Insulting the Eastern German electorate (and before the elections!)

Last month fellow Chicagoboy demimasque posted about babies dying from abuse or neglect in Europe. While shocking, this isn’t representative for Europe, or Germany and France as whole, but rather there are certain areas where this kind of thing happens much more frequently than elsewhere (and even there not frequently enough to affect demographics even marginally).

For example, this kind of thing happens three times as often per 100,000 people in in Eastern Germany than in Western Germany, and the particular instance demimasque cited unfortunately became an election issue:

Conservative candidate for chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to reprimand Brandenburg state interior minister Jörg Schönbohm after he argued that “forced proletarianization” by the communist regime had led to a lasting breakdown in traditional values and a prevalence of violence.

“Such a horrible crime cannot and must not be explained with generalizations of this kind,” said Merkel, who is the first major contender for the chancellery to come from the depressed east, where Schönbohm’s comments drew a hail of criticism.

“I spoke with Jörg Schönbohm (who belongs to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party) and expect him to end this discussion as soon as possible.”

Such a huge disparity in incidents is a legitimate issue for debate, but it is counterproductive to make the point in a way that makes 15 million people feel accused for the actions of a few. And to do that in the month before a election when you want those peoples’ votes you have to be really special.

Even worse, that this didn’t remain the last serious insult to those 15 million:

Bavarian state premier Edmund Stoiber, who ran on the Christian Union ticket against Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 2002 and narrowly lost, told a small group of supporters and journalists that the east had too much power over the poll’s outcome.

“I do not accept that the east will again decide who will be Germany’s chancellor. It cannot be allowed that the frustrated determine Germany’s fate,” Stoiber said, in comments made last week and first reported late Wednesday.

Stoiber stepped up the attack at a campaign rally Wednesday night, leaving Christian Union leaders scrambling to control the damage Thursday.

“If only everywhere else were like Bavaria, we would not have any problems at all. But unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we do not have such intelligent members of the population everywhere like we have in Bavaria,” he said.

“The strong must sometimes carry the weak a bit. That’s the way it is… I do not want the election to be decided in the east yet again.”

He neglected to mention that a better candidate than himself would easily have beaten Schröder in 2002, though. Either way, those two gaffes weren’t decisive in themselves, but without them the Christian Democrats would have had a more comfortable lead over the Social Democrats, making them the party with the most members in the new parliament. As it is, the final tally of the so-called ‘overhang mandates’ might make the Social Democrats the strongest party instead.

4 thoughts on “Insulting the Eastern German electorate (and before the elections!)”

  1. This goes some part of the distance toward explaining the differences in outlook between the former East Germany and other former Soviet bloc countries, but not all the way. Why is there so little support for liberalism (European, not American definition) there, and so much in the Czech Republic, Poland, the Baltic countries, etc.? Mere incompetence by the center-right doesn’t explain the consistent election results or the “Ostalgie” phenomenon.

  2. Three main factors:

    – West German regulations were imposed on the East German economy, at a time when its productivity was less than 20 % of the Western one – our trade unions insisted on that, so that East German workers couldn’t undercut Western ones at wages and geberal cost of employment are concerned.

    – Monetary union – The worthless East German Mark was exchanged 1 : 1 for the West German Mark; the East Germans insisted on that: ‘If the Mark (West doesn’t come to us we’ll come to it’ (i.e all go West). And of course monetary union meant that the former export markets in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union vanished, for nobody there could afford in Western Mark.

    – Dependency. It is much easier for East German politiicans to try and keep the bacon coming in, especially since the voters there insist on that, and would vote them out of office if they tried to increase competitiveness by cutting spending and costs. Poles, Czechs and Hungarians aren’t really that different, totalitarian systems always leave their mark, but there isn’t anybody paying them for doing nothing. Root hog or die.

    Another factor stems right from the start of reunification: Rightwing West Germans (including members of the the West German governemnt) and former East Germans who had fled to the West, intent to stick it to the East Germans. The other Eastern Europeans had nobody to transfer money to them, but they also didn’t suffer from a ‘Western big brother’ wanting to punish them for the sin of having lived under communism.

    I’ll write another post on this whole issue in the next days anyway.

  3. we must remember that the reason why people vote for rightist parties, is as they are deranged, and murderers. such as in 1933, in spain when nuns were killing babaies at birth,

  4. merkel is like the kaiser, or hitler, in the way that she thinks she should rule, germany even though she won less votes than the vleft, Just klike weimar germany she wanmts to ban the pds from power, but would allows arnold nazi;s pals, hitler and the free democrats in germany in immefitaly

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