In German elections on Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel is once again failing to garner the massive public support she has enjoyed for the past 10 years. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, lost votes in Sunday’s Berlin elections, while the nationalist right-wing party, Alternative for Germany, gained seats. This election, like so many others this year, was determined by the refugee crisis.

Merkel has been one of the few European leaders willing to accept vast numbers of refugees into her country’s borders. Germany, with arguably the strongest economy in Europe, was in a good financial situation to take in refugees. However, as more refugees came, Merkel’s decade-long popularity began to crumble before her very eyes. Heribert Prantl, a German journalist, said that the results of this election make it clear that “It can[not] be taken for granted that minorities (and not only the refugees) are and will be respected.”

In Germany, we see the example of a courageous leader trying to take a moral stand on the refugee issues. However, instead of rallying behind her, the German public are showing through their votes that they want Merkel gone. Despite strong governmental support for refugee assimilation programs, the German people remain – like the rest of the Western world – afraid and unwilling to share the burden.

As I see Merkel lose these elections, I am reminded of the rise of Trump in the United States. Many will say that he is crazy, racist, and irresponsible. But Trump did not create the anti-refugee, pro-nationalism movement in the United States. The anti-refugee, pro-nationalism movement created Trump. We may criticize our choices for this year’s presidential election, but the leaders are only as good as the people they are representing. In Angela Merkel’s case, when the leader took the moral high ground, the people are well on their way to throwing her out.
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