GERMANY’S MAJORS IN MERGER

Norman Birnbaum writes: The two largest German parties, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, reluctantly decided to form a coalition government–and promptly began to fight each other. Angela Merkel will be chancellor, while Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democrats will have eight of the sixteen ministries. Schröder, who will retire, called the election because his coalition no longer gave him reliable majorities, while the Christian Democrats blocked his policies in the upper house. Now, unlike their leader Merkel, many Christian Democrats agree with most Social Democrats (and, according to the polls, a majority of the electorate) that the primary task of the new government is not to demolish the welfare state but to retain it. German bankers and industrialists, loudly lamenting the result, have understood the message and begun quiet talks with the trade unions on a new social pact. As for foreign policy, the Social Democratic foreign minister will not come to Washington to pledge allegiance. The outgoing coalition’s emphasis on constructing an autonomous Europe will be strengthened. That, too, is what a large majority of Germans want. Perhaps we are witnessing not a stalemate but a reaffirmation of a broadly based German consensus that rejects the US social model and imperial power. Pained official silence, experts’ bromides and journalists’ distortions have been American responses to the election.

WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE

The postelection autopsies of the Democratic disaster in 2004 are giving way to strategies on how to win in ’08 (see Jonathan Schell). Meanwhile, the best-known of the I-told-you-so books, Tom Franks’s What’s the Matter With Kansas?, which brilliantly argued that working-class folk are voting Republican against their economic interests because the party is right on the social issues, has been challenged by Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels. Analyzing historic voting patterns, he contends that most low-income Democrats have remained loyal to the party and value economic issues above social ones (see Katrina vanden Heuvel’s blog at www.thenation.com).

NEWS OF THE WEAK IN REVIEW

What was W.’s real motive for elevating Harriet Miers to the High Bench? Copies of private letters between them when Bush was Texas governor, obtained by the New York Times, suggest the answer. Consider this 1997 birthday greetings exchange. Miers: You are the best governor ever…. Keep up the great work. Texas is blessed. Bush: I appreciate your friendship and candor–never hold back your sage advice.