The CDU is arguing about how to deal with the AfD. Andreas Rödder, historian and head of the CDU Basic Values Commission, calls on his party to… star-Interview to break away from the concept of the firewall – and is open to a delicate power option in the East.
Has the CDU torn down the firewall to the right in Thuringia?
I think the word “firewall” is wrong. It divides the world into two camps: “us” and “them”, on one side the green Shire, on the other the scorched earth. This term constantly makes us gasp. This is harmful to our democracy.
According to the incompatibility decision, the CDU rejects “coalitions and similar forms of cooperation” with the AfD and the Left Party. In Thuringia, the CDU pushed through a reduction in the real estate transfer tax with the votes of the AfD. What is the difference between working together and voting together?
The CDU would do well to take its own decisions seriously. That means: no coalition, no formal agreements with the AfD. If the CDU submits a motion and receives a majority, that is normal parliamentary behavior.
There was probably an unofficial agreement. The AfD first withdrew its application. Then the CDU submitted its proposal.
Again: The CDU should neither formally nor informally follow what the AfD does. But if she introduces a bill out of conviction, it doesn’t matter who agrees.
With this argument, the CDU could form a minority government in Thuringia after the next election, which the AfD can tolerate.
The crucial question would be: Is it a minority government that has to constantly look for its majority? Then it’s completely fine. It would only be problematic if the CDU allowed itself to be officially tolerated by the AfD and entered into agreements to do so. That would be a red line.
Where do you see the red line in terms of content?
There are clear red lines to the far right, I’m just mentioning the relativization of National Socialism or the advocacy of the war against Ukraine. Otherwise, the thing that counts is that reducing the property transfer tax makes sense. What if the AfD introduces previous CDU templates? Should the CDU vote against its own beliefs as a matter of principle? Parliamentarism means putting content first.
Doesn’t this legitimize a party that repeatedly attracts attention through racist and anti-democratic statements?
The AfD’s goal is to destroy the Union because this is the only way it can conquer the political right. The CDU must understand this logic. It is sandwiched between the Greens, who have cultural hegemony, and the AfD, who want to eliminate the CDU. In short: the Greens are the main opponents in terms of content, the AfD is the enemy. If the CDU doesn’t want to go under, it has to assert itself between these two poles.
What would you recommend to your party?
The CDU can no longer argue about false firewalls. This only has the effect that the AfD can demonstrate the CDU again and again. The CDU must appear self-confident and formulate its own positions. She has to get out of the defensive zone. This is the only way she can win over the right-wing democratic center.
And if that contributes to the normalization of the AfD? In Thuringia, Björn Höcke heads this party.
You would only contribute to normalization if you formed a coalition with Höcke. But you shouldn’t exaggerate them either. And this is achieved because the Union does not allow itself to be driven by whether the AfD agrees or the Greens contradict. She shouldn’t look at the AfD at all. The firewall hysteria only leads to the AfD becoming more and more popular.
Is it misleading to think that a firewall with the Greens is more important to the party leader?
Here, too, I wouldn’t talk about a “firewall,” but rather about democratic competition. And Merz is absolutely right: The Greens are the CDU’s main opponents in terms of content. Their cultural hegemony extends far beyond their own party boundaries.
We have the impression that no party is currently as publicly hostile as the Greens.
Because increasing parts of the population have the impression that they should be patronized by the Greens. This reactance was a predictable event. It is the task of the Union as the opposition to provide an alternative.
Friedrich Merz spoke of the “alternative with substance”.
That was true in the matter, but the term was not particularly happy because it sounds like “AfD light”. But the Union makes itself superfluous if it becomes “Green light” or “AfD light”. I can understand that the SPD and the Greens are trying to drive the Union into a corner. If they look beyond party tactics, all leftists should also have an interest in there being a strong democratic right-center party. Otherwise it will become critical for the political system as a whole.
A look at Europe, France or Italy, shows that a Christian Democratic party does not have to exist forever.
If you have governed for all but 22 years since 1949, it leads to the assumption that this is the eternal normality.
We have three state elections in the east in 2024. How great will the temptation be to contain the AfD in a government?
As a historian, I can’t get out of my own skin: the large-scale experiment in integration went terribly wrong in the 20th century.
Why is the CDU unable to benefit from the traffic light misery?
The Union is under pressure from three sides. From the left there is a threat of opposition from the Greens, from the right there is a threat of approval from the AfD. And the Merkel era is pressing from behind.
The star has just reported on the reconciliation between intimate enemies Gerhard Schröder and Oskar Lafontaine. Would it help the CDU if Friedrich Merz and Angela Merkel got along publicly?
That would certainly be a good signal. But as far as I know, Ms Merkel has turned down invitations from Friedrich Merz. Her insistence that she did everything right doesn’t help either.
Does the CDU need to come to terms with the Merkel era?
The CDU is currently experiencing what the SPD went through after the Schröder era. Both Schröder and Merkel have deviated far from the mainstream of their party, and that affects their identity. The Union will not be able to avoid finding a differentiated relationship with its past.