In Germany, the tea party has a name: Thilo Sarrazin. A one-man populist revolt, he has been ridiculed by the political establishment. He has been forced off the executive board of Germany's central bank. His fellow Social Democrats want to expel him from the party. And he is crying all the way to the bank. Sales of his book "Germany Does Away With Itself" are expected to top one million copies by Christmas.
On 464 pages, Mr. Sarrazin explains why the country is doomed: too many immigrants of the wrong kind, mainly Muslim. These folks are under-gifted and under-trained, hence a permanent under-class both unable and unwilling to assimilate. And they will outbreed the locals so that 100 years from now only 20 million "real" Germans will be left.
Chancellor Angela Merkel originally called the book "not helpful," even "totally unacceptable." Others bad-mouthed Mr. Sarrazin as crypto-fascist and racist. But like the tea party in the U.S., he had struck a chord with his assault on the liberal consensus. And lo, eight weeks into the free-for-all, Mrs. Merkel and her Christian Democrats have changed signals. She now calls multiculturalism "failed, totally failed." Her colleague Horst Seehofer, the head of the Bavarian wing, wants to stop immigration from "other cultures." A resolution for next month's party congress invokes "tougher sanctions" for those who refuse to integrate.
As went Europe, so now goes Germany? From France to Scandinavia, the resentment of Muslim immigration has thrust parties into parliaments that clamor for enforced assimilation, a halt to immigration, or even "voluntary" resettlement. The latest newcomers are the "Sweden Democrats" who scored 20 seats in September. Yet a Le Pen (France) or a Geert Wilders (Holland) won't happen here.
Germany is different because it is . . . well, Germany. The country that took racism to genocidal heights will not tolerate a right-wing, xenophobe party. Anti-Nazism, you might say, is now part of the German DNA—even though some 20% of those polled might like a "party to the right of the Christian Democrats." Such polls are Exhibit A in the foreign commentary that sees Germany going "Wilders." But to the "right of the Christian Democrats" targets a party that has moved steadily to the left during the Merkel years. It means the kind of cultural conservatism that is perfectly respectable in the Anglo-Saxon world. "Real" right-wing parties stay below 1% in German national elections.
The more appropriate comparison is with the American tea party—a populist insurgency against the liberal consensus. The issue is not "tax and spend," but a set of pieties on immigration. The left put its faith in happy, colorful multiculturalism. Let's all live together and respect our differences. The right thought the issue would go away or stay nicely confined in the inner-cities. That's why those who are foreign-born used to be called "guest workers." Now, they are "migrants" rather than "immigrants." In fact, you cannot "immigrate" into Germany as you can into the U.S. or Australia. You can come if you have a job or follow a spouse, and eventually you can become a citizen. Since 2004, naturalization has become easier, but in the past, you were better off with a German shepherd in your family than with a Ph.D. in German literature.
The problem, as elsewhere in Europe, is not "outbreeding," for immigrant fertility rates will soon come down to the majority level. It is open borders plus a lavish welfare system. So the American model—sweat your way up from the Lower East Side to midtown to the suburbs—does not work in Germany. The problem three generations later is a perverse trend with the grandchildren of the "guest workers," particularly among those four million Muslims, being worse off than their forbears.
These "dysfunctionalities, such as disproportionate drop-out rates, unfinished vocational training, low university attendance, petty jobs, a life on welfare or worse: youth gangs and crime, transcend faith and origins. As in the U.S., Germany also has its "welfare dynasties"—among ethnic Germans, as well.
But then, there is the visibility of difference: headscarves, broken German, imported wives, the mosque around the corner. And forced marriages and "honor killings." Whose fault is it? It is always "them," but for the right, "them" are the outsiders who refuse to assimilate, and on the left, it is "us," who won't let them in; the killer-word is "Islamophobia."
It has been a moot debate, like a minuet where all the dancers circle and then return to their original positions. But something has happened on the way down from "Germany Does Away With Itself." It is the belated recognition that pieties will take their revenge. Hence Mrs. Merkel's about-face and her verdict about the utter failure of multiculturalism. So in the end, the people have the last word—as Americans will have on President Obama on Nov. 2.
Democracy works, but in nicer ways in the U.S. and in Germany than in Sweden or Austria. Revolt translates not into wild-eyed extremism, but into legitimate political change—either through midterm elections, as in the U.S., or via party conferences in Germany. The country will now, through proper parliamentary procedures, tackle what was ignored for so long.
It will make German-language training mandatory, it will train teachers with intercultural skills, it will demand as a condition of entry not only a job offer, but also proof of language ability. In December, the Government will make certification of foreign degrees easier; there are just too many taxi drivers with a university background. In short, it will select rather than just admit "migrants." Germany might eventually also pass a real immigration law, implying a point system for needed skills—just like Canada.
Immigration is a fact of Western life. But "Multikulti," as the Germans call it, is a dream that failed. "Migrants" are now called upon to become citizens, which is a win-win situation for both the country and the newcomers. As Germany's "Mr. Tea Party" counts his royalties, he may also savor his political triumph. His book, dyspeptic and shoddy as it may be in parts, has unleashed a quiet revolution in Germany—minus the demagogues that now torment the rest of Europe.
Mr. Joffe is editor of Die Zeit and senior fellow of the Institute for International Studies and Abramowitz Fellow of the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford.