Much concern has been raised after the last German federal elections that it was once again a manifestation of post-political amnesia. Two centrist parties that together won over two thirds of the seats in the German Bundestag are likely to form a coalition. Opposition in parliament would be minimized. If this was the case we would enter Angela Merkel’s German utopia, some argue. In Merkel’s utopia politics knows no sharp edges, political antagonisms vanish simply because she denies them to exist. Merkel’s presidential politics puts the people in trance so that they forget that alternatives exist. I think that this analysis misses the point. Is it not quite to the contrary because of Merkel that we are remembered of the good old slogan that everything is political?!
In her years in office Merkel surprised us many times, which we tend to forget. In the 2005 electoral campaign Merkel almost lost the elections because she said that it was a mistake not to follow Bush to Iraq. Consequently we carried caricatures of Merkel with a spiked helmet through the streets. Merkel seemed forever discredited as Bush’s puppy. When years later Germany is asked to send soldiers to Libya, Mali or Syria, Merkel instantly shakes her head. Ironically social democrats took the role of calling Merkel to war, which she refuses. Pacifist politics of the traditional left were always discredited as ignorant of international “necessities”. For Merkel pacifist politics is only possible because she is not from the left. Should we conclude that only the wrong folks can make left politics? Not quite, but it seems that we are in need of this paradox. It was only Merkel to could finally set an end to German nuclear power debate and bury nuclear power for good. In latter case she was curiously a double agent that somehow stood in opposition to herself.
The underlying logic is that only conservative leaders can be convinced of leftist politics. Leftists are always already for green energy, more immigration, more social welfare, higher taxes for the rich, no war etcetera. If Merkel embraces leftist politics she must first be convinced. She “rationally” came to the conclusion that leftist politics is necessary. That is why her leftist politics is canonical. The same happens when Slavoj Žižek talks about the crisis in conservative media such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. His message is exactly the same from before when he spoke through the channels of “crazy” leftist journals. But only in conservative media his message can truly have an impact. Almost as if the Left believes him anyway so it doesn’t really matter for them if Žižek actually exists. This is why Žižek needs the conservative media more than his leftist friends.
From this we can draw two considerations. First, both Merkel and conservative media neatly understand how to absorb leftist ideas to deescalate politics. Second, the Left needs the conservatives to articulate leftist ideas on their behalf. I’m inclined to say that in either case this is great news! We are actually talking about two sides of the same coin: namely the return of the political. If Merkel waters down leftist politics then it is for the Left to offer their alternative. And if Merkel becomes the agent of a New Leftist politics we better go without a social democratic chancellor.