Germany, coalitions and social earthquakes

Germany has been the stable center of the European system for decades. It has the fourth-largest economy in the world and the largest in Europe. Its society has been relatively cohesive within the framework that has defined Europe since 1989. Its political system has been solid during that time, with the country’s two main parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party, forming a governing coalition for much of the past 12 years. While the interests of European Union members have diverged since the 2008 crisis, and social and political tensions have torn at the fabrics of other nations, Germany has been the solid rock on which Europe has rested. It is not an overstatement to say that if Germany destabilizes, European institutions and the European Union as a whole will not survive.

Germany has not destabilized, but it is wobbling. One sign is the inability of German parties to form a new government since elections in September. A reason for this is that the political reality of Germany has shifted…

 When a grand coalition ignores the dissenters or pretends that they are merely cranks, the ground under the coalition weakens. There is in fact a great debate in Germany over the country’s future on issues from the role of German culture to the welfare state. A grand coalition brushes these matters aside, and the more it does that, the more the political system and social reality will diverge, until the earthquake inevitably arrives.

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