Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.
The current German ‘political crisis’ faced by Merkel is covered in The Financial Times. The completeness of the coverage, is made self -evident by these five reports. Here are the headline and sub-headlines, to each of these reports and links to each. Then compare this coverage with Ross Douthat’s New York Times column of November 22, 2017. (Link below)
Headline: Angela Merkel left searching for route out of crisis
Sub-headline: German chancellor eyes new elections or partners to keep her grip on power
Headline : Merkel refuses to resign despite breakdown of coalition talks
Headline: Chancellor’s future in balance as German president calls on parties to end impasse
Headline: FDP calculates the political odds with talks walkout
Sub-headline: Refusal to join Merkel-led government is partly the result of bitter experience
Headline: Wolfgang Schäuble urges German political leaders to compromise
Sub-headline: New parliamentary speaker calls on parties to ‘show some responsibility’
Headline: Pressure grows on Germany’s SPD to support Merkel
Sub-headline: Party considers giving backing to minority centre-right government on key votes
Mr. Douthat’s essay is awash in self-congratulation about being ‘vindicated’, in his earlier essay on Merkel’s disastrous acceptance of one million refugees, although he feigns a non-existent modesty. He knows neither modesty, nor brevity:
In an unpredictable world, it’s always a pleasure to claim vindication for one’s own prophetic powers, and the political crisis in Germany — the inability of Angela Merkel to form a coalition government that keeps her country’s far right sidelined — could easily inspire an “I told you so” from those of us who have criticized the German chancellor and doubted her leader-of-the-free-world mystique.
That mystique is undeserved because it is too kind to her decision, lauded for its idealism but ultimately deeply reckless and destabilizing, to swiftly admit a million-odd migrants into the heart of Europe in 2015. No recent move has so clearly highlighted the undemocratic, Berlin-dominated nature of European decision making and the gulf between the elite consensus and popular opinion. And no move has contributed so much to the disturbances since — the worsening of Europe’s terrorism problem, the shock of Brexit and the rise of Trump, and the growing divide between the E.U.’s Franco-German core and its eastern nations.
So it’s fitting that the immigration issue has finally come back to undercut Merkel directly, first costing her votes in Germany’s last election, which saw unprecedented gains for the nationalist Alternative for Germany party, and then making a potential grand coalition impossible in part because the centrist, pro-business Free Democrats now see an opportunity in getting to Merkel’s right on migration policy.
Mr. Douthat’s politics/religious Conservatism is not the usual American Evangelical version, it partakes of Opus Dei Ultramontanism, and its Francoist politics as an expression of that unapologetic authoritarianism. This based on male heterosexual power as foundational to the exercise of that moral/political authority.
This is followed by of Douthat suggestive historical chatter , its ‘as if’ being a demonstration of his intellectual self-infatuation as a Knower.
I’m not sure they’re ready for that adaptation; instead, my sense of the state of Western elites after Trump and Brexit is similar to the analysis offered recently by Michael Brendan Dougherty in National Review. Dougherty has been circulating in high-level confabs since Trump’s election and reports a persistent mood of entitlement and ’90s nostalgia — a refusal to take responsibility for foreign policy failures, to admit that post-national utopianism was oversold, to reckon with the social decay and spiritual crisis shadowing the cosmopolitan dream.
This being the introductory material to frame his attack on the ‘Liberal Order’ as being anathema to an elusive, or better yet, an un-realized ‘ideological pluralism‘ :
What will save the liberal order, if it is to be saved, will be the successful integration of concerns that its leaders have dismissed or ignored back into normal political debate, an end to what Josh Barro of Business Insider has called “no-choice politics,” in which genuine ideological pluralism is something to be smothered with a pillow.
The dishonesty of Mr. Douthat, to confront the failure of the Neo-Liberal Order, not the mythical ‘Liberal Order’, in 2008, that has ruled the ‘West’ since the halcyon days of Thatcher/Reagan is evident, even in this heavily garnished essay. Not to forget the failure of Neo-Liberalism’s foundational myth of the ‘Self-Correcting Market’ to actualize itself in the political present. Mr. Douthat is a Theocrat of a very exotic kind: God and Mammon are the twin Deities, in the Douthat World View: the very definition of contemporary Conservatism nihilism!