What next? Fascists in government?
Germany has taken another step toward the normalization of fascism, said Stephan Hebel. Thomas Kemmerich of the centrist Free Democratic Party briefly became premier of the state of Thuringia last week by accepting the support of lawmakers from the ultraright, xenophobic party Alternative for Germany (AfD). After a huge outcry and a condemnation from Chancellor Angela Merkel, Kemmerich stepped down the next day. But the consensus that has existed since the end of World War II, that the main German parties must shun extremist parties, has been shattered. Sure, the AfD deputies who supported Kemmerich—including state party leader Björn Höcke, who echoes Adolf Hitler with his talk of racial suicide and population replacement—were democratically elected. But then, so was Hitler. Our grim history teaches us that “formally democratic decisions can pave the way for the enemies of democracy.” The state parties that threw in their lot with the AfD—the Free Democrats and Merkel’s own center-right Christian Democrats—decided that allowing a leftist government to come to power in Thuringia would be worse than lying down with the ultraright. Those of us who still believe in German democracy can take heart at the reversal of this outrageous result. But we can never again assume that there is a “middle-class consensus” against fascism.