Angela Merkel on Monday downed what she no doubt viewed as a poisoned chalice. To keep her power and her grand coalition, the German chancellor agreed finally to stanch the flow of migrants by setting up camps at the border and turning away those who had already applied for asylum in other European countries. The concession comes three years after Merkel flung open the gates to more than a million newcomers from the Middle East and Africa. For much of that time, she refused to put a cap on the number Germany would accept.
Whatever the immediate political outcome—Merkel’s position remains tenuous amid a mighty anti-immigration backlash on the center and far right—she has already cemented her legacy. And it is a baleful one. Inspired by what can only be described as a kind of liberal fundamentalism, Merkel’s response to the migrant crisis destabilized Europe and discredited the Western project in the eyes of global multitudes. Behind Donald Trump and Brexit and other populist uprisings of our time lies the figure of “Mama Merkel,” as Syrian refugees to Germany lovingly nicknamed their patroness.
As Jim Geraghty tweeted in 2015: