I don’t really want to blog about politics again. Most of my readers don’t care about German politics anyway, they come for the SFF analysis or the Misfits recaps (more of those soon) or the Strunk and White fanfiction or the Tarzan sex (never mind that I don’t actually have either of those here). Plus, expressing political opinions on the internet may get you in trouble with current or potential employers, though I got more shit for saying that there is no such thing as an objective review or that the widespread dismissal of urban fantasy in the SFF community is due to latent misogynism than for anything political I ever said.
However, sometimes you do have to say something. For example, when four of five parties in the German parliament collectively loose their minds.
Warning: German politics under the cut.
So yes, Christian Wulff was obviously the wrong candidate, though I wish someone would have found that out before the man managed to get himself elected as minister president of Niedersachsen twice (not by me). And he actually made a decent president, before he descended into a banal scandal of low interest home loans and free of charge Skodas.
And now Joachim Gauck, former Lutheran pastor and East German civil rights activist, who already ran against Christian Wulff two years ago, is most likely the next German president, unless someone finds out he got a free of charge Skoda from someone.
Now I have said before that I think Gauck is not the right person for the office. The German president is basically a figurehead with very little political power. He or she must be a uniter and integrater, not a divider. And IMO the worst presidents – apart from the guy with a Nazi past, of course – were those who didn’t understand what their job was and who made divisive political statements. Christian Wulff, for all his faults, at least tried to be a uniter.
Gauck, however, is a divider and has never been anything else. He never really managed to let go off his past in East Germany and doesn’t let anybody else forget either. He divided 16 million East Germans into evil Communists and Stasi agents and poor victims with nothing inbetween. I kind of doubt that those East Germans who were not persecuted by the state will be very happy with a president who lumps them in with Stasi informers. Never mind that nominating Gauck as a presidential candidate means that the Left Party, which was democratically elected into various state parliaments and the German parliament, cannot possibly vote for him, since he think their party is criminal and a threat to democracy (The Left Party is the successor of the East German Socialist party, but many of its members today are West Germans or people in their twenties and thirties, i.e. too young to have been involved in the old East German regime). Gauck also equates Communist East Germany with the Third Reich and views both as equally evil and repressive systems, which is frankly an insult to all victims of the Third Reich (The GDR was repressive but it was no Third Reich). Gauck has spoken out against the opening of talks with the GDR in the early 1970s, which was what started making little cracks in the iron curtain. Gauck also spoke out against the Occupy movement at a time when the Occupy movement had some 80 percent public approval, because he is completely in favour of Capitalism, as unfettered as possible. Gauck is in favour of continuing the war in Afghanistan, while the overwhelming majority of the population opposes the war. Gauck supported the disgusting racist Thilo Sarrazin, a local Berlin politician who wrote a book about how those nasty muslims were outbreeding good Germans, so the 3 to 5 million muslims in Germany will not be particularly pleased with a president who’d rather see them gone. Gauck is still in favour of nuclear power and thinks that the shut down of nuclear power stations is silly and sentimental, while the overwhelming majority of Germans is against nuclear power. Gauck is in favour of cutting welfare and social services. Oh yes, and apparently he once stated that he thinks accepting the current border with Poland (Germany used to be a lot bigger before WWII) was a mistake, which is a sentiment usually only found among the far right.
In short, Gauck is your candidate, unless you are:
- poor and on welfare
- politically left in any way
- a member of the Left Party
- opposed to nuclear power
- opposed to the Afghanistan war
- a member or supporter of the Occupy movement
- a protester against the Stuttgart 21 project (hugely expensive and highly controversial train station in Stuttgart), because Gauck doesn’t like those protesters either
- an immigrant, particularly a muslim immigrant
- a former East German who got along with the system
- anybody who ever held any official government job in the GDR
- anybody whose name is in the Stasi files as anything other than a clear observation target
- a West German who doesn’t like two East Germans in charge of the country
- an atheist, Catholic, Muslim, Jew or believer of any other faith who is not happy with a former Lutheran pastor as president
That’s a whole lot of people whom Gauck does not represent. And unless he drastically changes his tone upon becoming president and tries to be a uniter (hey, it happens), he will likely piss off large swathes of the people he is supposed to represent.
Not that it really matters whether Gauck has widespread public support or not, since the German people do not elect their president directly (Deutsche Welle has an explanation of how the process works). In 1949, it was decided that we could not be entrusted with the responsibility of electing our own head of state, because our grandparents elected Paul von Hindenburg, former Prussian general and name giver for the famous Zeppelin, back in 1925 and Hindenburg then went on, at the age of 84 and likely in the grip of dementia, to name Adolf Hitler chancellor and sign many early acts expanding Hitler’s power and thus facilitated the rise of the Third Reich. So yeah, Hindenburg was obviously the wrong person for the job. But it’s not as if the choices our political representatives made since 1949 have been that much better.
The media seems to be in favour of Gauck (and frankly, the role of the media in the Wulff resignation and Gauck nomination was hugely problematic – who died and made Bild supreme ruler?) and shows polls which are in favour of him as well. And perhaps Gauck is the right candidate for a certain Christian, conservative and neo-liberal (in the European sense) demographic. Plus, his past as a civil rights hero in East Germany gives him an automatic moral authority in the eyes of many, though I personally cannot recall hearing his name in the fall of 1989 (most of the actual heroes of 1989 never had political careers). I only became aware of him later, when he took over the Stasi file archive (which was badly handled IMO, but that’s not necessarily his fault). Gauck, however, never moved on from his civil rights hero past and is still stuck back in 1990, while the rest of the world has moved on. An 18-year-old today wasn’t even born in 1989 and couldn’t care less about the GDR and the Stasi. But they do care about ACTA, nuclear power and the Occupy movement.
When Gauck ran the first time for president in 2010, I wondered why the Socialist party SPD presented him as their candidate, because Gauck was always a conservative in my eyes. And that’s exactly what he is. A 72-year-old Christian conservative who is mired in the past and out of touch with large swathes of the people he is supposed to represent. Really, couldn’t they have found anybody better?
Anyway, you don’t just have to take my word for it, so here are a couple of reactions against Gauck’s candidacy from around the web:
The Austrian paper Der Standard reports about anti Gauck sentiment as expressed on the internet. Of course, we all know how most older politicians feel about the internet.
This article from the Süddeutsche Zeitung from back in 2010 lays out in detail why Gauck always was a divisive figure. Lots of hugely problematic stuff in there that I didn’t know. Of particular interest is the fact that the author was a member of the East German civil rights movement herself back in 1989.
The political blog Spiegelfechter calls Gauck out on his stance against welfare and social security and wonder how a pastor of all people can have so little empathy with the poor. In another post, Spiegelfechter wonders how the SPD and the Green Party could push an explicit conservative like Gauck in 2010 to embarrass Angela Merkel and thus end up with a president who is pretty much diametrically opposed to most goals of both parties.
Nachdenkseiten, another excellent German political blog, can understand Gauck’s positions with regard to his life story, but still feels that he is too mired in the past to be an effective president today.
Machtelite, yet another political blog with a left bend, reminds us of Gauck’s affiliation with questionable, neo-liberal think tanks.
Publikative, an anti-fascist blog, criticizes that Gauck signed a declaration which equates Communism with Nationalsocialism.
Nics Bloghaus wonders why all presidents and presidential candidates, actual or potential, so far have been very outspoken Christians and whether it’s not time for a candidate who won’t alienate atheists and members of other religions than Christianity.