While there is fairy tale time in the Bundestag, some citizens slowly feel their sense of justice violated. Expensive “court photographers” and chancellery offices play into the hands of the AfD in particular.

The Chancellor compares the opposition leader Friedrich Merz with “Alice in Wonderland”. The second opposition leader Alexander Dobrindt the Federal Chancellor with “Jim Button and the fake giant”. Anyone who believes that 16 Merkel years are great and 12 traffic light months were bad, “also believes in talking white rabbits,” says Olaf Scholz. And the FDP parliamentary group leader, Christian Dürr, addressed Merz as “Mr. Merkel” in the heat of the moment. Fairy tale hour in the German Bundestag.

The “Chancellor Debate” in Parliament is always about the big line. The head of government and his achievements. The performance of the federal government as a whole. And the opposition, who want to nominate the next chancellor. According to current surveys, the population has a clear opinion on both: a majority of Germans neither consider Olaf Scholz to be a good current Chancellor nor Friedrich Merz to be a good next Chancellor. Neither is good.

Why that is is debatable. In any case, both of them do not get through with their messages. Scholz not with his current account, from the full gas storage to the increased child benefit of 250 euros. And Merz not with the “breach of word” accusation because of the promised two percent more for the Bundeswehr or the considerable technical errors of the government.

Maybe it’s because people outside of the Berlin bubble, the square kilometer around “Mitte”, have completely different concerns. One of them was brought up by the parliamentary group leader of the Greens, Katharina Dröge, at the very end of her speech: “The Cologne food banks have to close after 20 minutes, then the food is gone.”

Against the background of such a shocking announcement, government action can only seem helpless. But maybe it’s also because the government passed around 100 laws in the first eleven months of its existence. In view of this abundance and speed – who should keep the perspective? At least when it is explained to him as mechanically as by Olaf Scholz.

But it may also be due to the fact that some excitement is only marginally discussed. Like the new chancellery that Angela Merkel decided and Olaf Scholz is now building – 21 years after even the ostentatious building decided by Helmut Kohl is said to have become so small that its area, be careful: it has to be doubled. This is exciting for many reasons, one that deeply offends the citizens’ sense of justice:

How do all the austerity appeals, from Wolfgang Schäuble wearing a sweater to Winfried Kretschmann’s recommendation for a washcloth, get along with the 777 million euros that are now to be spent on the new “Palace of the Republic”? There is a very grand coalition of Chancellors from Kohl to Gerhard Schröder, Angela Merkel and Olaf Scholz on the subject. Because that’s the way it is, they don’t talk about it.

In this way, an annoyance becomes a gift for which the AfD thanks you. Referring also to the fact that the area for the chancellor’s offices has increased eightfold to 250 square meters, Alice Weidel calls the building “a monument to one’s own megalomania”. Perhaps the reason for not being able to get through is something else.

In almost every Bundestag debate it can be observed how the parties that call themselves the “middle” want to exclude the others, whom they always call “fringes”, from the discourse of the “solid”. But that leads to a kind of self-blockage.

If something comes from the AfD or the Left Party, the others don’t even pick it up or make fun of it. Coolly analysed: This creates a communicative vacuum. And because these two more radical parties then often get hold of sensitive points, the impression is created that the others, including the government, are not concerned with the really important issues. Let’s call this communicative phenomenon: the populism trap.

Example Dietmar Bartsch. The leader of the Left Party is a witty speaker who never shies away from punch lines, with an unerring sense of his opponents’ weak points. He doesn’t even need to mention Robert Habeck’s name, just a reference to the gas price brake. Which should only be a levy. Which would have meant: Paid by everyone. And no government goodie, but now again a benefit. First planned for March, then now for January. Bartsch’s engraving: “There are dilettantes at work.” A hit.

Bartsch’s legitimate question as to why villa owners benefited most from the energy brakes also remains unanswered. As well as those, which is why the people who would have saved before would now be less relieved than the spendthrifts. The lights were just going out in Germany: “They are turning the industrial nation into a candle republic.” Not bad, one has to say, it could have been by Dieter Nuhr.

The photographer that Robert Habeck is currently looking for to stylize him into a green role model for 400,000 euros in four years – not an issue for the traffic lights, not even for Merz and Dobrindt – so the AfD grabs it – “court photographer”. Back in Kohl’s day, there were no government photographers, neither for a chancellor nor for a minister. How aloof do you have to be?

The debate pattern repeats itself: in the eight million over four years that the government spends on a sea rescue organization – of which Katrin Göring-Eckardt’s life partner, Thies Gundlach, is the chairman. How did that get through the budget committee?

Or the 1,700 additional civil servants that the government now wants to hire. Since when do more civil servants ensure better governance? In view of the over-regulation and bureaucratization in Germany that all parties complain about: wouldn’t it really be better to permanently cut back on civil servants instead of hiring more and more of them?

The pattern is always the same: the vulnerability of government or coalition representatives on the justice track: you up there, we down here. But there is no point in complaining about populism if the reasons for this populism are not eliminated but pushed into a taboo zone.