One of Alice Weidel's favorite ways of beginning sentences is with the phrase "If we're being honest." So if we're being honest, is anyone surprised that an email purportedly from the Alternative for Germany's (AfD) lead candidate has surfaced which dismisses Arabs and Sinti and Roma as "culturally foreign people" and Germany's political leadership as "puppets of the victorious powers" in the Second World War?
The AfD has denied in Weidel's name that she was the author of the email. The conservative newspaper Die Welt, which published the purported email, says the message's recipient has sworn under oath that the words are indeed Weidel's own. If we're being honest, does it make much of a difference?
Consider the following. Last month, Weidel's fellow lead candidate Alexander Gauland proposed that the government's integration commissioner — a German citizen with Turkish roots who was born in Hamburg — be "disposed of in Anatolia." When asked whether she agreed with that sentiment, Weidel's answer was that she wouldn't have used those words, but that Gauland's basic idea was correct. It's possible that Weidel may not have written the words in the email. But if we're being honest, the sentiments expressed therein are ones that she's put forward often enough.
During this election campaign, Weidel has sought to present herself as the cool, "moderate" and rational face of the AfD. But if we're being honest, there is no moderate form of an irrational fear of foreigners. As a recent Bertelsmann Foundation study showed, the Alternative for Germany's sole issue and source of appeal is precisely the sort of paranoid xenophobia in this email. The sad thing is that this email won't do anything to disqualify Weidel in the eyes of the eight to 12 percent of German voters who are likely to cast their ballots for the AfD on September 24.
The AfD, of course, thinks this latest miniature scandal is another instance of the big bad media ganging up on a party that dares take on the corrupt political establishment. But as party leaders rushed to dispute Weidel's authorship of the email on Sunday, not one of them bothered to repudiate its content, including the patently ridiculous notion that Germany could be "swamped" by Sinti and Roma, many of whose families have lived in Germany for hundreds of years and are German citizens. If we're being honest, doesn't that tell you all you need to know about this party?
What a contrast between Weidel and Angela Merkel. The chancellor spent much of last week appearing in front of often hostile crowds, many with a heavy presence of AfD supporters, in parts of eastern Germany. When asked why she would choose to go to places where she knew she wasn't popular and where she was unlikely to win many votes, her answer was that it was part of the job. Weidel, on the other hand, refuses to answer questions she doesn't like and has developed a habit of storming out of interviews and debates if others get too critical of her and her party. If we're being honest, which of these two people has displayed the sort of courage of conviction the AfD is so fond of claiming for itself?
If nothing else, the publication of this racist email underscores the fact that on September 24, Germans have a chance to say a resounding no to xenophobia. The more voters there are who choose other parties, the lower the share of the vote for the AfD and the less political influence people like Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland will have. And if we're being honest, that's as good reason as any to cast a ballot.Jefferson Chase