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The AfD has been dismissed by critics corset style bra as reactionaries and Nazis. Sigmar Gabriel, a former head of the SPD, echoed a widely made comment in German media and political circles when he observed that, “for the first time since the end of the Second World War, real Nazis will sit in the German Parliament.”

The AfD is opposed to liberal immigration policies and the EU’s womens bikinis sale enforcement of national quotas for the resettlement of illegal migrants and refugees. That is their defining issue. They are nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-EU and have argued that growing immigration into Germany from third world countries, especially of Muslim immigrants, pose an existential threat to German culture and society.

They certainly have their share of political troglodytes, suit underwear perhaps even more than their share, but they are not Nazis. They are the German manifestation of the same phenomenon that spurred the Brexit vote in the UK and that fueled the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. They are no more Nazis than the millions of voters that supported Brexit or Donald Trump.

Immigration has become the lightning rod for a working class that feels itself increasingly marginalized and ignored by the political class. Even in prosperous Germany, whose unemployment rate is 3.9%, working class anxiety is increasingly expressed as anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment.

It’s not as if working class jobs are being lost to immigrants, legal or otherwise. The vast majority of the refugees that Germany accepted have still not been integrated into the labor force. Likewise, the decline of blue collar jobs in the U.S. has been driven by a combination of technological change and outsourcing to low wage countries, not by illegal immigrants taking jobs away from Americans.

There is a thread, however, that runs through these disparate political developments. Decades of converging politics have stripped the major political parties in Europe and North America of their identity and legitimacy. While they may articulate political platforms that differentiate them sharply from one another, once in government there is often little difference in how they govern.

Moreover, the embrace of the center-left parties of pro-growth, new-economy agendas has often come at the expense of defending the interests of the working class. A group that finds itself increasingly marginalized and anxious about its future in a high tech, globally integrated economy where they are vulnerable to job losses from both technological innovation and job migration to low wage countries.

The economic benefits of globalization and high-tech automation may be compelling, but its logic is lost on those who are globalized or automated out of a job. The choice is not between protectionism or policies that restrict innovation, but neither is it between expanding the dole or ignoring a segment of society that increasingly feels left behind.

New Democrats and New Labor may have been successful political strategies in the short-term, but they succeeded by undermining in the long run the legitimacy of the historic right–left dynamic of Western politics.

The traditional blue collar working class is going to be a fixture of politics for at least another generation. If the mainstream parties ignore their concerns then it will be either the fringe parties or fringe elements within the mainstream parties that will increasingly articulate those concerns.
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