The demonstrations against the right will not cost the AfD a single vote. But they can still be a game-changer if you keep three things in mind.
Let’s not fool ourselves. Anyone who believes that the mass protests against the AfD will dissuade even a single convinced voter of this party from their opinion is wrong.
There will soon be another survey in which the AfD will perform strongly. AfD officials will scornfully celebrate these as proof that the demonstrations were nothing more than an illusion. But they are wrong.
Of course, the AfD won’t disappear overnight, even if a million or more people take to the streets. She didn’t come overnight either. It is not going away simply because the problems that made it big are still there.
Mass protests thwart the AfD narrative
That’s why it’s absurd when traffic light politicians now try to position themselves at the head of the movement. These demonstrations also have a lot to do with their botched politics, their inability to communicate and their lack of assertiveness.
Nevertheless, the protests have already fundamentally changed one thing. For years, the AfD has lived by the narrative that it speaks for a “silent majority.” The mass protests thwart this narrative. Rather, they suggest that the silent majority thinks nothing of the AfD’s wet dreams of exclusion and the overthrow of the system.
Hundreds of thousands show their flag against right-wing extremism – the images from the protest weekend
This sense of solidarity will strengthen all those who work against extremism every day, often risking their health. But it also strengthens those who have a migrant background and who have been wondering how long they can live safely in Germany since the deportation plans from the Postdam Secret Conference became known. Last but not least, it encourages everyone to take action if they experience racist incidents in their everyday lives. They now know that there are many out there who are on their side.
No more exclusionitis!
But of course the protests will subside again and self-assurance alone is not sustainable. These three things must now happen so that the uprising of the decent people does not fizzle out again:
No more exclusionitis! Democrats must not allow themselves to be divided or exploited. Just as farmers must defend themselves against the infiltration of right-wing extremist forces, demonstrators must defend themselves against attempts to be co-opted by left-wing extremist groups. It is wrong for a co-organizer of the Munich protests to create sentiment against the CSU. It was a CSU politician who was one of the first in Bavaria to give an incendiary speech against the AfD after the Potsdam Conference: the mayor of Augsburg, Eva Weber.
It is equally problematic to label the demonstrations as “protests against the right.” Even though historically the term “right” has often been equated with “right-wing radical”, left-wing activists also like to use it to devalue everything to the right of center. The CDU and CSU are important partners in the fight against right-wing extremists.
Therefore: These protests are not directed against other democrats, but against the enemies of democracy. Democrats must stand together now, even if they otherwise differ on many issues.
Something has to change! The traffic light should take these protests very seriously, as a last chance to change their policies. Arrogance and smart-ass we-know-better are out of place now. A start would be to publicly admit mistakes and vow to improve. A step forward in pursuing a consistent migration policy and at the same time ensuring that citizens experience the state as a help and not as a hindrance in everyday life. If a refugee who has committed 62 crimes is still running around freely and clan members are dancing on the judiciary’s nose, then that is just as incomprehensible as if a well-integrated family is to be deported or if refugees are being made bureaucratically difficult, to take up work.
3. Celebrate civil society! Our country is full of larger and smaller initiatives that – often on a voluntary basis – work to ensure that society grows together and people feel better. We just barely pay attention to them because we are far too busy with those who have made a business model out of polarization and division. Let’s focus on those who make outstanding contributions to our society every day. You deserve all of our support.
The protests against the AfD may not cost them a vote. But they can bring non-voters to the polls and cause people to continue to defend themselves more against those who want to turn us against each other. Then democracy will work too.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.