No Captain, no Course, no Destination
The Green leaders are jealously ensuring that none of them gets to take the helm – so the entire party is wandering around lost.
A sculpture on the mantelpiece of a house somewhere in Berlin’s Grunewald forest. Three people are pulling on one end of a rope, and one person is pulling on the other. Three against one. It’s actually a cut-and-dried case, if you’re familiar with the physics of a tug-of-war. But here, the lone person is clearly pulling the others over to his side: forcefully, passionately, irresistibly! You don’t see much of that among Alliance 90/The Greens these days. In contrast to the way in which Joschka Fischer once pulled the Greens into the Red-Green project, no one is pulling at all – much less with passion. Fischer’s heirs are occupied. With themselves. And with using the rope to make little nooses for each other.
While many Germans are gaping in disbelief at the grotesque battle scenes of the Grand Coalition, and while Westerwelle’s FDP is calmly plundering the conservative troops, the Greens have been wandering around on the sidelines. It makes you wonder why. They got 8.1 percent of the vote in the Bundestag election, and with this result, they perhaps achieved – despite being relegated to the opposition – the most significant outcome in their party’s history. This result was hard-won by Fischer and his camp against public opinion, against their coalition partner, and especially against the doubters from their own ranks. In programmatic terms, the party is very up-to-date, and it does not lack for presentable people. But even a solid year after the early Bundestag elections, the Greens still look colorless and faceless. The new leadership is having a hard time positioning the Greens as a strong force in the opposition. What was actually an interesting economic conference last Friday could not make up for this impression. This situation can no longer be excused as part of the difficult transition into the opposition or as a result of the caesura left by Fischer’s departure. They’ve had a year to deal with that.
If a man knows not what harbor he seeks, then no wind is a favorable one; even Seneca knew that. Captain, course, and destination harbor remain unknown among the Greens, even after a year in the opposition. At least four or five wannabe captains are issuing commands from the bridge, just as many are waiting for someone to slip on the wet upper-deck, and the ship’s kobold is smirking in the crow’s nest. The party and the parliamentary faction leaders are eyeing each other jealously, scuffling over every last crumb of the small media-spotlight pie. When, for example, Fritz Kuhn, one of the two parliamentary faction leaders, argued in a Sunday paper about the colors of a traffic light,* Claudia Roth, one of the two party leaders, immediately added her two cents: that kind of discussion “hurts the party.”
In such a climate, it is hard to make any fundamental decisions. It is indisputable that the Greens have to reposition themselves strategically if they want to govern again in the future. But a new perspective on power, no matter which perspective that may be, does not emerge on its own, that is, through simple arithmetic alone. The Baden-Württemberg Greens had to learn that the hard way when they pinned their hopes on a Black-Green coalition, and now so do the Berliners who thought that the SPD would prefer them, once again, to the Left Party. A perspective on power needs preparation and grounding. And it needs leaders who clearly stand behind it. This also applies to Red-Green, and yet, up to now, the party has avoided analyzing why, within only a few years, the Greens have been voted out of all governments. Some protagonists are still clinging to the notion of the Greens being a briskly buzzing (and, of course, environmentally-correct) reform motor.
* The political parties in Germany are commonly identified by their traditional colors: black for the CDU (and CSU), red for the SPD and the Left Party, yellow for the FDP, and, of course, green for the Greens An SPD-FDP-Green coalition is referred to as a “traffic light” coalition because of the parties’ traditional “red-yellow-green” colors – trans.