Merkel Suffers Electoral Defeat to Anti-Immigrant Nationalists

This past Sunday saw a stunning defeat of Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at the hands of an ascendent radical right-wing party known as the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD).

The local defeat took place in Merkel’s own parliamentary constituency in the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. While the results do not threaten CDU’s hold on power nationally, they provide a sobering look at voter sentiment just a year out from national elections.

Merkel’s governing party not only fell behind AfD in this past weekend’s elections, but was also defeated by the center-left Social Democrats, leaving CDU in third place in what has historically been a safe district for the party.

Analysts point to the Germany government’s policy on refugees as the primary catalyst for the rise of populist, anti-immigrant sentiment among the nation’s population. Frauke Petry – leader for the AfD – credits Merkel’s open border policy for her own party’s success:

The CDU is falling apart, but not only [in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania]. We see that in many regions of Germany where the CDU bases, the party bases, don’t agree with Merkel’s policy anymore. We want that the German government closes German borders to illegal migration… We need controlled borders. We need a change of legislation on a German level, but also an EU level, to avoid illegal migration.

CDU candidate Lorenz Caffier agreed, stating that “there was only one subject during the campaign, and that subject was the refugee policy. The refugee question was decisive.”

In 2015, Merkel’s government accepted more than 1 million refugees – mainly Syrians fleeing the intractable conflict in their home country – making it the single most open nation in Europe. Over the past year, several attacks linked to Islamists have heightened fears of immigration and provided fuel for nationalists to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.

Far from being unique, Germany is a piece of a larger puzzle. Far-right nationalist parties are succeeding across Europe. In France, the National Front has made great strides in recent years, taking advantage of voters’ insecurities stemming from immigration and terror attacks.

Earlier this year, Petry sparked outrage when she suggested that the border patrol shoot immigrants attempting to cross illegally into Germany. This language is a big deal. Since the horrors of WWII, Germany has celebrated a culturally liberal spirit that has shamed many other nations with an emphasis on multiculturalism and acceptance.

These historical tendencies – however – are now under threat from rising populist parties that offer few solutions to their voters’ economic and cultural fears other than promises of international isolation and the marginalization of disadvantaged communities. While the issues that have caused the largest displacement of people in a century are complex and variegated, further disenfranchising desperate populations will only abet the very terrorists that have contributed to refugees’ plight.

Not only is a more humane treatment necessary to promote the general social good, but it’s integral to any meaningful security policy designed to keep Western nations safe.

Making Sense of Dallas: Violence, Racism, and Guns

This week, three separate incidents have monopolized the headlines. Two separate police shootings of non-threatening black men in Louisiana and Minnesota brought activists out across the country, decrying the disproportionately violent and harsh treatment directed by police at people of color.

Then, last night in Dallas, at one of scores of marches against police brutality happening across the nation, at least one gunman ambushed police officers who were on scene to direct the march. The shooter killed five officers and injured 7 people, including both police and protestors. The primary gunman was killed by a bomb detonated remotely by the police, while another three suspects – with as of now unknown affiliation to the incident – remain in custody.

During the lengthy negotiations with police that led up to the detonation, the 25 year-old gunman identified as Micah Johnson expressed anger at the recent shootings, his frustration with the Black Lives Matter movement, and his desire to kill white officers in retaliation for recent events.

This week’s events – both delicate and difficult, dealing with some of the most heated debates of our times – have already stirred the pot, heightening tensions over guns and race during an already fraught political season.

The former House Representative Joe Walsh posted an ominous threat to Obama and Black Lives Matter activists, tweeting: “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”

By murdering officers as they helped facilitate the expression of protesters’ first amendment rights, Johnson and whoever else was involved in the heinous shooting in Dallas deserve unequivocal condemnation, and any surviving participates in the attack should be prosecuted.

The victims in Dallas deserve justice. So, too, do Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile, the men shot to death in Louisiana and Minnesota respectively.

But understanding the complexity of this issue is difficult for many Americans. Consider the pandering of public figures like Walsh, whose vicious tweet itself deserves condemnation. The former congressman has leant his voice to a false narrative – just as the New York Post did with its cover this morning – that there is an unsealable divide in our country that will necessarily result in violent conflict. His pandering is reckless and, yes, racist. What exactly is “real America?” Are people who are outraged over senseless police violence directed at black people somehow outside of that classification?

