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The Day-to-Day Problems of Running the Country (September 19, 1972)

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Question: Mr. Chancellor, wasn’t it basically two things that collided with each other somewhere? On the one hand, your government was under great pressure due to people’s high expectations, which I would view as a great compliment, since if a lot is expected of someone, it means that people actually have a high opinion of him. And on the other hand, didn’t this high level of expectations keep colliding with the fact that perhaps the public was insufficiently prepared psychologically for what then had to be done, both in foreign and domestic policy?

Answer: Yes, that’s true. The ways of making yourself sufficiently understood, to explain, not only what you are doing from one month to the next, but also what you have planned for a longer period of time, what is possible and what isn’t – all of this was not adequately explained. This has to do, I think, with the political structure in our country. Recently, someone said that for twenty years or almost [that long], in the Federal Republic we believed, or it was believed, that a consensus had been found slightly right of center. And that person went on to say that we are now in the process of finding a consensus slightly left of center. Neither one is all that terribly far from the center. But it necessarily creates strong tensions, or such a transition from one side of center to the other triggers a strong defensive reaction, also emotional defenses, by those who were set on the old consensus; and it creates exaggerated, often unrealistic expectations by those who feel like they are fully participating in the consensus for the first time, so to speak.

Question: Mr. Chancellor, in the last three years and especially in the last few months, did you ever experience moments when you were resigned or even tired or reluctant, because maybe you had been bombarded with too much that, whether subjectively or objectively, you didn’t deserve?

Answer: Not in the last few months, I don’t think. But otherwise over the course of time there were always situations now and then that I reacted to with a strong feeling of reluctance.

Question: Like what, for instance?

Answer: It was largely not situations that had to do with domestic policy adversaries, but with shortcomings in our own camp.

[ . . . ]

Source: Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Background Conversations for Die Zeit (September 19, 1972), Archiv der sozialen Demokratie [Archive of Social Democracy], WBA, A 9, 26; reprinted in Willy Brandt, Berliner Ausgabe, vol. 7: Mehr Demokratie wagen. Innen- und Gesellschaftspolitik 1966-1974 [Daring More Democracy. Domestic and Social Policy 1966-1974]. Edited by Wolther von Kieseritzky. Bonn, 2001, p. 354f.

Translation: Allison Brown

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