The Party of the Extreme Normal

von Maximilian Steinbeis

On Sunday evening we will know how many of those far-right AfD politicians will be taking place in the next Bundestag. What we already know (or do we?) is that there will be some, and not a few of them. When things get bad, they might even become the third (or… second?) strongest party group. And once inside, they will not leave anytime soon most likely, even beyond the next four years. What the NPD and other marginal and/or short-lived phenomena of Germany’s far right never even came close to achieve, now it happens: the outermost right-wing edge of the political spectrum has arrived in the "centre of democracy" (Paul Kirchhof). Germans use a rather silly word for this sort of thing: salonfähig, acceptable to be received into your bourgeois sitting room (as if democracy was anything like a sitting room). By all means, was the consensus of most of the AfD’s political opponents so far, don’t make them salonfähig! Don’t talk to them, don’t help them overcome their outcast status, don’t normalize them! Well, look at them now, as they sit on the sofa and sip on their cup of tea, their dirty boots placed squarely on the velvet cushions. Before long, we will get used to it, though. It will be… kind of normal. In most of Europe, it already is.

For the moment, it seems to be this perspective of normalization that is so particularly disturbing. My Facebook timeline has been screaming with alarms for days: "That’s how it started with Hitler, too!" Which is, historically, nonsense, of course. Understandable nonsense, though: Those who put their faith in unmasking the far right as Nazis, whether they profess sympathy for Hitler or not, in order to keep them safely at the margins have fair reason for alarm. That didn’t work so well, obviously. Quite the contrary, one might say.

I’d like to spread some hope here, though ...

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