• Germany's news in English
 

Has Angie lost that conservative feeling?

Published: 17 Sep 2010 11:30 GMT+02:00

This week, Angela Merkel spent considerable effort addressing concerns that her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was ignoring its conservative base at its own peril.

But the founding of a new right-wing party in Germany would likely help more than hurt the CDU. Firstly, there is a good chance that such a political outfit would quickly destroy itself, torn apart by its few decent supporters and whole droves of fundamentalist crazies with religious or reactionary agendas.

Secondly, it would be a blessing in disguise for the CDU, because it would finally have a recognizable opponent to its right. Nothing helps to define a political agenda, and inspire confidence, more thoroughly than a tangible opponent.

This is because the problem of the CDU is rooted in its own intangibility. Every year, a diffuse uneasiness breaks out. The causes are always different, but it always ends with the same complaint: the CDU – and especially its leader Merkel – are neglecting the party’s conservative core.

Merkel then has a talk with the Catholics, the World War II expellees or whichever group happen to be causing the fuss this time, and the party's general secretary then organizes a big family meeting. But none of it helps. The uneasiness just stays dormant until the next eruption. It's even becoming apparent in opinion polls: the current lows around 30 percent mean that not only are casual supporters embarrassed to be associated with Germany's largest governing party, but core conservatives are also turning away from it.

This quiet exodus is much more dangerous than any new right-wing party would be. If you ask a leading CDU politician what they are doing about this, you usually get a passive-aggressive question in return: what do you actually mean by "conservative" anyway? For or against nuclear power? For or against a mega-railway station in Stuttgart? For women in the kitchen, or for saving the family by trying to make sure men and women have time to work and have children?

It really is difficult to find a clear definition, but it would be wrong to therefore conclude that the "conservative" doesn't exist, or doesn't exist anymore. We used to be able to describe a clear set of conservative opinions, attitudes and behaviour – now it is just a diffuse feeling. But it is a mentality that is very widespread – at least as a sort of prosaic conservatism; the kind that sees railway ticket machines not as progress, but as an imposition.

Now the central task of our politicians is to find new ways to counter this persistence. It might be some comfort for Angela Merkel that no-one was more loathed by true conservatives that the provincial modernizer Helmut Kohl. And it's true that a few of these conservatism rows are started by people who have their own selfish careerist interests at heart. But that does not diminish the significance of these debates. The art of politics also means being able to keep your own traditionalists on side.

And keeping them on side means taking them seriously. But that doesn’t mean creating special programmes for dwindling traditional lifestyles like paying stay-at-home mothers not to send their children to day care. It does not mean lip service in party platforms, and it does not mean cultivating high-profile conservative personalities. In fact, taking the CDU’s right-wingers seriously is less about concrete measures than a vague feeling.

For example, nothing offends the conservative sensibilities more than watching the current centre-right government go about its business so ineptly. On the other hand, nothing could be more satisfying than the impression of assertive leadership.

That is why someone like Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg currently has a very good chance of abolishing something as close to the conservative's heart as Germany’s military conscription. And, as paradoxical as it might sound, Angela Merkel never shocked - and impressed – the conservatives more than when she threw the far-right parliamentarian Martin Hohmann out of the party in 2003.

The conservatives will never be happy: after all, they live off complaining about how terrible the world is. But they are amenable to gestures, to understanding and to strong leadership. The CDU and its leader needn't necessarily pursue conservative policies, but they do need to pursue their policies conservatively.

This commentary was published with the kind permission of Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, where it originally appeared in German. Translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

21:41 September 20, 2010 by Michael Woodbridge
It is remarkable how similar the political situation is between our two nations, Great Britain and Germany. Both have a Conservative, Liberal coalition and both suffer from a lack of political courage and new ideas on the part of their respective "conservative" parties. This is to the extent that the leaders of the so called conservatives can no longer really claim to be conservative and they know it. In fact Mr. Cameron and Frau Merkel seem to be most comfortable in coalition with the liberals because they are both liberal at heart and can use their need to keep their liberal colleagues happy as an excuse to ignore their core right-wing supporters. Only a radical change of thinking and circumstances will restore a healthy debate to politics which for too long has been mired in a creeping "politically correct straight-jacket.
21:42 September 20, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, I'm Chrisitian with REAL CONSERVATIVE values. For many years now, society has confused political conservatism with real conservatism. The latter is actually something humanity has never, ever embraced. And as a result, it has struggled with the same, basic problems since the very beginning.

