How on earth does Angela Merkel think she is going to get re-elected?

We are at the midpoint between Merkel’s 2015 invitation to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to settle in Germany and the general elections she must face in the autumn of 2017. This year began with hundreds of cases of sexual assault by recent migrants in Cologne. July saw a variety of migrant-related atrocities in a period of days. A young Afghani used an axe to attack a family of Chinese visitors on a train. An Iranian-German shot dozens of shoppers, many of them children, in a mall in Munich, killing nine. A Syrian restaurant worker in Baden-Württemberg used a machete to chop a pregnant Polish co-worker to pieces. Another Syrian set off a suicide bomb at a music festival in Ansbach.

Merkel's reelection strategy began to emerge at a Friday morning Berlin press conference held by her party's interior ministers (our equivalent of state attorneys general). She will propose to ban Muslim veils. The national interior minister, Thomas De Maizière said: "We are opposed to the total cover—not just the burka but also other forms that allow only the eyes to be seen. They do not belong in our open society. Showing your face is a basic part of communication, of community, of social cohesion." It was coordinated with an interview in which Merkel herself promised her support to De Maizière, saying "A fully veiled woman in Germany has little chance to integrate."

By midday on Friday, the papers were full of handy charts showing which veils were okay and which not. The niqab would appear to be verboten, along with the burka. The hijab and the amira are fine. The Iranian chador is on the bubble. Clip 'n Save!

De Maizière was alluding to The Open Society and its Enemies, a much misunderstood work about politics by the mid-twentieth-century Austrian philosopher of science Karl Popper. But he was off-point. The "openness" that Popper argues for is the non-judgmentalism of science, as opposed to the "teleology" of political utopias. The book is fine at arguing that neutrality beats totalitarianism. It is woefully overrated as a defense against teleological thinking. Popper's book is a favorite of George Soros, who named his Open Society Foundations after it. This is not the place to debate what is admirable and what deplorable in Soros's agenda. But "openness," as we understand the word colloquially, is not what it promotes.

Popper's "openness" is often an empty word. In this case, it attempts to defeat religious values by making believe anti-religious values are "neutral" or "open." France's prime minister Manuel Valls shares De Maizière's idea of open society. A mayor in Corsica decided this week to ban the burkini, a modest bathing suit of the sort all western women wore in the early twentieth century but which, because it is favored by young Muslim women, is now deemed a threat to France. (Get yours here!) The mayor seems to want a civilizational confrontation. In defending him on Wednesday, Valls spoke with the illogic of someone who is not saying what he really means. "There is an idea that women are immodest, impure, and that they should be totally covered," he said. "That is not compatible with the values of France. Faced with such provocations, the Republic must defend itself."

The idea that modest dress is meant to declare the "impurity" of women rather than the opposite is, to put it mildly, debatable. Whatever the grounds of feminine modesty may be, if it is a threat to the republics of France and Germany, they are in greater peril than we had assumed.