Merkel's statement scolding congratulating Donald Trump for his election victory is getting a lot of press:
Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views. I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.
The statement's being met with mixed reviews even in the German press, with center-right commentators like Alexander Kissler (g) denouncing it for its self-righteous sanctimoniousness.
I tend to side with Kissler on this one. America neither needs nor wants lectures from Germans on protections of minority rights. One thing most Germans will never understand is that even when interpreted by conservative Republican judges and officials, the US constitution and laws offer more protection for religious and racial minorities than German law does. Let's look at a few highlights:
- Gays can marry in the United States, but cannot in Germany.
- Women have just as many opportunities in the USA as in Germany. They participate in the labor force at a slightly higher rate in the USA than in Germany, and they have a higher median income in the USA than in Germany.
- The US has banned racial and religious discrimination in private contracts since 1964, Germany only since 2006.
- German anti-discrimination laws are toothless. Discrimination lawsuits are notoriously hard to win, and the penalties for discrimination are much too weak to have any deterrent effect. Verified accounts of blatant discrimination in housing and employment are easy to find in Germany.
- American class-action discrimination lawsuits regularly result in damages verdicts of tens of millions of dollars. This is impossible under German law.
- The US has an official federal government agency, the EEOC, which sues American companies who engage in racial, gender, or other forms of illegal discrimination. This agency forces the companies to pay massive damages judgments, accept public responsibility for their action, and remedy their policies. This level of accountability is unknown in Germany. The only thing Germany has is a federal agency that publishes reports and non-binding guidelines.
- Foreigners and people not born in Germany are over-represented in Germany prisons at a rate comparable to blacks in American prisons. And for the same reasons -- crime is more common in these populations.
- American laws do not discriminate among religious faiths; German laws do, giving massive privileges to the two established churches -- including a € 460 million yearly subsidy (g) based on obscure 19th century state contracts. Scientologists and members of other odd religious groups can operate freely in the US, while in Germany they are spied upon and harassed by officials who consider them dangerous cults.
This is not to say that Germany is backward or oppressive. All societies make different policy choices and have different levels of protection for minorities. All societies have failings when it comes to providing equal opportunity. But the USA is, objectively, ahead of Germany in many ways. Disputes about voter registration or transgender bathroom use are side issue. America's core protections for minority rights are firmly entrenched in powerful, popular laws and institutions which transcend partisan politics and which are fully accepted by all mainstream political actors.
A Trump presidency will do absolutely nothing to change that, just as two Bush presidencies didn't. Merkel's condescending warning is as superfluous as it is irritating.