Just over a year ago, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer seemed up-and-coming in German politics. She had succeeded Angela Merkel as boss of their center-right party, the Christian Democratic Union. She even looked like Merkel’s heiress apparent as German chancellor. All that came to a screeching halt on Feb. 10, when Kramp-Karrenbauer said she would resign as party leader, thereby becoming the most notable political victim yet of a far-right party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Modern Germany isn’t Weimar; the AfD isn’t the Nazi party; and German democracy isn’t in danger of failing. Nonetheless, this rupture is historical. It rips wide open the race to become the next German chancellor. It also exposes the helpless failure of the CDU and all of the other centrist parties, at least so far, to find plausible democratic answers to the increasingly devious challenge from the far right.