Practice what you preach?

Even beyond the Agenda year 2010, the majority of the German population will have to tighten their waistbelts. Which economic measures that are to come and the limitations we are to expect may in future no longer be announced by the functionaries of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) after next September, but rather from the heralds of the other camp. Who will carry the evil tidings and the pleas for moderation from Berlin to duchy Lauenburg from then on?

At a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) meeting at the beginning of June, five men who will be running for office for the next Bundestag introduced themselves. On this occasion they provided information about their political goals, whereas for the most part, more or less insignificant questions were asked and similarly the same was answered. One of the attendees however, seemed to have forgotten the social and political etiquette: He asked if one of the candidates, the great-grandson of the Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, was really the right man to represent the interests of the voters or in fact would really rather re-establish a family tradition and become a politician – but obviously due to his flamboyant lifestyle, would not recognize or have in mind the needs of simple and normal citizens. Among other things he had a permanent quarter for more than two years in one of the most expensive hotels in the world in Berlin next to the Bundestag, there awaiting the move into parliament.

(Count Bismarck lost the last Bundestag election in his district, but nevertheless had a good listing, which opened prospects to move up to the Bundestag as soon as an elected CDU parliament member passed away or in another manner was unable to exercise his seat in parliament. That naturally hurt a bit to have just missed the target. Since the count wasn’t at once granted an official, publicly funded bureau in Berlin, he took quarters (at his own expense) agreeable to his standard in the newly renovated luxury hotel Adlon right next to the Bundestag waiting for the big moment. With the elimination of the German Green Party from the governing body in Schleswig-Holstein this has now come true: Peter-Harry (according to Bismarck, the State Secretary Schlie and the Minister of Finance Rainer Wiegard) has become a member of parliament and thus freed a seat in Berlin for Count Bismarck. According to the German newspaper FAZ of 26th June 2005, the Adlon is the second most expensive hotel in Germany with one night costing on average EUR 237, including the more simple rooms. During his stay there, Bismarck definitely brooded thoroughly over where to cut extra money from the luxurious pensions of our pensioners and how to limit the luxury of the masses of short-term unemployed but still regularly paid miners in the Ruhr basin or how to convince the mass of simple workers to give up some comforts and to familiarize them with the pay scales and working conditions of the Middle and Far East of our nice and globalized world – in order to help balance off the national deficit and to be able to stand up to international competition.)

The host of the meeting could not of course let the count be insulted by the scurrilous affront of the obviously jealousy-complex-afflicted informer: The newly elected Secretary of State Schlie, who even almost became Minister, was obliged to call the shamus to order and “kindly“ requested that he introduce himself and sit down again as quickly as possible. This was heavily applauded from almost the whole audience. Bismarck (and Schlie) first answered in the troublemaker’s direction that the count had only stayed for a short while at the Adlon. But somewhat later Bismarck made the comment that he didn’t have to pay the full EUR 500 per night as he was given a discount. As one can see, these arguments are indeed only made by necessity and arbitrarily, as discounts are normally only given for large quantities or performance and not because someone wants to become a politician. But sometimes these are also granted because one already is a politician. The president before last of the German Bundesbank, Ernst Welteke, and his family will certainly gratefully remember the Adlon. Assisted from Schlie, Bismarck elegantly transformed the concerns of the troublemaker to his advantage and collected hearty applause for his answers.

The author of this editorial can name further examples of the arbitrary behavior of the count from just a short acquaintance: Three or four years ago he had introduced himself in Groß Groenau at the local CDU as “Fürst Bismarck” (Prince Bismarck) (which he is not legally entitled to do, any more than his father, who cleverly shortened his first name Ferdinand to “F”, was.) and as the new candidate for the Bundestag. On the same evening the men’s choir were rehearsing in the hall next door – Bismarck asked if he could also introduce himself to the choir and find out what their uppermost concerns were: Further construction of the airport should not be continued and the German naturalization of the choir director from Bulgaria should be made possible after he had completed his studies at the conservatory in Luebeck. Without contemplating it very long and clearly distant from the position of his party, the candidate agreed to lobby for both concerns and promised to do so. He found approval and, at best, only the small-minded may have said that the would-be politician only wanted to curry the favor of the voting population to accelerate his upcoming career. Perhaps he only forgot his principles for a moment – but one cannot fully exclude that such principles become too inconvenient as soon as they interfere with political development. Members of the Groß Groenau CDU also were against the expansion of Luebeck Airport and the building of the motorway and refrained from supporting these projects openly – blind to the economic necessity of both projects – in order to make themselves popular.

