The search for a successor for Angela Merkel was an excruciatingly long journey for the CDU, but also for citizens and observers. First, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was chosen as a successor who was soon considered weak and overwhelmed. The corona pandemic then brought a year of vacuum and interregnum – a year in which a lot of myths, narratives and theories were spun and spread about exactly where the CDU should actually go, who supposedly wants to prevent whom or what and, above all, who now is actually the best for a new or not so new course.
Before the party conference on the weekend, glass balls are as sold out as FFP2 masks in some places, and there were more calls within the party than citizens got through to the vaccination hotline.
The question is whether all these high expectations can be met: The party congress will take place digitally, so there will be no boiling or crackling, no boiling room, no campfire burning to warm yourself. So everything is missing that makes a good party congress. Due to the long waiting time, the three faces of the successors are no longer really fresh, but tired themselves or frozen in their poses. There was too much discussion, investigation and tactics, the start will be a challenge.
Merz, Laschet or Röttgen
The most interesting dynamic for the party, the party landscape and also the federal election would still bring Friedrich Merz, who rhetorically and programmatically should fill the vacuum around which so many myths entwine. At the same time, however, he would be the greatest risk because he has shown himself to be resistant to advice, is overestimated and overestimates himself. He would bring a lot of energy, ambition and ego, he can do the big bow, these world-in-transition analyzes, but sometimes ascribes himself too great super-healing powers.
Armin Laschet has the problem that the second in his tandem, Jens Spahn, is seen by many (including Spahn himself) as the real bearer of hope. The Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia is considered a favorite and would be the safe bet, but under him the air that has so pent up under Merkel could not discharge. It somehow suits Germany, but not always all of the big issues that affect Germany. He can react and govern, but can he also set off?
The outsider Norbert Röttgen is and remains this mixture of insider tip and surprise candidate. He came from the off, but the longer you listened to him and watched, the more suddenly you could imagine him as head of the CDU. His hesitation from earlier had been forgotten, the intellectual no longer seemed so vague or convoluted; he looked smart and urbane and above all relaxed; without a bursting ego, without feelings of revenge and plans of reckoning – and above all he could leave the place in March to the still most interesting candidate for chancellor, Markus Söder.
The CDU has to think ahead
The question of where the CDU should go can only be answered with one word: forward. There are no wands or time machines for parties. If the Union understands its program only as self-therapy or a search for meaning on the right flank, it will end up like the SPD, whose policy was largely the exorcism of Agenda 2010. Parties always have to think ahead, not backwards.
Voters are not interested in old wounds, yesterday’s westerns and decisions made ten or even 15 years ago – they are interested in the answers to the questions of the next ten years. Will the 20s of this 21st century, which began so terribly, still be a decade of increasing prosperity? Will Europe be a museum between China and the USA? Where does the growth in Germany come from when we wind down and sacrifice our auto industry with waving flags? What happens to this country if it continues to shrink?
The buzzwords of the big topics have been mentioned so often that they are rattled off like vocabulary: sustainability, migration, demographic change, the new wave of automation in the economy, artificial intelligence and quantum computing – all that is missing is often conclusive answers that exactly create the new beginning that everyone longs for.
Design instead of coping
Especially since politicians have to come back to a different mode after coping with the pandemic: At the moment, they are mainly inventing new restrictions and aids – with the former they often pant afterwards, with the latter they overestimate their abilities, the paralyzed value creation “quickly and unbureaucratically” to replace. You will have to learn that you can’t promise double-digit billions for every idea. You have to find standards and a relationship to numbers again. It will again be about design rather than mastering.
From autumn, their voters will also have different longings and needs. So we’ve all changed. And that is just further evidence that the CDU is by no means about a possible break or continuity of the Merkel era.
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