As for rhetorical excess, it is worth mentioning the dehumanization that anti-police jargon generates. While police forces as institutions are flawed and some officers possess prejudice, police departments are run by many well-meaning people from all backgrounds and ethnicities who have families and aspirations. “Fuck the police” may be a cathartic chant, but it is reductive.

While politicians work to fit this week’s events into their narratives, it’s worth acknowledging the objective horror and injustice of violence generally, and gun violence specifically. It’s possible to both adamantly oppose racist violence against black citizens, and to also wholeheartedly oppose the exercise of violence against police officers, many of whom have provided countless hours of civic service for communities across the country.

At the heart of all of this rests that specter of American violence – the gun. As yet another week yields more gun deaths, the United States government cannot bring itself to define the issue in terms of public health. By granting adequate resources to studying and weeding out violence in our communities, we can look at the variegated factors that contribute to this persistent menace, instead of pitting Americans against each other and ignoring institutional flaws that perpetuate injustice.

Brexit: Racism Fuels ‘Leave’ Campaign

As the United States’ most bizarre general election campaign in recent memory has steamrolled forward at a fever pitch, Americans could be forgiven for overlooking events in Britain which – depending on how they turn out – may shake up international markets and fundamentally alter geo-politics for years to come.

That ignorance was completely understandable, that is, until last week when Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in public by a nationalist with links to neo-Nazi organizations.

Cox was a passionate anti-racist campaigner, whose philanthropic work included stints at Oxfam and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The attacker, Tommy Mair, announced his name in court as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

His rhetoric appears to imitate that of the pro-Brexit camp, which is pushing for the UK to leave the European Union (EU) through a referendum on June 23. Largely spearheaded by far-right elements in Britain’s political scene, the “leave” camp has invoked Syrian refugees and Islam in its quest to stir nationalistic fervor and abandon the European project.

The great majority of social and economic experts agree that a Brexit would be catastrophic not only for the British Isles, but for the rest of the developed world as well – including the United States.

The political uncertainly that would follow the single largest split from the EU since the project began would curtail global investment and international trade. Brexit could decrease the net economic output of the world’s advanced economies by half a percentage point by 2019. The IMF predicts that the UK’s depature from the EU would result in a decline of economic growth by 5.6 over the next three years.

For the United States, the head researcher at FIS – Laurence Wormald – predicts that a Brexit would send the S&P spiraling by 5 percent, and that the volatility of the broader stock market could reach 40 percent.

The clearly negative implications of a Brexit, however, hasn’t stopped The UK Independence Party (UKIP) – perhaps the largest driver of the pro-Brexit campaigning – from continuing its crusade. The party’s leader, Nigel Farage, has stood by the racist remarks of party members, underscoring the very real undercurrent of xenophobia that is behind the “leave” campaign. J.K. Rowling – author of the Harry Potter series – has accused Farage of deploying “Nazi propaganda” throughout the public debate on the referendum.

In addition to the concrete damages to the global financial system, the departure of one of the EU’s largest members could spell doom for the multi-national body, which has been credited for cooling diplomatic tensions in the historically volatile region following the cataclysmic events of World War II.

The Tap will bring you further coverage of the vote’s results this Wednesday, and analysis on how those results will impact the Social Good moving forward.

Charleston Shooting: How You Can Help Families Affected

The heinous violence that transpired on June 17 in Charleston, S.C., has left a community devastated and an entire nation grappling with questions concerning violence and race.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston has long been a symbol of empowerment for the African-American community for nearly two centuries. The church is home to the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore, and has been a meeting ground and rallying point for generations of influential and courageous leaders. For its importance in black organizing, the church was repeatedly attacked throughout its history.

In every sense of the phrase, the church is an historical treasure – a symbol of U.S. heritage and the fraught and difficult experience of people targeted by racism.

And now, following this week’s brutal violence directed at it, the church can use your help. The city of Charleston has set up a fund for the nine victims’ family members, and has itself pledged $5,000 for funerals, counseling services, and other forms of assistance.

People across the United States can donate by walking into any Wells Fargo location and specifying that she/he is interested in giving to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.

The fund also accepts checks made out to “Mother Emanuel Hope Fund” at the following address:

Mother Emanuel Hope Fund

C/O City of Charleston

P.O. Box 304

Charleston, SC 29402

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