The Head-Spinning Rate of Change in American Politics: Die Zeit, Germany
For many people around the world, American politics is as unfathomable as the Byzantine machinations of North Korean politics. To assist his German readers, columnist Josef Joffe of Die Zeit explains why an entity like the Tea Party can emerge so suddenly in the United States to take over a major party, whereas in Germany, groups on the extremes have hardly a prayer of doing so.
For Die Zeit, Josef Joffe writes in part:
America is – as always – different, and that’s why the Congressional election in less than four weeks will be really “exciting”: Will it topple the Obama revolution, or will it affirm it?
In Germany’s multiparty system, with its propensity toward obligation and balance, the wheels only turn a few degrees to the left or right. It may be that nine out of ten members of the Social Democratic Party to some degree appreciate Thilo Sarrazin. But what the party wants isn’t decided by its rank and file. It’s quite different in America, where parties range between “weak” and “anarchic,” and the House of Representatives is elected directly by the people (and a third of the Senate) every two years.
That’s why “populism” – or better put: “extra-parliamentary opposition” – penetrates the parties faster, as it has been for 223 years now. The most recent source of extra-congressional opposition is the Tea Party, a movement of conservatives and anti-statists that is about to conquer the Republican Party. The Tea Party is no more a bunch of proto-fascists as [in Germany] the Left is an association of post-Bolshevists. Both represent populist tendencies, but with a difference: The Tea Party is almost in; whereas in Germany, the far left remains excluded, and the exreme right [neo-Nazis] certainly remains outside.
In Germany, the chancellor needn’t be afraid of spontaneous opposition: “counter revolutions” take place in newspapers and talk shows. But in America, disappointment over unemployment and impending tax increases flows directly into the political process.
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