Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer is a writer, translator, and Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard. He blogs at French Politics. Follow him on Twitter: @artgoldhammer.

Recent Articles

Germany: Can the Center Hold?

Coalition talks between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats have begun. Will the German center hold, or will the talks end in collapse and an end of the Merkel era?

Rex Features via AP Images
Rex Features via AP Images German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin I t was not long ago that Angela Merkel was being touted as “the leader of the Free World.” She seemed to be without rivals for the title. Donald Trump, besotted with illusions of America Firstism, had abdicated. Theresa May lay buried in the rubble of the Brexitquake. And Emmanuel Macron, just 39 years old and without political or foreign-policy experience, seemed too wet behind the ears to take on the role. Merkel, with 12 years as chancellor behind her and the highest approval rating of any Western leader, was the only plausible candidate. But then came the Bundestag election of last September 23, and overnight Mutti’s invincibility vanished. It was bad enough that Merkel’s party, an alliance of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its even more conservative Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Union (CSU), turned in its worst performance since 1949 . Adding insult to injury, Merkel...

The French Right Goes Wrong

France’s Republican Party has chosen a new leader, Laurent Wauquiez, who did not hesitate to divide the party in order to conquer it. Now, having expelled his erstwhile comrades of the center-right, he has no alternative but to try to poach voters from the extremist Front National.

Sipa via AP Images Newly elected president of France's Parti Républicain, Laurent Wauquiez O n December 10, the card-carrying members of France’s Parti Républicain elected Laurent Wauquiez as their new leader. But the party he hopes to shape into a vehicle for recapturing the French presidency is but a pale shadow of the political machine built by Jacques Chirac and transformed by Nicolas Sarkozy. How did the party that dominated French politics from 1995 to 2012 end up where it is today? One reason for the Republicans’ dilemma is that the incumbent president, Emmanuel Macron, has occupied political territory that the right once claimed as its own. As prime minister he chose a Republican, Édouard Philippe, and two other Republicans, Bruno Lemaire and Gérald Darmanin, were tapped to occupy the top posts at the finance and budget ministries, the key positions in domestic policymaking. In his presidential run Macron eagerly wooed center-right voters left standing at the altar when their...

Dredging Memory

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's new documentary is an immemorial tale of men at war, almost Homeric in its directness and simplicity.

AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File
AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File In this April 28, 1965 file photo, U.S. Marine infantry stream into a suspected Viet Cong village near Da Nang in Vietnam during the Vietnamese war. F orty-seven years ago last month I returned from an outpost in the Mekong Delta to graduate school at MIT, from which I had been drafted two years earlier. For the past two weeks I have been dredging up wartime memories, spurred by the epic documentary produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick for PBS. Not that my war bore much resemblance to the war so vividly depicted in the film. The filmmakers devote most of their footage to bloody battles and bloody-minded politicians. The contrast between the two constitutes the moral of their work. They want to honor the soldiers on both sides for the authenticity of their courage and sacrifice, which they contrast with the mendacity of those who send them off to die. “The blood is real,” novelist Tim O’Brien says, leaving the viewer to infer that the rest—the political...

Germany Votes

In this year’s federal election, Angela Merkel won a fourth term, but the German far-right achieved its strongest showing since World War II.  

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
AP Photo/Michael Sohn Supporters hold posters as German Chancellor Angela Merkel returns on the stage at the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Union CDU in Berlin. T his Sunday, September 24, Germans went to the polls to elect a new Bundestag. The preliminary results confirm predictions that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU; and its Bavarian partner Christian Social Union) would come in first, with about one-third of the vote, but this is down about 8 percentage points compared with four years ago. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), led by Martin Schulz, turned in its worst performance since World War II , with just over 20 percent of the vote. The SPD thus becomes the latest victim in the collapse of center-left establishment parties nearly everywhere. In the May presidential election in France, the French Socialists also turned in their worst performance since their founding and have been forced to put their party headquarters up for sale...