Gerhard Schroeder has won another four-year term as German chancellor following his Red-Green coalition’s victory in September—the narrowest ever seen in a German election.  Until just weeks before the election, he was expected to lose, and, considering his record, deservedly so.  Under Chancellor Schroeder, Germany has enjoyed a double-digit unemployment rate—over four million Germans are currently out of work—coupled with a continuing deluge of Third World immigrants; in addition, Schroeder’s first term was plagued by scandals, which forced the resignation of Defense Minister Rudolph Scharping last July.

What saved Schroeder was his strong, determined opposition to Germany’s participation in the coming U.S.-led war against Iraq.  In a campaign almost devoid of issues for the Social Democrats to exploit, Schroeder discovered that standing up to Bush paid rich political dividends.  When he declared that he would “not click his heels” and say “yes” to whatever President Bush decides, the Germans ate it up.  The rhetoric soon escalated from attacks on Washington’s Iraq policy—which were both legitimate and justified—to crude anti-Americanism.  Scharping was quoted in the New York Times saying that Bush wanted to overthrow Saddam to please “a powerful—perhaps overly powerful—Jewish lobby” (which is what most European politicians think, but they don’t like to hear it from a German).  And finally, Schroeder’s justice minister, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, famously compared President Bush’s Iraq policy to Adolf Hitler’s bullying tactics.

The tired reductio ad Hitlerum is a sure mark of moral degeneracy and intellectual bankruptcy, but it has proved particularly effective for Schroeder’s camp.  In the closing weeks of the campaign, his party moved from five points behind Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber’s conservative CDU/CSU coalition to a dead heat.  Stoiber could not devise a viable counterstrategy: He disagrees with the aggressive style of the Bush administration, but he is also steeped in the Atlanticist tradition of Germany’s Christian Democrats, which hearkens back to Konrad Adenauer.  In the end, he refused to exploit the anti-Americanism endemic to the European left and now rising even on the traditionalist right.

The problems facing Germany’s society and economy will not be fixed by the second Schroeder administration.  The nation that gave us the word Angst will remain in its grip until it settles into being a “normal” European nation.  

During the campaign, Stoiber controversially declared that the Czech Republic should not be admitted into the European Union until it rescinds the “Benes Decrees,” which were enacted as a cover for the expulsion of ethnic Germans from the Sudetenland after World War II.  He is also an advocate of stiffer immigration control, a touchy subject in a country that, while it has been deluged by phony asylum-seekers, depends on immigrant labor.

There is no Jörg Haider or Jean-Marie Le Pen in Germany—for now, anyway.  Even if there were, the two leading parties would gang up on him: The centrist duopoly of German politics remains unchanged.  Yet, while the Bush administration continues to insist on an unnecessary and risky war with Iraq, Schroeder’s Germany may lead Europe away from its current path of Blairite submissiveness to Washington’s neoimperial dictates.  That would be good news—for Germany, for Europe, and for America.