W.Ahlkampf is the time when Berlin-Mitte meets Perleberg-Lübzow, i.e. capital meets province. Politicians travel all over the country in their election campaign. Even in the smallest of spots, the poster of the local candidate hangs on the lamp post, who is to be elected and wants to go to the greater Berlin. In the election campaign, ties to their homeland and a down-to-earth attitude are usually documented by the fact that the politician bites heartily into a sausage at a rifle festival or the like – there are currently corresponding photos of a great many politicians, including the SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz. The SPD once even won an election with the sausage – the slogan “Currywurst is SPD” brought Hannelore Kraft decisive meters on the way to the Düsseldorf State Chancellery in 2012.
If you want to become the boss of Germany, you have to go on the local ox tour beforehand. That is how the voters want it. And without a doubt, an election will also be decided in the country: every second citizen of this country lives in a city with between 5,000 and 50,000 inhabitants.
Germany is a communal, small-town, federal country. This is often praised by the highest political authorities, but is quickly forgotten when the election campaign is over and the dark limousine from Perleberg has rustled. Hence the question: do the politicians actually still know where real life takes place?
The accusation that politicians only care about big city issues, about gender, vegan nutrition and bike paths, is popular and often cheap. Because the vast majority of politicians come from places with 5,000 or 50,000 inhabitants. There are two classes of MPs: those who have won their constituencies directly are the little kings. And then there are the others. And you can only win a constituency if you are there a lot, show that you don’t just stay ten minutes at the club festival. The citizens are already aware of that. Those who don’t care will soon be replaced.
Of course, the political view of the country changes when you spend a lot of time under the Berlin Reichstag dome. Citizens and local leaders may not even appreciate that the music is not only played in Berlin. The task of a district administrator only recently became tragically clear again during the flood disaster on the Ahr. He is the first and highest crisis manager on site. So he bears an enormous responsibility. Or in the Corona crisis: District administrators and those responsible on site maintained health care. Stephan Pusch, the district administrator of the badly shaken district of Heinsberg, spread messages of encouragement to the citizens via social media. It worked.
Local politicians are often given far too little appreciation. It’s easy to find frustrated volunteer mayors complaining about their suffering. A meager allowance, but angry farmers and rampant state and federal regulations. Quite a few local politicians are even verbally and firmly threatened and attacked.
What does life look like beyond the big cities? Very different, that’s safe to say. And is that even a “more real” life than that in the big cities? There are clichés here and there. You just have to look carefully. Two examples. My colleagues Timo Steppat, Daniel Blum and Kathrin Jakob were on the road for the FAZ podcast series on the federal election in the region between Cloppenburg and Vechta. The region is dominated by agriculture, many citizens are Catholic, the number of people leaving the church is lower than anywhere else. The CDU is still very strong here. They don’t think so much of the Greens here.
In the Oldenburger Münsterland, as the region is called, is a region of the “neck steak eater”. Last year, the Union parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus said that precisely these “neck steak eaters”, the supposedly normal people, are the backbone of our society. Brinkhaus replied to his party colleague Ole von Beust, once First Mayor of Hamburg. He had said shortly before: “The CDU is still considered to be the party of the internal combustion engine, the pork neck steak and work until you drop.” Von Beust once wanted the CDU to make it more modern, urban and greener. Brinkhaus countered that he obviously does not want to alienate the CDU’s regular clientele.
Many parties ask themselves this question: How modern, how traditional should one be? Is life in the country backward and do cities show us the future? No of course not. So here is the second example: Our Baden-Württemberg correspondent Rüdiger Soldt was in Upper Swabia some time ago. The region was once firmly in CDU hands. But the local politicians have overlooked (want to) that something is changing. Many citizens want to continue to preserve the good and traditional. But they sometimes see it better in the hands of the Greens. The Greens took root.
The political advisor Daniel Dettling deals with the interactions between the local and global levels. He says the local has gained strength in the Corona crisis. Therefore, the future belongs to “inclusive localism”. Regions that long seemed cut off from technological progress and globalization are discovering new skills. Dettling advocates thinking global questions bigger, but local questions even more local. Then the approval of the population for political decisions would also increase. Because they already have a lot of trust in their mayors and local politicians.
Actually a nice topic for the next federal government. I ask myself: What is Horst Seehofer’s Ministry of Homeland Security actually doing?