Political Culture in Germany

BY MURAT ALTUGLU*

Beginning January 1st, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria will have the freedom of movement within the EU for employment purposes. The German party CSU proposed some regulatory measures, which include the limitation of certain government benefits and the deportation of such persons who are in involved in defrauding the taxpayer. These measures are similar to what the British government has implemented. One could label them easily as commonsensical and fair.

The reactions to these proposals of the CSU are, however, not commonsensical. They are indicative of the political culture of present day German politics. One politician from the Greens commented that the CSU is “poisoning” politics in Germany. From the SPD, a politician stated that the CSU is “dancing” with neo-Nazis. The chairman of the Left party remarked that the CSU “left the anti-racist consensus of democrats” and that NPD skinheads will be emboldened by these proposals to use violence against minorities.

These remarks are reflexes and are not based on a thought process or the rational evaluation of evidence. The intention is to preempt a rational analysis of the matters of fact and stop a debate on a political issue. The responses do not address the matters of fact but are entirely demagogical. This is not coincidental but intentional. If one does not have an argument to make in a political debate, then the untrained mind uses demagoguery to curtail the empirical scrutiny of the argument of the political rival.

Not one of the reactions to the CSU’s proposal refute the argument made. They simply denounce it. This is of course much more convenient, but also intellectually dishonest and immature. The easiest way to do so is by subtly utilizing the “Nazikeule,” which is particularly effective in German politics. That is why not clear prose is used by the political rivals but obscuring figurative language. This way, the subliminal message of associating the opponent with illegitimate political groups and measures is conveyed most effectively. The accusations are obscure by design.

In the long term, this practice of abuse of the historical record for petty political points by politicians distorts and diminishes such record. That this is possible is due to the shortcomings of the elite recruitment process, which is not favorable for quality candidates. Instead, people whose life experience is narrowly limited to advancement in politics and who use rhetorical hyperbole and abuse for their sophistry.

This habit of dismissing political arguments with scornful language and rather than answering them is damaging to political culture in Germany. Such behavior is more of a threat to democracy than any evanescent political proposal can ever be.

* Murat Altuglu, born in 1978 in Cologne/Germany, lives in Miami. Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Florida International University and Adjunct Professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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