Union - head or stomach

Head or stomach

There are more differences than the tie and the jacket button

Photos: Reiner Zensen / Imago Images

The primary goal of the CDU in terms of personnel and content was and is to maintain power, in other words: to fill the Chancellery. In the 72 years that have passed since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, this has been the case in 52 years. It should stay that way after the general election on September 26th.

But the state of the CDU five months before the election is anything but rosy. None of their ministers do a good job. The Corona crisis relentlessly reveals how worn, conceptless and corrupt the party is after 16 years in government. For the first time since the 1960s, the number of its members fell below 2020 in 400.000, which is equivalent to halving since 1990. The average age rose to 61 years, the proportion of women remained at 26 percent. Almost all state elections in recent years have resulted in enormous losses for the CDU, the core electorate is shrinking, and in many large cities and among well-educated voters it is literally smearing. On the one hand it loses to the Greens, on the other to the FDP and AfD.

Cold power strategy

The displeasure of their mostly older and consistently middle-class constituencies has tangible material reasons and should not be misinterpreted as a reaction to gender asterisks and cancel culture: Rapidly rising real estate prices make buying a house increasingly difficult as an old-age security and inheritance, and banks themselves are increasingly demanding for themselves moderate savings, negative interest rates, energy and health insurance costs are rising above average, wages and old-age pensions are stagnating, taxation and double pension contributions are nibbling on wealth and increasing worries. Adult children need parental support for too long. But what is the CDU doing? For more than two years she tortured herself and us with the search for a suitable party leader. It has still not passed an election program for the upcoming federal election, the new basic program, which should be adopted in autumn 2020, is on hold, and there is still no presentable candidate for chancellor of the Union.

To make matters worse, the opinion research institute Infratest dimap certified the CDU candidate, Armin Laschet, with disastrous polls last week for his job as prime minister in North Rhine-Westphalia. Only 26 percent of those questioned found Laschet's administration satisfactory, 69 percent were dissatisfied. That is the worst value since he took office in 2017. When asked whether he would be a good candidate for chancellor, just 24 percent answered yes, at the end of January 47 percent said that. Even among the CDU supporters in Laschet's homeland, the skeptics predominate, while his competitor, the Bavarian CSU chairman Markus Söder, is seen as a suitable candidate by more than two thirds of the North Rhine-Westphalian CDU supporters.

Why, so the exciting question, is the CDU leadership relying on Laschet and not on the popular Söder in this situation? Even more astonishing: Why is it precisely the neoliberal wing of the CDU that advocates Laschet's candidacy? Friedrich Merz as well as Wolfgang Schäuble and Carsten Linnemann, the chairman of the CDU SME Association, have confessed to Laschet without need.

The reason is cold power strategy. The plea for Laschet is a head decision, not a gut decision. His candidacy fulfills a clearly defined purpose: it is intended to prevent the FDP from joining a traffic light coalition. The FDP is the only real danger for the CDU long-term subscription to the Chancellery. So changing the FDP must be avoided at all costs. The fact that the Greens end up before the Union is as unlikely as a majority for Green-Red-Red.

Prime Minister Laschet now has the undeniable advantage of already governing NRW with Christian Lindner's FDP. Laschet's tandem partner Jens Spahn is also friends with Lindner, Lindner is tenant of a spacious Spahn property. In January 2018, shortly after the end of Jamaica in Berlin, reported the Mirrors under the heading "These three men want to inherit Merkel" about "secret" meetings between Spahn, Lindner and Alexander Dobrindt, the head of the CSU regional group in the Bundestag. The trio is planning - as a non-partisan continuation of the legendary Andean Pact - the "reversal" of the social democratized Merkel era.

That would not work with Söder as Chancellor. Why? The reason can be found in the abbreviation CSU: It is the S that permanently disturbs the Lindner-FDP. As a people's party, the Christian-Social Union is much broader than the CDU. In order to be able to achieve absolute majorities in Bavaria, the Söder-CSU, like the authoritarian-populist PiS party in Poland, relies on “social benefits” for families and pensioners. Immediately after his enthronement in 2018, Bavaria's Prime Minister initiated the introduction of several social benefits: he created a family allowance that supports young parents with up to 6.000 euros per child in the first few years, he topped up the federal construction child benefit by 300 euros per month, he granted around 350.000 caring relatives receive a tax-free grant of 1.000 euros annually. So much “social climate” would be a horror for the FDP, dangerously close to state socialism. How one thinks about Söder in right-wing circles was just in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Söder, it was said, made the conservatives “homeless” with his unrestrained opportunism. In 2018 he made a brilliant change of course "from hardliner to eco-social cuddly bear". "The Söder-CSU wants to be greener than the Greens and more social than the Social Democrats." A candidate for Chancellor Söder would therefore run the risk of frightening off the potentially necessary coalition partner, the FDP.

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Should it not be enough for black and green in autumn, which cannot be ruled out because of possible acts of revenge by Söders CSU or because of a loan campaign in favor of the FDP, Jamaica would be the economically liberal favorite solution: the FDP as tamer of the Greens while at the same time consolidating the tried and tested bourgeois black and white yellow bearing. Daniel Günther, a staunch Laschet / Spahn supporter and hope for the post-Merkel CDU, would welcome that. In short, with Laschet, the CDU can cover all contingencies. The Chancellery subscription would be secured, even if the CDU did historically poorly.

A Chancellor Laschet, unlike Söder, would also involve important CDU figures in his government, the distribution of departments would be more conflict-free and more beneficial for some careers than under Söder: The CDU would - as before - become Chancellor and Head of the Chancellery (Nathanael Liminski, der Freitag 45/2019), plus six ministers (such as Merz, Röttgen, Spahn, AKK, Yvonne Magwas and Klöckner), the Greens would occupy five ministries (with Baerbock, Göring-Eckardt, Luisa-Marie Neubauer, Habeck and Özdemir), the CSU remained three (with Bär, Dobrindt, Herrmann), the FDP likewise (Suding, Lindner, Wissing). Just for fun and without any guarantee.

However, one thing must never be forgotten in any strategy game: The ultimate goal after Merkel remains to maintain power. With a candidate Söder, the CDU would have already lost the Chancellery.