An Obama for Germany

In Berlin, functionaries and boredom rule. Exciting personalities could easily triumph over both.

What do Barack Obama and Guido Westerwelle have in common? Both were born in 1961 – and their shows from the past days can both be found in YouTube.

Unfortunately the similarities end here. The US-Presidential candidate Obama is now rallying a nationwide movement in the USA, fascinating the youth and is bringing passion back into the politics of a country, which had dejectedly turned its back on its representatives. Obama’s rhetoric is thrilling; Westerwelle’s always-the-same sayings are boring. Although he is still relatively young for a top politician, the FDP party leader is actually a very old acquaintance in German politics. As the leader of the young Liberals, he already stood on the federal political stage in the mid-1980s, before Kurt Beck, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Angela Merkel or Christian Wulff. Only Oskar Lafontaine has been a TV figure longer than Westerwelle.

What Westerwelle is missing is charm; one also speaks of charisma. Obama’s advancement fascinates many people in this country also because this combination of physical and intellectual presence is almost completely lacking in currently active German politicians. Ex-chancellors Gerhard Schroeder and Helmut Kohl have already had their great days, but they cannot be denied having had a sense of charisma. Schroeder was another one who apparently fought for everyone – not just behind the scenes, like the current political generation. And a big polariser like the CSU party leader and Bavarian prime minister Franz Josef Strauss, who passed away in 1988, had publicly sweat like a steel worker on the political stage.

Cool Managers of Power

It is not just a question of nostalgia. We have chosen the politicians we like: Managers of power, who do not get too nervous. For the drilling into thick boards that Max Weber spoke of in his view on politics, they have the right visual judgement. But Weber also spoke of passion. Angela Merkel and Kurt Beck conduct politics with all their might and passion. But they don’t convey any of this passion to the people.

The Germans have apparently chosen politicians who bore them. That is why we are torn up by figures such as the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and why we have a longing for “unblemished” idols such as the Dalai Lama or the Pope. In fact we actually prefer the solid Merkel to dazzlers such as Sarkozy or Silvio Berlusconi. But the interest in politics is fading altogether along with the controversial political figures.

There is a large political vacuum in Germany. Interest in politics during the days of the Great Coalition is lower than it has been in a long time. Many people just do not care who is fighting over what at the moment.

The “Spiegel” issue that showed Merkel on the cover was the worst-selling issue of 2007. And even if it would be as suspense-packed as it is in Hessen, one-third of the eligible voters do not even go to the polls. If you include the FDP and the Left-Wing constituents, who for the most part do not even want their parties to seek coalitions and consequently power, then the number of citizens who do not care much for politics as such an eternal search for compromises, nears the 50 percent mark.

The alienation of the political world in Berlin from the people is increasing. This has most recently been displayed in the education policy: Only after the outrage over the reduced high school years (regardless of the needs of students and parents) almost overthrew the Hessian Premier Roland Koch, did the subject appear in federal politics and in talk shows. In Berlin’s spaceship, the concerns of people are often noticed too late.

Over the last few weeks, the Electoral Research Group did a survey on which coalition Germans would like. Not one of the conceivable coalitions achieved even a relative majority. An alliance between the Union and the FDP, at 36 percent, had the most supporters, but just as many opponents. All other combinations, including the Great Coalition, had more opponents than supporters and the most unpopular, supported by only 18 percent and opposed by 65 percent, was the suggested Red-Red-Green constellation. The result is also depressing for the politicians: There is neither a dominant political trend nor are there clear factions. And with that, the decade-old certainty about how to organise electoral campaigns pretty much vanishes.

Lack of Orientation

There is morale for more of a welfare state, but there is no swing to the left in the sense of a trend that purposefully leads to a Left-Wing coalition. There is just as little of a trend towards a civil majority. There is this double gap, in which a German Obama could fall into – a lack in fascinating personalities and a lack in political orientation.

Are we even allowed to wish for that kind of a political figure? Could it not happen that a youthful character from way over to the Right suddenly shows up and brings German politics more harm with national populism than benefits?

This danger has theoretically existed for a long time, but the extreme Right-Wingers have not yet found a presentable face.

At any rate, Obama is advancing above the middle ground. Even if the political systems are completely different and even if the US Primaries facilitate such spectacular advancements: A quick advancement of strong personalities is also feasible here. Obama does not come from nothing. He first had a local base in Chicago and is politically established in one large State.

A personality that manages to inspire people and to rally good advisors around them could also secure a State Chair in any German party within a few years and take their place on the federal stage. He, who can inspire himself and others, is a strong personality with convictions and is not a PR product, can easily break the grey dictatorship of the functionaries.

The job for one Barack Obama is vacant. The German people are gratefully accepting applications.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply