The center has no address and no telephone number, but many faces. It does not have a seat in parliament, but it still has the greatest political influence in the country. Good to marvel at Messrs. Scholz, Habeck and Lindner.
She grabs the politicians, including those with a lack of professional experience and who have dropped out of education, clamps them in her forming tools and sends them to the pressing plant until a politician with measure and middle rolls off the assembly line. The achievements are impressive:
Within a very short space of time, the center turned a green philosopher into chief buyer for fossil fuels – and instructed him to extend the lifetime of nuclear power plants. The Chancellor was only their notary.
The center has persuaded a kleptomaniac SPD parliamentary group to bury their wildest fantasies of a tax on the wealthy and a higher top tax rate and to take their hand out of the wallets of the high earners. The middle is on the verge of weaning even the absent-minded Professor Lauterbach from the tangled and erratic.
Olaf Scholz has now also changed the middle. Just this week, he was forced to renege on his oath of allegiance to equal government positions and to look to competence, not sex, when filling the Defense Department.
The center has forbidden the Greens the speed limit and the FDP has milled away the strict and unconditional in terms of national debt. Christian Lindner went through the same mint as Robert Habeck – only the ribbons ran in the opposite direction.
In terms of migration policy, the center wants people to immigrate to Germany, but not to invade. She also wants to shape the newcomers: the middle wants people to sleep at night and not deal. She wants the newcomers to go to work in the morning and not to the social welfare office. She wants everyone to abide by the house rules, which in our case are called the Basic Law.
If these conditions are met, the middle can be generous. The stranger becomes her friend, as has happened millions of times over the past decades.
Despite the wild New Year’s Eve in Cologne and Berlin, the hate preachers don’t stand a chance in mainstream society. When people are extremely dissatisfied, they grumble, but on election day they would rather stay at home than vote for the AfD. In the last federal election, there were three times more non-voters than AfD voters: 14.3 million vs. 4.8 million.
You don’t need the CDU to maintain political decency, which – to use the words of Friedrich Merz – recommends itself as a firewall against the right-wing. The center itself is this firewall.
The middle doesn’t let the media dictate how it has to think either. She does not need to study the philosopher Kant in order to follow his call for liberation “from self-inflicted immaturity”. Just as the skilled worker didn’t let BILD put him off his Willy Brandt in the early 1970s, Spiegel was unable to shake the man they called Pear out of the tree for 16 years. The middle is adept at reading between the lines.
State-influenced television is resented when it doesn’t trust the audience to face the truth. When the Tagesschau reporter couldn’t get the word migrant out of his mouth after the riots in Neukölln, apparently worried that the audience would otherwise leave the television chair to walk through the streets with a Hitler salute, everyone was upset.
But just out of tune and not inflamed. The middle is – as long as Anne Will, Sandra Maischberger, Maybrit Illner and Louis Klamroth can speak openly and fight hard on the matter – reconciled with a system that was intended for their re-education after the Second World War. It does not disturb the pluralistic. It disturbs the most smug.
You only have to look at how this social center has changed the CSU in Bavaria. In the past, the CSU was more of a right-wing party on all issues – from cultural policy to internal security.
Your current party leader is not on the right, but in the middle. His political stance is not rigid, but flexible. Too agile, say his critics.
Yesterday was another Markus Söder day. Suddenly he was greener than the Greens: “We reject a coalition with the Greens. Anyone who talks about the climate and digs for coal is not credible,” he said on Twitter.
One catches oneself involuntarily nodding, knowing that the energy policy situation bears the traits of real satire. We want to be green but warm. We want progress, but not too much. His slyness and our hypocrisy could complement each other well.
Maybe the critics are just jealous of his popularity. His cheerful opportunism, his willful flexibility make him the favorite rascal of the Germans. If the majority wants to save the bees, he saves the bees for them. In corona politics, depending on the mood of the people, he was hard as reinforced concrete on Monday and soft as a camembert on Friday.
“Blood and truth join hands for a life of militancy,” writes Peter Sloterdijk of the radicalized edges, where the colors red and brown flow into each other. That’s just not how the middle wants to be. She hates blood and shies away from opinions that masquerade as eternal truths.
If, as Sloterdijk writes, history is “like a ride through a dimly lit tunnel,” then the future of the modern politician will be decided by the role he plays in that train journey. Friedrich Merz meets us as a conductor and thus as a controller. He exudes authority but no warmth. You’re happy when he goes by.
The modern politician does not agitate, he strolls. To borrow a word Christian Lindner said to Robert Habeck, it can be a little creamy.
The politician of the center intuitively masters Albert Camus’ “Mediterranean thinking”, even if he has never heard of this philosophy. He exudes a partnership-like lightness that has to do without the absolute, the strict and sometimes even the principled. Perhaps this centrist populism is the new normal. Or as Albert Camus put it: “Don’t walk behind me, maybe I’m not leading. Don’t walk in front of me, maybe I’m not following. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, Chairman of the Management Board of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.