Political scientist on the flood disaster: The flood becomes a political “game changer”

Mr. Decker, two weeks after the flood, the reactions of voters to the catastrophe and how politicians have dealt with it are visible in the “Germany Trend”. As a political scientist, how do you interpret the results? Who loses, who profits?

In the face of such a disaster, politicians must generally avoid double suspicions. First, they wanted to instrumentalize the situation by going there. Second, they let people down by not going. It all depends on the type of appearance and the tone. At one extreme, there are pictures like Melania Trump’s, who once walked through flood areas in high heels. The other is the demonstrative rubber boots, which are also inappropriate.

Angela Merkel has refused to put on work gloves or to symbolically pick up a shovel.
Wisely! And the comparison Merkel – Laschet in particular shows that the images help determine whether or not politicians appear in crisis areas.

You mean the pictures of the laughing Laschet, which bothered him badly?

Naturally. But everything has actually been said about that. At least as unfortunate was the statement that he was not changing his policy “because now is such a day”.

Giving people the feeling of support – that is much easier for politicians with government responsibility. If you look at the candidates for chancellor: good for Laschet as prime minister and Olaf Scholz as finance minister, not so good for Annalena Baerbock?

In fact, opposition politicians can do a lot wrong. Especially when they fall into the trap of hasty criticism of government actions. In acute crisis situations this has a lack of solidarity, petty-mindedness and nagging, even if the criticism is justified. In my opinion, Baerbock and the Greens avoided this trap. In the longer term, however, the apparent advantage of representatives of the executive is easily consumed: they have to make commitments and promises to those affected, by which they are measured. And if the “quick, unbureaucratic” help, which is often mentioned, does not arrive, dissatisfaction and mistrust arise very quickly.

Laschet sees the current Germany trend in candidate preference only in third place – after a minus of six percentage points. Scholz is perceived as the most energetic – and more trustworthy than Laschet. How much moment is there in this snapshot?

You can already see the volatility in the fact that the good current values ​​for Scholz are not carried over to his party, the SPD. The fact that the Greens are making a leap forward, on the other hand, is more a connection between moment and trend: The flood disaster will be linked to the issue of climate protection as an event in the weeks leading up to the federal elections. That works against the Union and FDP and pays mainly to the Greens.

Wouldn’t Laschet then have to rephrase the sentence quoted earlier and say: “Because it’s a day like that, I’ll change my policy”?

In fact, there is a lot to be said for it. Strategically, however, he would immediately have a credibility problem. He would be accused of having deliberately ignored the warnings about the effects of climate change on our weather with his previous climate policy, and he would in fact admit that that was wrong. Such warnings have been heard from the Greens for years. And their survey curve turned up just from 2018, when the hot summer also fueled the debate about climate policy.

When it came to phasing out nuclear power in 2011, Merkel did just that: a turnaround in government policy from one day to the next.

Firstly, this reveals a basic line of this chancellorship that has not yet been fully worked out: Merkel was always very strongly oriented towards opinion polls and moods in all of her political actions. Second, it was relatively easy for them to phase out nuclear power, because sticking to nuclear energy was not a matter close to their heart. In 2009 it was rather forced by the FDP to extend the operating times of the nuclear power plants again and to abandon the exit course set out by Red-Green.

But for Laschet and his climate policy, according to what you said: How he does it, does he do it wrong?

In any case, he has not yet found a good balance. This is certainly also due to the fact that the Union parties and their leaders do not have a common line in climate policy. This is fatal for the election campaign and for the candidate Laschet, because it creates the impression that neither he nor the parties that support him know what they want.

Can he find the balance?

In view of the enormous time pressure, this is very difficult. The Union’s idea for the election campaign was to keep as low as possible when it came to climate protection and to give up rhetorical concessions instead of specifying specific goals and thus the possible consequences for the population. A readjustment of the election platform of the CDU and CSU actually requires an orderly procedure and a vote in the parties so that they are not only perceived as determined but also as united. Nevertheless, the flood disaster could turn into a “game changer”, a decisive factor before the election, because it puts the parties and especially the CDU / CSU under pressure to show their colors more than before.


Source: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger – Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger by www.ksta.de.

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