Angela Merkel should step down

Merkel has well served her country and Europe, but rather than run for a fourth term, as she is doing, she should step down. She is part of the group of leaders that set off the populist rebellion now shaking the world. Hers is the generation of globalization, free trade agreements, austerity, migrant surges, and endless war. Its other leading figures have passed from the scene. Barack Obama left office to a shocking repudiation at the polls. Britain’s David Cameron was forced to resign. Francois Hollande is among the least popular French leaders in history and is not running for reelection. Merkel should follow them into retirement.

The German election is set for Sept. 24. Merkel’s chief opponent is a dynamic Social Democrat, Martin Schulz, a policeman’s son without a high school diploma who campaigns unabashedly for social justice and pan-European values. Neither is likely to win outright, so the result may be continuation of two-party rule with Merkel as chancellor. That will encourage the image of Europe as the fief of an encrusted elite. It leaves the banner of change in the hands of populist demagogues. Many Germans realize and fear this. According to one recent opinion survey, 59 percent of them want “a change in leadership at the top.”