The now muzzled dissident of the Schwarzenbek event could do nothing more than contemplate the situation: In a democracy (and not only there), when filling a vacancy, only appearance or presence in the media are important factors and not strength of character, sedulousness, intelligence and humanitarian visions. Once in the limelight, with a familiar name, all the celebrity needs to do is to say what people want to hear. By admitting the bearer of the princely name to their circle, the CDU sinks as low as the yellow press, which benefits from the tendency of the dull-witted of our nation to admire allegedly higher social classes (a reason why the anachronistic absurdity of nobility cannot be disposed of) or with the mineral water company „Fürst Bismarck“ which, for every bottle label presenting the famous name of his great-grandfather, transfers a certain amount to the account of the count (which is perhaps used to pay the hotel in Berlin). However, with the only few good members who could be presented by the CDU in Schleswig-Holstein during the years after Mr. Stoltenberg and with the personnel available today, one clutches at every straw.

At the meeting in Schwarzenbek however, the troublemaker was cut short and was therefore unable to express all his concerns. But what he could bring up wasn’t that absurd: On several occasions, when talking to a more amiable audience, they mainly agreed with his words. In spite of the conservative attitude in a people’s party like the CDU, there surely still is some tolerance left, at least a small range of opinions. Thus, in a free discussion, a certain percentage of attendees, let’s say 50%, would surely have shared the concerns of the rebel. However, the audience had been told through the suppressive intervention of Mr. Schlie to toe the line (his protégé will remember this in due time and show his gratitude).

Just recently the CDU took the governance in Kiel (euphoric with their victory they quickly forgot the crucial support of the SPD from Berlin). And if their majority situation soon improves a bit more they may decide that the rules of democracy can be disregarded. Then someone who speaks his mind and who stands against the crowd may be risking his life again. For the dissenter, however, no advocate was to be found amongst the new self-proclaimed “archpriests”. As always when there is need for support. They kept silent out of cowardice and fear of the crowd or of worry of losing their position within the party.

During the selection of a political representative it should be possible to speak frankly, without being pressured, unfairly influenced or patronized by the clique. The voters should be able to get a clear picture of the candidates which goes beyond mere appearance. The traditional selection criteria applied elsewhere are not applicable here: No one sees the school grades of the candidates. Job references and other certificates of competence are not presented. The same goes for police records. As if the Bundestag election was merely an irrelevant manning process: It is no wonder that this way of selecting results in unacceptable politics and general stagnation. If EUROIMMUN selected its management in the same careless and incompetent way or with the same nepotism (you scratch my back and I‘ll scratch yours), we could not look back on such a successful company development. At EUROIMMUN every candidate is required to present all of his or her certificates and references and is interviewed by experts and not by amateurs.

This could be a good remedy for democracy to solve this perpetual dilemma of incompetence and to conquer the mediocrity: the representative vacancies will be advertised like leading positions at universities or in industrial firms. An independent committee of experts assesses the quality of all candidates according to fair and impartial criteria, selects several of them and presents them to the voting public before the election.

In Schwarzenbek however, it rather seemed as if the leadership had already decided on their favourite. A couple of alternative candidates who were bound to lose were presented to keep up the forms of democracy. And then someone stood up and unsettled this well planned scenario! One of the five candidates who, like the editor, saw through this evil trickery resigned, withdrawing from his function as alibi.

It is very likely that the troublemaker will turn his back on this circle. He needs to hurry to avoid sharing the blame in case the CDU comes to an arrangement with the real aristocracy and reinstalls the Hohenzoller dynasty: We want the late German emperor Willhelm back! But please not a forceps delivery again: In this case we might as well leave the governance with the SPD and the Green Party.

Lübeck, 2005