German Democracy

Germany’s President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose position is less than that of the Chancellor’s (the current incumbent is Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union) but currently has a critical role, has let the cat out of the bag regarding the attitude of that nation’s political elite toward democracy and the people of the nation.

Recall that Germany held an election a few weeks ago in which the governing CDU/SPD coalition was heavily defeated.  The Social Democrat Party, a center left party, lost most heavily, and it has announced that it will not ally with the CDU in any new government.  The CDU also lost heavily, although it retains the most seats in the German parliament, the Bundestag.  That most seats, though, is a bare plurality, not enough to govern effectively.  Merkel entered talks with The Greens Party and the Free Democrats Party, whose numbers combined with the CDU’s would have given such a coalition a (bare) majority in the Bundestag.  These were difficult talks since the three parties are polar opposites socially, economically, politically, pick a dimension (and yes, I’m aware of the difficulty of a three-way opposite construction—as were Merkel and the heads of those two parties, but they went for it, anyway).

The talks broke down, and with the SPD in firm opposition, Merkel is left with the choice of a minority government or new elections.  She prefers new elections.

Here’s where Steinmeier has exposed the elite’s Know Better attitude.  The Wall Street Journal has quoted his position:

The parties have campaigned for responsibility in the Sept 24 elections, a responsib[ility] that Germany’s constitution says can’t simply be handed back to voters.  This responsibility goes far beyond someone’s own interests.

Except that the German Constitution says exactly that, were the newly elected Bundestag unable to agree on a new coalition or a Chancellor.  However, the elites Know Better, and they insist that the people—the voters, Germany’s citizens—can’t be trusted with governance.  After all, they screwed up their just concluded chance, right?


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