debate, well, because racism. The man was uninvited to prevent him from promoting racism and xenophobia. It takes some serious mental gymnastics not to see the irony in this.
Something drastically needs to change. We need to go back to discussing politics instead of labeling each other with derogaroty terms. We need to start speaking out what we believe, even if it comes at a cost. The cowardness needs to stop and people have to stand up for what they believe. Equating right wing politics to Nazism is the first step to get back to a healthy discourse. I encourage everyone to go to the rallies of the opposing parties with an open mind, engage in discussion and assume the people are doing it with good intent. We have to stop organising mobs that shout and defame people with different beliefs.
We have to. We are facing a societal divide that is unprecedented in Germany if we continue down this road. It should be in everyones interest to preserve the democratic princilpes and it starts with you.