My sister is 24 years old and just finishing her Master’s degree. She goes out a lot, she’s interested in what’s going on around her, she’s excited about her first job and about all the things lying ahead of her. Generally, she’s a normal 24-year-old, and not unlike me at that age.
Except that when we talked about the upcoming elections last Saturday, she told me she was “a CDU/CSU voter”. I nearly dropped the phone.
"Well, Germany is doing quite well right now, and I want it to stay that way. Also, Merkel has been defending Germans’ interests abroad. But above all, I don’t want higher taxes."
"But what about adoption rights for homosexual couples?" I asked. "What about equal opportunities? What about the minimum wage?"
"I’m for those things, sure. But can you imagine Steinbrück negotiating bailouts with other European leaders?"
And thus, my 24-year-old sister revealed herself to be one of the rather large number of Germans of all ages and income groups (though not locations – thank you, East Berlin) that the CDU’s campaign messaging was designed for: In Safe Hands. Or, as Adenauer put it in 1957: No Experiments!
She and all those other people, 41.5 percent of voters and nearly 25 percent of the adult populace, want no experiments; they want to be safe. That, for me, is the real meaning behind Merkel’s nickname “Mutti”. It’s not so much misogynist – rather, it shows Merkel’s appeal is down to people wanting a leader who lets them comfortably fall asleep in the back seat of the car. Who takes responsibility off their shoulders and assures them that they don’t have to worry about all those difficult questions, mommy will take care of it.
And that, for me, is the real problem with that election result: it’s not that so many people voted conservative. It’s that so many people didn’t do it out of real conservative convictions, but because they’d rather not risk anything.
It is that same yearning for stability and security that explains the wish of so many people (64 percent out of 1,000 respondents in a poll two days ago) for a grand coalition. If the CDU/CSU and SPD joined forces, the government would control 503 of the 630 parliamentary seats – that’s nearly 80 percent. The opposition would basically be nonexistent. “That wouldn’t be the worst solution,” my father said. At what point exactly my liberal, well-informed family decided that democracy really isn’t such a good thing, I don’t know.
So who is going to break it to our fellow countrymen? There are very few certainties in life. Wealth, economic growth and social stability can not be guaranteed. However, one thing is for certain: time passes, and the future will come. And I, for one, would much rather participate in the debate about what it’s going to look like than be asleep in the back seat of the car.