Three decades after Reiser’s hit, a threatening reincarnation of Ronald Reagan governs the White House, refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea and the German military is once again going to war. At least they spared us a king, we could not have found one like Rio anyway. The first man in the state – so far they have always been men – has only limited power. However, the head of state should have an impact.
Legitimate Back and Forth
There is vehement, as well as qualified opposition to the pros and cons of the office. Both sides have strong arguments. We don’t need a pseudo-monarch, or any other top symbolic figure. Our democratically founded country can do without a state-doorman, a leading notary, a main referee or chief travel agent. We have constitutional bodies which can adopt these duties and take them on at a low cost. One can praise or criticize them, without instantly drawing fury for supposedly damaging a noble office or their holder.
As a politician in office, however, I only know too well how strongly current problems and interests determine our daily activities. There are times we hardly have a clear mind for activities beyond the daily routine. And who is taking care of morality and values? Who ponders thoroughly about non-violence and justice, the environment and climate, food and water, equality and emancipation?
Of course this is not a plea for no-conscience-politics. But it can be helpful if one of high degree is looking back, looking forward, connecting past and future, initiating impact, and remains a calm anchor. Such impulses have served our country well.
I am of course thinking of President Richard von Weizsäcker’s memorable speech on May 8th of 1985, referring to that historical date of May 8th of 1945, as a “day of liberation” for the first time in German history. President Roman Herzog, the first German president travelling to Auschwitz, and President Johannes Rau, who asked for forgiveness in the Knesset for the atrocities committed by the Nazis. I have sincere respect for the courageous President Christian Wulff, stating that Islam belongs to Germany, as well as President Joachim Gauck, who spoke boldly about the genocide of the Armenians. When Gustav Heinemann was asked if he loved this state, he replied: “I don’t love states, I love my wife.” Humanity first!
Not the finest hour
Introducing the presidential candidate of the grand coalition, was one of Social Democrat’s Sigmar Gabriel’s last coups. It was not the finest hour of democracy, nor a contribution to the dignity of the high office. In my opinion, a future direct ballot of the Federal President should be considered. This could indeed be a national debate on the future viability of our society. In a country where a miserable car toll turns into a state project, whose government is dealing with despots, right-wing preachers of hate become a considerable alternative for voters, such a debate is more than necessary.
I am not expecting a great surprise at the Federal Assembly on February 12th. I respect Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Germany’s chief diplomat has often acted cautiously and redeeming, has warned against saber rattling and confronted Trump. But he is also a founding father of the unfortunate Agenda 2010 and has not opposed the war deployments of the German army. Steinmeier represents a social-democracy that has given up its best traditions. I will not give him my vote and I am glad that there is a choice.
Wealth does not fight poverty
DIE LINKE (The Left) proposes the renowned scientist Christoph Butterwegge. Among other things, he has dealt with right-wing extremism and racism, published on globalization, demography and the social state and, above all, is a well-known researcher on the subject of poverty. Butterwegge is skeptical about the thesis of a supposed economic recovery for all, and offers his concept of the “paternoster effect”: “Some are going up, and the others are going down, and that at the same time, because poor and rich are two sides of the same coin. Low wages mean high profits. So you can not fight poverty by promoting wealth, but you have to fight poverty by challenging wealth”. Professor Butterwegge has always interfered and stood up for his believes.
His eight year old daughter asked him, if she is going to live as a princess in Bellevue castle. He denied that. Because Germany won’t have a king and that is ok. We need impulses.