14 Oct. 2021 19:15 clock
by Tilo Gräser
The era of Chancellor Angela Merkel had “had a devastating effect” because it destroyed the stability of civilized western states through their written constitutions. That happened through the “gutting of the German constitution”. This is what the German scholar and philosopher Peter J. Brenner from Augsburg puts it in an article for the Swiss newspaper The world week fest.
Brenner, who taught in Cologne, Munich, Chapel Hill (USA) and Innsbruck, deals on the one hand with the consequences of 16 years of Merkel’s chancellorship and on the other hand with the last federal election campaign. His analysis clearly contradicts what the established German media publish on both topics.
For Brenner, the least important thing about the election is the result, which stands for a policy of “business as usual”. The Germanist finds the election campaign more interesting: “It not only opened up insights into the mechanisms of power beneath the surface of media events, but even more insight into the basic understanding of politics in Germany.”
Security instead of freedom
Brenner mentions that the media and political observers at home and abroad like to see and portray Merkel as a “good chancellor”, as a “good person” or the “leader of the free world”. Internationally, this has its basis in the economic performance of the Federal Republic. Internally, Merkel had convinced German citizens with the promise of stability.
Helmut Kohl’s successor knew and used that the Germans “would always prefer security when choosing between freedom and security”. Brenner adds: “They are also ready to sacrifice their freedom for the mere appearance of security.” And:
“In the course of leaden years of getting used to it, it could be forgotten that this stability was a Potemkin village, a brittle facade that was sustained with the incessant spending of money in all directions or by simply ignoring self-generated crisis situations.”
The Germanist from Augsburg accuses Merkel of gutting the German constitution, the Basic Law, and thus destroying the stability of society. It was not just sacrificed to an imaginary overriding “EU law”. The constitution was “even more subject to the undulations of the zeitgeist and often enough simply to daily political opportunity”.
Reign without charisma
For the Augsburg philosopher Merkel’s chancellorship is the example of “a peculiar version of ‘charismatic rule'”, as the sociologist Max Weber once described: “the apocalyptic escalation of political action to ‘all or nothing’ – or ‘no alternatives’ constellations” and at the same time “charismatic rule without charisma”.
Merkel is often credited with her openly displayed inconspicuousness and her lack of vanity, writes Brenner and draws a historical comparison: These are qualities that are also attributed to the former GDR and SED leadership cadres Walter Ulbricht, Willi Stoph and Erich Honecker, “whose appearance wasn’t exactly glamorous either”. Incidentally, Honecker’s successor Egon Krenz appropriately stated in 2016:
“When I see and hear Angela Merkel, I think: There is still a bit of the GDR in her.”
For Germanist Brenner one thing is clear: this technique of domination “without charisma” works. “It works where it is about securing power; it works less well where it is about coping with everyday political life or even mastering crisis situations.” Merkel has thus fundamentally changed the Federal Republic, with the result: “Politically, culturally, intellectually, socially and economically, it presents itself as a landscape of ruins”.
The last federal election campaign had “made the personal emergency and the spiritual wasteland of the Merkel era visible”. Voters and top candidates obviously did not seem to have understood what the election campaign was about, said Brenner. This was evident for him on the one hand in the episode with the laughing CDU candidate Armin Laschet in the flood area. On the other hand, this was made clear by the writing-off Green candidate Annalena Baerbock.
Advertising instead of election campaigns
The opinion-making media played their part in this, as they hyped the two episodes into “major events”. In the Laschet case, Brenner reminds us that “laughter can simply be a sign of helpless overburdening”. In the Baerbock case it is clear that this green candidate has “simply taken over” by trying to write her own book.
“But these two episodes were instrumental in preventing either candidate from getting the predicted voter approval,” notes the author. On the other hand, the political attack surfaces offered by the SPD candidate Olaf Scholz played no role in the election campaign, not even in the media.
“The election winner SPD simply had the better advertising agency and the more professional staff in the party headquarters, who were able to successfully make it clear to their candidate that they simply had nothing to do and thus not give any clues to suspect that they were being overburdened.”
According to Brenner, the media played an active part in all of this. The reason, from his point of view: “Politics and media have merged into an inextricable conglomerate in which the participants work into each other’s hands.” They had succeeded in “playing pseudo-problems in the foreground and pushing the real problems of this country out of the field”. The Germanist gives a number of examples of this.
There was no talk about what actually moves German citizens and what is shown, for example, in the “The Fears of Germans 2021” survey conducted by R + V Insurance. According to Brenner, this applies to the statement that there is more fear of migration than of the climate crisis. Likewise, there was no talk of “the gloomy future of the social security systems, the collapse of the education system, slowly decaying infrastructures and also not a disoriented foreign policy”.
This is also indicated by the election result, in which the Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen party did not soar as expected – while many first-time voters ticked the FDP. Brenner insinuates that the “journalistic blindness to the great problems of this republic” has no intention. “It looks more like self-defense, which journalists use who are overwhelmed by their job.”
For the Germanist there is “no reason to glorify the old Federal Republic”. The symptoms of decline in democracy were observed as early as the 1970s. But the problem has shifted and worsened:
“In the place of competing parties and associations a mollusc-like system of politics has emerged, which extends far beyond its actual area and, above all through the open or hidden state support of civil society and media actors, reaches into society and thus has a comprehensive primacy of Policy installed. “
Freedom without interest
Politics is a social system, writes Brenner, while it is about political action that is based on freedom as the most important value. But both the German democracy and the Western model of democracy are “far removed” from this: “Nowhere was this more evident than in the Corona crisis.”
He had previously described this in detail in a post for the blog of the Institute for Media Evaluation, School Development and Science Consulting (IMSW), which he founded:
“The legal scholars Jens Kersten and Stephan Rixen have compiled a list of the constitutional freedoms that are affected by the infection protection measures: Art. 2.1; Art 3, 1; Art 4, 1 and 2; Art 5, 3; Art 7 Art. 12.1; Art. 8.1; Art. 91; Art. 11.1; Art. 13.1; Art. 14.1; Art. 16.1. This has not yet been achieved by any previous federal government , but it does not meet with much public interest. “
The former President of the Federal Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier, also sees it this way and warns of the consequences. He stated in an interview with the daily newspaper The world in March of this year with a view to the corona policy:
“In the consciousness of political actors and parts of the population it seems to be forgotten that the people of this country are free citizens. They have inalienable and inalienable rights of freedom, they are not subjects!”
For philosopher Brenner, politics should be more “than vying for the favor of the voters with full-bodied promises – which in the end the voters have to pay for themselves anyway – so that they can give their candidates a mandate for at least four years, or better still with a company car and one Supply ministerial “. He sees the problem in the fact that politics in the Federal Republic no longer has any concept or understanding of the political. That was the “threshold of the era” of the Merkel era, “in which the political abdicated in favor of politics”.
more on the subject – Supreme constitutional judge a. D .: “Confidence in the state’s ability to act has been shaken”