This election is a warning. Right-wing extremists will now have seats in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament. They will be provided with government-funded staff and party financing and will have access to information from the country's intelligence services. And there is little to suggest that the party is going to disappear from parliament any time soon.
The AfD has long-since become networked with other right-wing parties in Europe, and its leaders have learned in recent years how to poison a parliament. It's not just the governing parties that the Alternative for Germany (AfD) will be attacking – it will go after all of them. It will pose as the only true opposition party surrounded by corrupt traitors. The party will attempt to put an ethnic spin on every societal conflict. It will blame the foreigners – the Turkish-Germans, the Muslims and those from alien cultures – but also the self-satisfied leftist elite that stands at their side. It will do so from day one on the grandest stage that this country has to offer. How did we get here?
The whistles were the biggest issue during the final days of this election campaign. There was a barrage of images of apparently normal Germans using whistles to drown out the chancellor's speeches on town squares – accompanied by screams that Angela Merkel should be locked up because she has destroyed Germany. The whistling crowd wasn't large, most of them having been brought in by the AfD for these campaign events. But their hatred of the elites and Muslims still dominated the election campaign at times. Why?
The political reporting and debates in this election campaign were strongly influenced by people who sounded rather similar to the angry men on the town squares. They didn't shout and they sounded serious and resolute, but they also used their words as whistles. Their main issue was the same one focused on by the AfD: the creeping demise of our country, a German apocalypse caused by hostile Muslims and ideologically driven leftists.
There were politicians like Jens Spahn, an up-and-coming member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who claimed that in some city neighborhoods, women didn't dare go out on the streets without headscarves. And journalists like Claus Strunz, who claimed that life for Germans had become similar to Israel, where people live with the constant threat of terrorism. Or former East German civil rights activists like Vera Lengsfeld, who claimed that freedom of opinion is in the process of being eliminated. The leap between those views and the hollering, whistling men on the streets is not a big one.
These doomsayers aren't outsiders, though they are fond of claiming as much. Rather, they are members of the Christian Democrats' national committee, they moderate the debates between the chancellor candidates on national television and they publish newspapers. You can find people like them on almost every relevant talk show. When they get their books published, sales are brisk. At least since the publication of politician Thilo Sarrazin's book, "Germany Does Away with Itself" in 2010, fantasizing about some imagined war with Islam and presenting yourself as the lone soldier in the battle against alleged censorship of opinions has become a reliable way of making money in Germany. But at some point, these individual voices became an entire orchestra – one that is playing its apocalyptic melody in an endless loop.
It's true that many people in Germany are anxious about refugees. Since their arrival, some women have been more afraid of going out on the streets alone. In January, 40 percent of Germans polled said they considered the handling of the refugees and asylum-seekers to be the most urgent task facing politicians. The issue has stirred up many in the country. And it should be clear that new arrivals must respect the constitution – and we must of course discuss how best to ensure that this happens.