The word conservative means to preserve.

Humans have a long history of destroying each other and everything else in sight. Therefore, logic would suggest that if humans are to exist indefinately, then it's absolutely imperative that they fully commit to real conservatism.
06:59 September 23, 2010 by JohnPaul44
All the destruction of World War II could not destroy the spirit of the German people. Only the Welfare State can do that!
Today's headlines
Amazon 'paying local tax on sales in Germany'
Photo: Uli Deck/dpa

Amazon 'paying local tax on sales in Germany'

According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, online retailer Amazon has started paying tax on profits from its sales to German customers in Germany instead of in Luxembourg READ  

German woman, 65, has quadruplets
Photo: DPA

German woman, 65, has quadruplets

A 65-year-old German woman, who already has 13 children, has given birth to quadruplets after undergoing an artificial insemination procedure in Ukraine. READ  

German WWII remains exhumed in Bosnia
Photo: DPA

German WWII remains exhumed in Bosnia

The remains of about 20 people, thought to be German and Italian soldiers killed in Bosnia during World War II, have been exhumed in the east of the country, officials said Friday. READ  

Sotherby's sells Nazi-era art trove find
Some 1,600 works of art were found behind this door in 2012. Photo: DPA

Sotherby's sells Nazi-era art trove find

A painting by Max Liebermann from a Nazi-era art trove found in Germany last year will go on sale in London next month, the first from the collection to be sold off, Sotheby's said on Friday. READ  

Family's ten-year quest for truth about dead son
Jeremiah Duggan. Photo: Justice for Jeremy

Family's ten-year quest for truth about dead son

The family of a British student killed in Wiesbaden over 12 years ago made a fresh step towards justice on Thursday, after a London coroner disagreed with German authorities' belief that he killed himself. READ  

Property of the week
Property of the Week: May 22nd
Photo: Mr Lodge

Property of the Week: May 22nd

Modern and sophisticated: This week’s property combines classic architecture with chic furnishings to create an elegant and luxurious living experience. READ  

83-year-old gets second drug dealing sentence
The judge said, given his age, he was not the ideal candidate for therapy. Photo:DPA

83-year-old gets second drug dealing sentence

An 83-year-old man was handed a six month suspended sentence on Thursday after being caught carrying seven bags of heroin in Düsseldorf. READ  

Carnival of Cultures in Berlin: six top picks
The dazzling colour of 2014's festival parade. Photo: Karneval der Kulturen

Carnival of Cultures in Berlin: six top picks

This weekend Berlin will be lit up by the vibrancy and colour of the Carnival of Cultures, an annual four-day urban festival that celebrates the diversity of Germany's capital. Here are six things not to miss. READ  

Bayern fans bring club's earliest years to light
FC Bayern's first team in 1925, the year of the commemorative publication. Photo: Jewish Museum

Bayern fans bring club's earliest years to light

For decades the early history of FC Bayern München was forgotten, but FCB fans have re-discovered a book from 1925 documenting the club's founding moments. READ  

Top spy admits: We're 'dependent' on NSA
Gerhard Schindler admitted that the BND had made mistakes in its handling of NSA requests. Photo: DPA

Top spy admits: We're 'dependent' on NSA

The head of the German Intelligence Agency (BND) told a special parliamentary committee on Thursday that his agency is 'dependent on' the American National Security Agency (NSA). READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Why the train strike is bad for passengers and workers
National
Meet Germany's Eurovision hope
Business & Money
Is 2015 a new moment for jobsharing?
Features
How the LGBT rights movement was born in Germany
National
Why you don't make bomb jokes at the airport
National
Why Germany needs a little less tipple
National
Who Germans and Americans trust... and don't
Politics
What the UK election means for Germany
National
Why Germany is great for mums
Features
The Germans with GI dads
Five ways Germany falls short on gay rights
Travel
Giant tortoise found riding Munich rail
National
FCK CPS? A-OK with court
Politics
Opinion: Brexit's dangers for Germany
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
National
Minister shows off top Denglisch
National
Germany's 'other genocide' in Africa
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,744
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd