In the “fight against the right,” the parties to the left of center are the loudest. But the volume of their battle cries far exceeds their successes on the “voter front.”

The local elections in Thuringia have confirmed what has already been shown elsewhere: the SPD, the Greens and the Left are not an alternative for dissatisfied voters, on the contrary.

For almost ten years, Thuringia has been governed by a red-red-green coalition headed by Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (Left Party). During this time, the AfD has become increasingly stronger. It is obvious that federal political influences also play a role. The red-green-red achievements have certainly not impressed voters in the municipalities. On Sunday, the three left-wing government parties together received just 24 percent of the vote. Five years ago, this figure was 34.9 percent.

What a crash! The beneficiary was the right-wing extremist AfD, which received 26 percent, an increase of 8.3 points. And that despite all its scandals and affairs. Ramelow’s Left Party was hit particularly hard, only receiving 8.8 (14) percent. The “Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW)” did not contribute much to this, as the new party only ran in a few municipalities and districts.

The Greens, already weak in the East, were almost halved: 3.9 after 7.5 percent. The SPD fell even further, from a modest 13.4 percent, to 11.3 percent. When democratic parties take a stand against extremists, it is always welcome. With the SPD, the Greens and the Left, however, one always has the impression that in reality the “left-greens” are primarily concerned with bringing the CDU closer to the AfD.

This is already evident in the slogan “Fight against the right”. It deliberately does not differentiate between right-wing conservatives and right-wing extremists. Leftists say AfD, but also want to hit the CDU.

The AfD may not have achieved the breakthrough it had hoped for in Thuringia. But it will be the strongest party in many district, municipal and city councils. This makes it even more difficult to exclude Höcke’s troops. The SPD likes to promote itself as a “firewall against the right.” As Sunday’s election results show, this wall is more like a rotten garden fence.

The example of the small town of Schmalkalden shows that it is easier to demand exclusion and demarcation from others than to implement it yourself. There, the non-party-affiliated Thomas Kaminski, nominated by the SPD, was re-elected as mayor. The SPD became the strongest faction in the city council, ahead of the AfD.

In the “Spiegel” the election winner clearly stated how he imagines a local politics that is “focused on the issue”: “If the AfD puts forward a proposal that is good for urban development, then we will look at it and discuss it.” And: “Complete isolation makes the AfD stronger.” Kaminski is lucky in that he was elected on the SPD ticket. If he had a CDU party membership card, he would be certain of a veritable “shitstorm” after these comments.

Of course, the SPD will not be able to consistently exclude the AfD in many district, municipal and city councils. Very often, the right-wing extremists are the strongest faction. In addition, the CDU, SPD, Greens and FDP are too weak in many places to be able to form clear majorities. Finally, representatives of various voting groups, who together received around 20 percent of all votes, are also included in many committees. These cannot be classified in party political terms and are not bound by any supra-regional “firewall resolutions”.

The first round of the local elections was sobering for the democratic parties. The SPD, Greens and FDP (2.6 after 4.8 percent) lost a massive amount of votes. The CDU at least slightly improved its result with 27.5 percent, but did not benefit from the loss of reputation of the traffic light parties. Thuringia shows what many politicians to the left of center do not want to admit: extreme parties can be excluded to a certain extent, but the concerns and needs of the citizens cannot.

The SPD, the Left and the Greens are not delivering what is most likely to lure voters away from the AfD: success in limiting illegal immigration, a climate policy that does not overburden people financially, or a social policy that does not make workers feel like fools.

The latter is the case with the generous citizen’s allowance regulations of the traffic light coalition. The basic child benefit promoted by the Greens also threatens to reinforce the impression that the welfare state is a better “employer” than a company that offers simple, low-paid jobs to people with low qualifications.

In Thuringia, the signs for the runoff elections are good in that the AfD has virtually no chance of gaining absolute majorities in the fight for district offices and town halls.

But the lessons from the first round of voting are clear: only a different policy will help against the AfD, in Erfurt and especially in Berlin.

But we should not be under any illusions. The number of people in the AfD who are not bothered by right-wing extremist views or politicians who act like proletarians or admire dictators is larger than we would have thought a decade ago – unfortunately not only in Thuringia.