West Germany: Low on Steam

Of all his nicknames, West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard cherishes none so highly as Wahllokomotive (vote puller). Indeed, over the past two decades he has chugged well ahead of the rest of his party, helping to pull it to victory behind a prosperous trail of cigar smoke. Last week the Erhard engine ran dangerously low on steam.

The locale was North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state in West Germany and, with its vast Rhine-Ruhr coal-and-steel complex, the industrial heartland of the nation. The state's 17 million inhabitants represent fully a third of the West German electorate, and exercise a political...

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