By William K. Black
May 1, 2016 Bloomington, MN
Republican Party leaders are shocked that their three decades of pursuing the racist “Southern strategy,” California Governor Pete Wilson’s desperate attacks on Latinos, myriad assaults on women’s rights, and repeatedly sponsoring gay bashing propositions designed to energize the (bigoted) base have created a base that champions Donald Trump’s serial hatred. Key leaders of the hard right in Germany are shocked by the same dynamic. The prophet Hosea has two verses that warned of this dynamic millennia ago.
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7)
Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies (Hosea 10:13)
Hans-Olaf Henkel, the man who largely funded and has helped lead the creation of a hard right German party, the Alliance for Germany (AfD), forgot his bible. I have written previously about Henkel’s open racism and bigotry and, hilariously, his rapturous treatment by New York Times as a paragon of moderation that purportedly signified the AfD’s respectability.
With his blue-chip business résumé and name recognition earned from years on the German television talk show circuit, Mr. Henkel symbolizes how the anti-euro movement is becoming more socially acceptable — and more difficult for the centrist, pro-euro parties to ignore.
At the same time, though, his particular variety of Brussels bashing is a reminder of how difficult it will be for the euro-skeptic parties to reconcile their eclectic platforms. Although many of the groups share a hostility toward the European Union, they also often foster distinct elements of nationalism and xenophobia, making it a challenge to find common cause on any issue of substance.
Mr. Henkel, a longtime member of the human rights group Amnesty International, strenuously denies that the Alternative for Germany party, known as the AfD in Germany, is a haven for the extreme right. He says such labels come from journalists who “would rather paint us into an anti-immigration corner or a rightist corner so they can ignore us.”
He ruled out cooperating with far-right, anti-immigration groups like the Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France or the U.K. Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage.
Instead, the AfD joined the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, or E.C.R. The E.C.R. also includes members of the British Conservative Party, whose decision to welcome the AfD last week strained already uneasy relations between Ms. Merkel and Mr. Cameron, the Conservative leader. (Britain, of course, has long opposed the euro union, having opted to stick with the pound sterling.)
But membership in the E.C.R. is not likely to quiet criticism that the AfD, led by Bernd Lucke, an economics professor at the University of Hamburg, is a Trojan horse for Germany’s extreme right. The E.C.R. also includes right-wing populist parties like the True Finns of Finland and the Danish People’s Party.
Still, Mr. Henkel may make it harder to stereotype anti-euro forces in the European Parliament as a collection of right-wing cranks.
‘It’s a good thing to have a political party from Germany composed of people with reputations like Mr. Henkel,’ Jan Zahradil, a Czech member of the European Parliament who is first vice chairman of the E.C.R., said by telephone after the group voted to include the AfD. ‘He really is an asset.’”
What was Henkel’s “reputation” when it came to “xenophobia” and “anti-immigrant” efforts? I’ve detailed his record of bigotry, particularly his hate speech attacking Turks and American blacks. Henkel’s hate speech was often cruder than Trump’s version.
To no one’s surprise, the AfD has spiraled into a party based on hatred for the “other.” I’ll skip over the intermediate steps and bring you Henkel’s recent column in the Huffington Post (auf Deutsch) explaining why he is (finally) finished with the AfD. He is shocked that the wickedness that he did so much to plow and the lies he has sown about immigrants, Muslims, and blacks have led to a party dominated by looney and murderous bigots. Henkel implicitly admits that Germany is now reaping the whirlwind in the form of the terrifying iniquity that sowing hate always produces. Henkel gave up his leadership position in the AfD last year as control of the party was increasingly seized by a bevy of German’s ultra-right wing leaders.
In his column in April 2016 explaining why he was leaving the AfD entirely, Henkel provided several reasons. He started by explaining that the party’s leadership had been taken over by crazies. He then stressed that the new leaders included many devotees of wild conspiracy theories. He gave the example of those that viewed the U.S. as the great threat – and Russia as Germany’s historic and natural ally. Henkel gave the further example of the defense of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and seizure of land as the reclamation of lost Russian lands (which has particular resonance to those who recall similar German claims in the years leading up to World War II).
Henkel noted that at least four AfD leaders were calling on troops from EU nations to shoot immigrants – including women and children (Frauen und Kinder) – who entered the EU without visas. In sum, the NYT’s absurd claim that Henkel’s leadership role in creating the AfD made it “harder to stereotype anti-euro forces in the European Parliament as a collection of right-wing cranks” stands refuted by Henkel’s admission that the AfD is run by “a collection of right-wing cranks.” Except, that Henkel correctly stresses that the AfD is led by murderous thugs rather than odd but harmless “cranks.”
Henkel concluded by noting that he and his family had received death threats from people claiming to be AfD members. When you spread hate based on nationality, race, and religion you encourage not simply hate, but murderous hate against the “other.” AfD now has the leaders its base loves. Henkel is oblivious to his role in sowing this murderous hate. The Republican Party establishment purports to be shocked that Trump’s free-floating bigotry is loved by their Party’s base.