Why is the German AFD Growing?
In the contemporary era, anti-immigration has spiked in favor in Europe. Due to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, Brexit, and the continuing rise of ISIS, Europe is at the crossroads of immigration tensions, security tensions, and progressive/anti-progressive sentiment.
One of the large players in Europe, the United Kingdom has already voted by referendum to leave, within the next five years, the European Union. The party that strongly supported this was UKIP, a notoriously anti-immigration and controversial political party in the nation.
In other European nations, anti-immigration sentiment is also on the rise. In fact, in Germany (what was once hailed as a progressive beacon and refuge for Syrian refugees), anti-immigration sentiment is becoming a strong political force.
While a relatively/comparatively new movement, Germany faces a new political party: AFD.
What is AFD?
AFD, or Alternative für Deutschland, is a new political party in mainstream German politics. Its platform focuses on anti-Islam, anti-immigration, and anti-EU policies.
AFD started at a time where the Great Recession was well under way. In fact, AFD was a direct response in 2013 to the use of Euro Zone bailouts instead of austerity measures. Moreover, the party placed a strong amount of the blame for these bailouts on the migrant crisis facing Europe. Because of this, those of the Alternative for Germany place an emphasis on anti-immigration policies as a way to fix the economic instability in the region.
In fact, I would say the sentiment and policy standpoints of AFD are what scared me about UKIP and the Brexit referendum vote. As a party, AFD is an alternative conservative movement, one that goes against the conservative parties of Angela Merkel and the German government. It does so in a similar way to the Trump campaign: via fear and consistent pressure on fear-raising issues. For Germans, that issue is most definitely immigration from the Middle East and Africa.
It can be argued that much like the Tea Party of America, AFD has found its niche with those who are mostly conservatively inclined and most negatively affected by globalization. What makes it different from the other ultra-conservative parties is its conscious effort to not focus on extremism, ridding itself of any radicals with fascist tendencies.
What I feel is extremist though about the AFD is its racist tendencies, something seen from the fact that prominent members like Hocke talk of genetic differences between Europeans and Africans that affect their socioeconomic status. (This is a notion that I personally think should have been destroyed centuries ago.)
Unfortunately, despite a clear lack of organization, the AFD has a part in mainstream German politics, even if it is just fueling the anger. It's similar to the anti-immigration parties that are sprouting up in most major European nations. And in a nation like Germany, it could mean danger for Europe's progressiveness as a whole.
From its inception since 2013, Alternative for Germany has been able to find its way into local and national governments. In fact, AFD is present in about half of German state assemblies.
Due to its niche, AFD is able to attract Germans from the conservative German parties and those who felt all previous German political parties were well not extreme enough.
A surprising fact about the AFD niche also makes it obvious why the AFD is starting to grow as the years go on. The AFD has found a majority of its supporters in the young, unemployed males without higher education of Germany. This is a crucial statistic to note because if this is a trend, men of this category will continue to support this party as they get older, creating a strong base.
Moreover, the AFD growth has made it a double digit national force. It is no longer just a small movement, considering it polls at about 10% of the nation. This makes it able to join Bundestag, the national parliament of Germany, as it will attempt in fall of 2017.
Why This is Scary
It is hard to deny that Alternative for Germany has racist history, despite its young age of three years. As recently as two days ago, the Leipzig AFD was found to be offensive thanks to Nazi Imagery on their party vehicle, using license plate AH1818 (a neo-Nazi code referring three times to Adolf Hitler). Moreover, in the past three years, the AFD and its prominent members have come under criticism for trivialization of the Holocaust and further anti-Semitism.
If the mere fact that the AFD is tied to racists or at least racist, close-minded tendencies is not terrifying enough to the German and international governments, the fact that the euroskeptics are vying for state and district level politics positions is. If they win these, the AFD has the ability to act on their extreme anti-immigrant policies.
Angela Merkel's approval ratings have fallen in recent years in part due to fear growing in the German population. Her party the CDU is thusly weakened due to this fear. This is rightly frightening for the politicians in much the way Trump frightens some of the GOP. Fear is powerful tool, more so than fact. The AFD capitalizes on the fear of Germans, something that as an AFD defense mechanism for the nation can garner support.