The first right-wing nationalists since the Nazis are coming to Parliament in Germany. Their party, simply called the Alternative for Germany (or AfD, as in Deutschland), is a token of two serious, stubborn phenomena in the West.
The first is the scariest, but also the most familiar: even more powerful than memory or conscience is the human resistance to living out tame, boring lives free of serious conflict.
The second is not so abhorrent to established liberal ideology, but if treated as mere barbarism, the better to be stamped out, instead it will only grow. Specifically, too many ideological promises issued by liberal internationalism have just not come true. The worldwide benefits of liberalism to peace, health and leisure are real and wonderful, but they do not compensate for the disappointments of liberalism, where it has raised and dashed false hopes pertaining to economic stability, cultural cohesion and personal happiness.
The spread of a viable new nationalist right from the rest of Europe to Germany is a predictable consequence of both the irrepressible human appetite for real conflict and the specific failings of liberalism to cure us of the alienation that historically dogs us even — or especially — in peacetime.
While a host of cultural recommendations could and should be applied to the combined threat now posed to the liberal West, part of the challenge Germany faces is that liberal culture has grown increasingly ineffective as a means of cracking down on political incorrectness. There is no getting away from treating reactionary or nationalist politics politically — that is, treating it as democratically legitimate.
Accept that hard-to-swallow fact and western liberals can begin to take their bearings from the harsh reality unfolding around them. Although Angela Merkel claimed yet another win at the ballot box, returning for a fourth term as chancellor, her party, the Christian Democrats, fared poorly. Their 33 percent take was good for a…