What makes our politics so dirty

For just a week it is certain that right-wing extremists will be entering the Bundestag for the first time in a quarter of a century. The shock is deep. But as is the case with shocks: relativizations are quickly at hand. It is said that 87 percent of Germans did not vote for the AfD. Or: As Frauke Petry's withdrawal suggests, the AfD will split like other populist parties before it. There's something to all of this. However, there is one thing that the relativizers overlook: what influence the so-called alternative could exert for Germany as the third strongest force in parliament. Also on other parties. And that is not only a socio-political danger, but also an economic one. What is at stake is an economic system based on open borders - and more generally on openness.

Parties compete with one another, much like companies do. In the past decade, Angela Merkel moved the Union to the left, with a minimum wage, nuclear phase-out or a quota for women. She primarily wanted to take votes from the SPD. She saw no competition to the right of the Union. As far as the SPD is concerned, Merkel's operation was a success: the Social Democrats are on the ground. Now the AfD is strong. The competition starts all over again. The CDU should move to the right, the CSU is already doing it. And at least the FDP will appraise the right-wing populists.

It remains to be seen how dirty it gets when these parties move to the right. Do they also stir up resentment against migrants and other social groups? Do the difficulties begin with the fact that you accept the AfD position "Migrants are problems" as a basis for discussion? The political conflict in Germany, it is to be feared, is taking on rougher features. It becomes more tangible.

A climate of general distrust contradicts our economic system as it has developed over the past decades. German companies are trying to overcome borders. Almost half of economic output today results from exports. A culture of trust is part of this strategy. The confidence to invest money in foreign countries that will only pay off years later. The willingness to engage with business partners and employees of other languages, religions and skin colors without prejudice.

It does not fit in with this to stir up suspicion against social groups, not even against migrants. Those who mistrust above all stay in the country instead of taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the globalized economy. Managers and association giants who like to hold back politically should now take a stand against the populists - and against all who emulate them.

How devastating a climate of distrust can be can be observed in the USA. A president who wedges here and there. Who attacks equally political rivals, immigrants, certain companies or other economic nations as it occurs to him.

This danger now threatens Germany: resentment instead of rationality. Anyone who remembers how CSU politicians repeatedly raised the mood against homosexuals knows how little the Federal Republic is immune from them.

Refugees must be quickly integrated into the world of work

This naturally raises the question of how the established parties should act against the voter migration to the right-wing populists without moving closer to their positions. On the one hand, there would be a more transparent refugee policy. A commitment to acceptance for humanitarian reasons combined with more speed in integration. After the wave of migrants in 2015, the German authorities were too slow; now they are too bureaucratic to get those arriving quickly into training and work. Such a policy also includes consistently sending back refugees who do not meet the asylum requirements. And at the same time, through an immigration law, opening the door to applicants who, because of their qualifications, can easily be integrated into the economy.

A second response to the populists is to deal with the economic concerns of their constituents. The AfD garnered a particularly large number of votes from workers and the unemployed. The established parties pay too little attention to the losers of globalization. You should rather change this attitude instead of approaching the AfD's mood.