In the political family of the traffic light coalition, FDP leader Christian Lindner is something of an unloved uncle. The Humpbacked Relatives. Residence status: tolerated. The man is always present at the important celebrations, but when he leaves the room, the gossip starts. Wait!

The red-green ministers feel that their statistic generosity is being held back by the head of the FDP.

They don’t want to lower taxes, they want to raise them.

They want to incur debt, not pay it back.

They don’t want to be open to technology, they want to enforce “their” technologies.

In the coalition committee, the substantive positioning usually follows the formula 2:1, says a participating Liberal.

The voters feel it.

While the Greens gain ground in the polls and the SPD chancellor hovers over the debates, the Liberals fall in the first year of government.

In Saarland, the FDP was thrown out of the state parliament, in Schleswig-Holstein and in North Rhine-Westphalia out of the government.

The APO, the extra-parliamentary opposition, is threatening the upcoming elections in Bremen, Berlin, Hesse and Bavaria.

According to surveys, the FDP is in the city states and in Hesse at six percent, in Bavaria only three percent.

Memories of the liberal zero hour are awakened: the expulsion from the Bundestag in 2013. The FDP was on the level of the animal protection party.

Is it no longer needed today?

At the traditional Epiphany meeting of the party in Stuttgart this Friday, the restart should be successful.

If you look behind the scenes of the lousy surveys, you have to realize that the chances are not that bad.

We name five reasons why political liberalism can make a comeback, especially in the crisis year 2023, and tell us what strategy the FDP leadership wants to use to switch the traffic light to yellow:

An economic policy based on measure and balance has never been more important than it is today. With the pandemic rescue packages, the energy price brake worth billions and the Bundeswehr special fund, the state is making commitments like never before.

The shadow budget has become the preferred political tool, the fiscal politicians have been working in sales mode for three years now: everything has to go.

“The caring person becomes the omnipresent state.”

Even before the pandemic and the war, the state quota was over 50 percent. Industrial electricity prices were at record levels even before the energy crisis.

The goal, according to which no more than 40 percent of gross wages should go to social affairs, is only met through accounting tricks.

The federal government’s debt has increased by 800 billion euros to 2,100 billion euros over the past three years.

Pretty big stones in the backpack of the coming generations.

A party that points out that the state and young people are doubly overwhelmed will not find an absolute majority, but will perhaps find a permanent place in the party system.

That is why the FDP boss now wants to force the departments to save. In 2024, too, the debt brake should – at least formally – be complied with.

The finance minister rejects a new “debt pot in Europe”, as he informed the coalition partners in an internal strategy paper of his ministry.

The label of the client party for the rich, which the political left of the FDP has stuck on, the party wants to transform into a positive profile.

The FDP wants to be the advocate of all those citizens in the country who want to belong to the elite. The FDP as a rising party.

Then belonging to the top performers is not a battle cry, but an award.

And for Lindner, one means of doing this is the “fiscal firewall”. This is what the FDP leader calls the fight against every tax increase in his strategy paper.

The alternative to a strictly supply-side policy would be what the FDP tried before.

In 1969 she came to power with the SPD, a short social-liberal era that some in the Bundestag faction still dream of today.

The “social liberalism” propagated at the time was written down in the acclaimed Freiburg Theses of 1971.

But just a year later, in 1972, the electorate crumbled – middle class, executives, craftsmen turned away from the social-democratized FDP.

With the exception of 2009, the FDP never reached more than a tenth of the eligible voters in any federal election.

Conclusion: New liberal initiatives such as the abolition of paragraph 219a and the demand for tanks for the Ukraine may be correct, but the FDP must ensure its survival in the party system as an economic party.

In other words: more Otto Graf, less Alexander Graf Lambsdorff.

Germany is facing a fatigue fracture. The pandemic years and now the first full year of war in Europe in 75 years have reduced the certainty that somehow everything will turn out fine in the end.

Apocalyptists are booming, a look at the bestseller lists proves this.

The Protestant theologian Friedrich Christoph Oetinger already suspected: “Man was created for joy, not for suffering.”

Confidence is a primary liberal virtue, and the FDP believes in the progress of civilization like no other party.

She is in love with success, not failure.

With the enormous economic and social challenge that Germany is facing in the competition of locations and powers, exactly this optimism is needed.

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Technological revolutions in the energy transition, entrepreneurial spirit in business, willingness to perform in education policy – these terms hardly play a role in public debates anymore.

While the Green Economics Minister and the Green Environment Minister warn and admonish and the SPD chancellor ponders the world risks, the FDP can make a name for itself as the party of those who love the future.

Strictly according to Angela Merkel’s motto: “We can do it!”

The Union has apparently decided in which constellation it can come back to power: on the side of the Greens.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz recently made it clear in a meeting with business representatives that climate protection and economic policy are of equal importance for the reorganization of his party.

The deficits in conservative environmental policy must be addressed. Behind the scenes, despite all the public squabbling, there are solid connections to the Greens leadership.

No coincidence: NRW Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst had already preferred the exit from coal as the first official act in the coalition talks in Düsseldorf in order to serve the Greens.

The Berlin CDU boss Kai Wegner now also wants to present a climate protection program for the city, although Berlin, which is comparatively low in CO2, probably has other problems at the moment.

Wegner is aiming for what is probably the only partner with whom he could replace SPD mayor Franziska Giffey: the Greens.

Black and green is the color of fashion in the state offices of the CDU.

In Schleswig-Holstein, CDU election winner Daniel Günther opted for a government with the Greens in May 2022, although a majority with the FDP was possible.

That had never happened before in the Federal Republic.

On the evening of the election, FDP Vice Wolfgang Kubicki was convinced in internal circles that his buddy and long-standing Jamaica partner would govern with the FDP.

It turned out differently. Some of the rhetorical attacks by the FDP members of the Bundestag against the Union originate in Kiel.

Since then, hardly anyone in the party leadership has questioned the independence of the FDP.

And Lindner wants to fill the space that the Union leaves to the Greens with its appeasement policy.

The plan is to push the topics of fracking, nuclear energy and synthetic fuels.

All green hate objects.

Forsa boss Manfred Güllner considers the demarcation to be very promising.

If the FDP succeeds in forming a sharp corrective to green politics within the traffic light, they could perhaps again tie a tenth of those eligible to vote as core voters in the future and remain the client party of German medium-sized companies in a positive sense, he says.

Bureaucratic excesses have become a location problem of the first order in Germany.

The self-proclaimed progressive coalition had therefore decided to halve all planning and approval procedures in the country, but apart from giving priority to renewable energies little has happened so far.

The FDP now wants to make the issue its own and succeed as a modernization party in traffic lights.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing wants to promote the lightning approval for the LNG terminal to the standard in Germany and implement numerous infrastructure projects in a similarly rigid manner, bypassing environmental regulations and citizens’ initiatives.

Meanwhile, Christian Lindner is having his ministry prepare a “tax bureaucracy relief law”. Internally, there is now talk of “innovation clauses” and priority for start-ups in public contracts.

The liberals know that it is no longer just the business associations and companies in the country who are preaching a reduction in bureaucracy.

It is the nursing staff and the educator, the doctor and the teacher, the police officer and the master craftsman who feel annoyed and patronized by the regulations and specifications of the authorities.

Conclusion: It was a certain Olaf Scholz who explained in an interview a few years ago that the FDP would be dispensed with if new parties had to be founded on greenfield sites today.

He could be wrong.

Michael Bröcker is editor-in-chief of Media Pioneer. The free morning briefing can be found here: