Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Here We Go Again

It is time to get political once more. Although I could write some thoughts about yesterday's Michigan primaries (especially the fact that Ms. Clinton only got 55% of the vote in a place where she was uncontested), I won't. No, today I am turning my critical commentary to the elections here in Germany.

Germany, like the U.S., is a federal system. In the next few weeks three laender (i.e. states for those from the U.S.) are going to elect their ministers (i.e. governor): Hessen, Hamburg, and my fair state, Lower Saxony. As I have watched the campaign progress here in Lower Saxony, I am struck by the thought that politicians are the same every where.

The CDU (something like the Republican Party) holds the most seats in Lower Saxony at the moment. I must say that the campaign here has been kind of bland. There almost seems to be the feeling that the minister, Christian Wulff, is going to be re-elected and so why bother. This really irritates the hell out of me, because I am not sure he should be re-elected.

Flashback to 5 years ago. Wulff was flying high as the bright new "Wunderkind" of the Lower Saxony CDU party. Young and charismatic (and not bad looking to boot), he and his family were all over campaign posters. Back then, he promised more jobs and economic growth, and more importantly for the German and our circle of friends, 5000 new teaching positions. Now that was an idea that even someone who leans SPD (something like the Democrats) could get behind. The German, as well as a lot of our friends, were university students studying education. Job prospects were not good at that time, so the idea that the new CDU government would focus on education was welcome.

Flash forward to today. Mr. Wulff, where did those teaching jobs go? The German, as well as three other people I know, could not get a job in Lower Saxony. Even more people from the university cannot find a position to do their required two years of student teaching. One good friend of mine had to wait 2 years before being offered a position that was no where near where she wanted to be and NOT WHAT SHE HAD STUDIED. Furthermore, there continues to be a teacher shortage in the state, especially of English teachers. When I applied for a job, I was turned down because I had "never studied English." No, being an American with a PhD from one of the best universities in the U.S. was not good enough. Do not even get me started on how bad the state run universities are doing at hiring new personnel.

A week ago I was driving home from an English lesson and I saw a huge CDU campaign poster. There in the middle of a group of children was Mr. Wulff. Above the picture was the headline: Better Education. I almost blew a gasket. However, I must not be the only person aware of the problems with the CDU stand on education. This week the poster has been replaced with a different headline: More Jobs.

So as you can see, it does not matter where you live, politicians regardless of nationality and party will say anything. Am I surprised by this? No, in fact it was a premise of my dissertation. Am I that upset about it? Also, surprisingly, no. We are self-interested beings and do what we have to get by. I cannot blame a politician for doing what I would do myself in order to get a job. However, I am a bit upset that no one around here seems to be talking about Wulff's perhaps less than stellar record. I also don't think that the opposition, the SPD, is taking advantage of a possible CDU weakness. They too just seem to be along for the ride.


Maria said...

Other D voters in Michigan were encouraged to either vote undecided (I can't remember the exact term on the ballot though-- I don't think that was it) or for Romney. That would explain Hillary, I think.

Rositta said...

Politicians are the same everywhere I think, they lie. Here during the Provincial elections 5 years ago the man running for Premier made 231 promises the biggest one being "I won't raise your taxes". Within two weeks of being elected he added a huge "health tax" burden on everyone. The press went nuts, everyone hated him but last year, guess what...he got re-elected...go figure. People get the government they deserve...ciao

Florian said...

Dear Claire,
I am a lurker on your blog, and an admirer of your prose. Having grown up in Germany I completely agree your assessment. The way states have treated the education system (including universities) over the last 30 years is truly appalling. Your examples are spot on and illustrate the strive for mediocrity which dominates the administration of the states.
Good luck, Florian

Anonymous said...

What do those primarys actually mean??? we ain't even had a convention yet. Them moguls in charge might not like anyone that "won" a primary and come up with another person altogether. It dosn't make any differance anyway, everybody knows that it's all about MONEY!!!

Guess who??

Anonymous said...

55% for Clinton is quite good, considering the 'uncontested' option actually represented a number of candidates, including Obama and Edwards. Many of us living in Michigan find it pathetic that few candidates other than Clinton and Kucinich actually had the guts to stand up to their arcane party rules and remain on the ballot.

On a different note, I'm curious if you have any comments on the democrats that are planning to vote green or republican if Obama is the democratic presidential candidate. I find your observations interesting and would like to hear your thoughts...