If you think this post is about the 1988 gang-cop movie starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall and directed by Dennis Hopper . . . you would be wrong . . . although wouldn't that be a change of pace . . .
No, I realized yesterday that I blogged a lot (seriously A LOT) about the US election last year. In just two weeks Germany is going to have a federal election, and I have written nothing about it. Shame on me! Time to change all that.
First, a little background: Germany has a parliamentary system and a proportional representation electoral system. As a result there are two large parties and three smaller parties. Neither one of the large parties gets enough votes to rule on its own, so Germany usually has a coalition government. Currently there is a "Grand Coalition" between the two largest parties: CDU and SPD. The talk of the country is who will create the next coalition.
"Colors" actually refers to the political parties in Germany. Each party is associated with a color:
CDU (Christian Democrats; kind of like the Repubs): Black
SPD (Social Democrats; just your average, middle of the road socialists): Red
FDP (Liberal Democrats): Yellow
Green Party . . . (this one is pretty self explanatory)
The Left (the REAL Socialists and former Communists): Red
The guessing game regarding the next coalition has led to all kinds of "funny" names. First, there is the "Traffic Light Coalition" (green, yellow, red), whose slogan could be "stop! no wait! go! no wait!" Then there is the "Jamaica Coalition" (black, yellow, green), who promise Rum to everybody. The most talked about (and perhaps most likely) is the black-yellow coalition, for which I have no funny slogan.
Last night the two primary candidates for Chancellor, Merkel (CDU, the current Chancellor) and Steinmeier (SPD, the current Secretary of State), had their one and only debate. The German and I watched and played a little drinking game. Every time Merkel said "Wachstum schaft Arbeit" (growth creates jobs; her talking point which she held onto like a raft in a storm): Drink! Anytime someone said "black-yellow": Drink! We almost finished a bottle of wine.
Most commentators declared the debate to be a draw. The newspapers this morning were mixed. Bild called it a "love fest" instead of a debate. Yes, Merkel and Steinmeier were cordial and there were very few direct attacks. In fact, the two are so cozy, almost like an old married couple, that they are starting to dress alike. Seriously, I think they had on the same black suit.
There are a few reason for this laid back "debate." First, I think that German politics are simply not as adversarial and personal as American politics so, we should not expect the same thing.
Second, I do not think that any of those snazzy coalitions that I mentioned above are possible. If you look at the numbers and how the parties interact with each other, I believe that the only coalition that is possible is the one that we have now. And secretly, I think Merkel and Steinmeier know that. They are going to have to continue to work together, for better or worse. Making it personal would make that relationship very difficult after the election.
Tonight the top candidates from the other three parties are debating. Unfortunately, it is late at night and not on a prime channel. You can tell that the media does not think they are important; which is wrong. One of these parties could be the "King Maker." We should also be allowed to see what they have to say. Besides, between the Leftist (and slightly crazy) LaFontaine, Guido (the gay FDP chief) and the Green-Man Trittin, you KNOW some crazy $hit will be said tonight . . . maybe I will actually stay up for those fireworks.