The Last Stand
Merkel’s latest success leads public to even higher expectations
Entering her 4th legislation period, Angela Merkel has kept a very distinct policy-making and foreign policy approach that shaped her public reputation.
Following a rather unremarkable first legislation period, Merkel quickly attracted sharp critics as well as admirers. As she had to face various issues, such as the Crimea Crisis, the Greek government-debt crisis, or the navigation of power dynamics with Turkey, her public reputation became more define but yet constantly transformative.
After her unapologetic politics regarding European restrictions on Greece shaped her image as a main entity of suppressive power structures, the global perception changed in 2016-17. Increasing fear of global conflict and lack of common values seems to have led to a greater global demand for stable and firm leadership.
Today, she is even referred to as the “Liberal West’s Defender” (NY Times). That Merkel herself often bases her decisions on strategic benefits and public opinion remains widely unrecognized.
Instead, much emphasis is put on a particular deviation from this strategy, namely her approach in the German Refugee Crisis. Considering general freedom and safety a greater good than national security, Merkel set an example for borderless recognition of individual rights.
Growing up in the surveillance state of East Germany, Merkel learned early on to appreciate freedom as a main aspect of human dignity. Although, she did not ever publicly advocate or academically develop her moral stands, Merkel’s view was set.
Her sudden moral consideration came as a surprise to many. However, looking at her personal experiences, it is clear that her basic assumptions never changed.
Disintegration of national minorities
While her clear statements for refugees helped her gaining a positive international reputation, little is known about the effects of this policy on German society. Her lack of transparency, explanations, and empathy had a significant impact on the outcome of this year’s election.
Many people felt marginalized, disrespected, and morally paternalized. While it would have been easy to integrate these minorities into the general discourse, Merkel remained her usual stoic self, not seeing any need to justify her original decision.
The effects of this domestic approach are vividly apparent in the results of this year’s elections. It now simply remains to be seen if she takes this outcome as a chance to correct her previous disregard of these groups. However, regarding foreign policy, it can be safely assumed that she will further pursue her course of integrative politics: as a mediator between aggression and defense, economics and politics and global superpowers.