Germany’s American Campaign

Well, it seems my guest stint is going to be along the lines of “All German Election, All The Time”, but some more things have come up! In last night’s TV debate between Schröder and Merkel, it seems, the CDU leader used some words that weren’t entirely her own. According to Der Standard (or should that be “the Austrian newspaper whose website could be better organised”?), her peroration was very similar to another peroration delivered in the same sort of circumstances. Not Bismarck this time…but Ronald Reagan, in his debate with Jimmy Carter on the 28th of October 1980. (You can compare the texts at the link above.) Now, that is of minor interest in itself, but it does point up a curious feature of modern German politics.

It’s all so American.

As I pointed out in my last AFOE contribution, Germany has a curious combination of a parliamentary constitution and a presidential political culture, which gives rise to the notion of a Spitzenkandidat separate from the party leader. Not only that, but yesterday saw all national TV networks cleared for a one-to-one debate between the top two candidates…something that doesn’t happen even in supposedly presidential Britain. Slogans have something oddly transatlantic about them, too – Edmund Stoiber ran last time under the line “Kantig. Echt. Erfolgreich.”, which reminded me at least far more of “A Reformer With Results” than anything European.

It’s always said that TV is crucial in Britain, but there is so little political coverage that I’ve always doubted its importance relative to the press, which covers elections exhaustively and addresses a readership more likely than the average to vote. But German elections seem far more televisual…

Just as in last year’s US presidential election, the whole debate was accompanied by a spin storm whipped up by both sides’ pet bloggers (the CDU cunningly grabbed the domain name wahlfakten.de for theirs whilst the SPD had to content themselves with roteblogs). However, wahlblog05.de seems to be channelling the spirit of our dear departed generalelection05, scrupulously balanced and perhaps even a tad too serious.

WB05 informs us that another US political tradition has even taken hold, too – destroying your opponents’ campaign materials. What on earth is going on?

One thought on “Germany’s American Campaign

  1. Germany’s constitution gives the chancellor a somewhat stronger and and presidential role than other parliamentary systems, which iirc is what they mean by kanzlerdemokratie. I always thought it made little difference in practice, but maybe there’s a connection. Occasionally having a different candidate isn’t restricted to Germany though, and to some extent a focus on the leaders is the norm everywhere, isn’t it?

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