D.he process of decay of a people’s party in Germany could only be described using the SPD. Since Gerhard Schröder’s electoral defeat in 2005, the Social Democrats have been going downhill. This phase may only end now, with the formation of a traffic light coalition under their leadership. But now the CDU stands where the SPD stood for a long time: on the brink of abyss. And in many ways the process that the CDU is now facing is already noticeably similar to the one the SPD went through.
The Christian Democrats could draw conclusions from this. Will they do it? WELT has examined the parallels.
The predecessor is to blame
Angela Merkel knew what she owed Gerhard Schröder. Merkel did not put anything on his Agenda 2010. The SPD is different. Already in the final phase of Schröder’s reign it began to question his policies. She blames them for decline and alienation. The CDU recognized in this quarrel with its own deeds one of the main reasons why the SPD was relegated: it damaged its credibility. In the grand coalition, too, the SPD was always the partner who over-critically assessed its own decisions.
The general election had not yet taken place when a similar process began in the Union. Wolfgang Schäuble, Friedrich Merz, but also others analyzed that Merkel’s long reign was one of the reasons for the difficult situation of the CDU. Merkel’s decisions in refugee policy and energy policy are highly controversial in the party to this day. CSU leader Markus Söder has already warned the CDU not to subject the Merkel years to ungracious consideration. It is unlikely that anyone in the CDU will listen to him.
Quickly changing chairmen
The chairman’s wear and tear of the SPD is legendary and was often ridiculed by the CDU. Nahles, Schulz, Gabriel, Beck, Platzeck, and whatever their names were. But with the declared withdrawal of Armin Laschet, all malice is now finally forbidden. In December 2018, after almost two decades with Merkel at the helm, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer followed. This followed Laschet after a tough selection process. And a successor will replace him in a few months. Four chairmen in three years – that’s SPD-worthy.
The members know better!
When it was still a sovereign party, the CDU had decided at party conventions to rule out allowing the members to decide on key personnel issues. The Junge Union demanded this for the nomination of the candidate for chancellor, without success. However, the statute allows a non-binding member survey – and that should come now. Hardly any top politician of the CDU dares to contradict such demands. At the end of October, the district chairmen are to make a decision; as they are very close to the base, it is taken for granted that they are in favor of a member vote.
In the past few years, members of the disoriented social democracy have been questioned again and again. They had to decide on the coalition agreement with the Union in 2018. They were also called upon to elect a dual leadership two years ago. Their vote was surprisingly in favor of Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken and against Olaf Scholz and his female counterpart. Did that ensure peace within the party? No. Does membership correspond to a cross-section of the electorate? No. In the CDU, over 70 percent of the members are male. And only 27 percent of all are under 50 years old. What kind of “future solution” that the CDU is now conjuring up, one can speculate about.
The boys push forward
It is understandable that in a crisis the young want to tell the old what the hour has come. In the SPD, during the years of agony, the Jusos under Kevin Kühnert became a power factor that pushed the entire party to the left.
In the CDU, the boys now also speak up. For example, leading young unionists in a contribution to WELT called for the grassroots to be involved. In contrast to the SPD, the 100,000 members of the JU do not tend to the left, they are more conservative than the parent party. A stronger weight of the JU would strengthen those forces that see a return to a more conservative profile as a cure. Merkel did not win her majorities with conservative positions. It is their voters who the CDU lost in the election – and not so much the conservatives.
Those who could refuse
In the Union it is said that the best times of the grand coalition were the phase in which there was no elected party leadership in the SPD. Between June and December 2019, the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Malu Dreyer, her colleague from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig, and Hesse’s state chief Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel acted as interim bosses. But the experienced state politicians were not prepared to take responsibility for the entire SPD as party leaders.