Last week, the German press reported on a controversy involving Martin Schulz. He is Angela Merkel’s most important rival in the upcoming elections in September of this year.
The candidate for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) attended an organized meet-up with voters at an inter-generational commune. The latter is set up by a charity which has been historically associated with the socialist movement — and thereby Schulz’s party. Friendly terrain, by every measure.
Too friendly though, as the charity had, prior to the meeting, distributed flyers to the attendees, giving them a specific instruction, “During this visit, we are mostly interested in topics such as generational coexistence, family, elderly care, or pensions. We ask you to not bring up refugees/migration, since the previously mentioned topics are most important in this meeting.”
Visibly embarrassed about the situation, Schulz attempted clarify that the voters present can address any topic they like; the meeting turned out to be a communications disaster, as most people at the event completely refrained from asking questions. After Martin Schulz left the meeting, the organizer indicated ignoring the migration-issue was a suggestion he had gotten from Schulz’s campaign itself. He denied being responsible for the flyer.
For the socialist candidate, this incident is yet another blow to a campaign already sinking. In many polls, Schulz’s party barely holds at 20 percent, while Angela Merkel’s Christian-Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) scratches 40 percent.
Schulz is often perceived as arrogant, snarky — and too loud. In his time as chairman of the European parliament, Schulz was infamous for his extreme rhetoric, as he ranted multiple times about opponents of the European Union (EU) being fascists.
As his campaign comes crashing down like the Hindenburg, Schulz’s campaign certainly believed that delving further into topics as controversial as migration couldn’t help his popularity. Angela Merkel on the other hand announced soon after that she “would not be ignoring the issue of immigration policy during the election campaign.”
The politics of ignoring the issues, practiced by Martin Schulz, will considerably upset the German electorate. It’s the same tactic that was used after numerous sexual attacks had been committed in the city of Cologne during the New Year’s Eve of 2015/2016. The interior minister of the federal state had been accused of covering up the incidents by attempting to remove the word “rape” from police reports.
German voters are willing to accept that there is a moral obligation to provide aid to those who seek to escape war and devastation. However, they also demand the political honesty required to recognize that accepting thousands of people each year is challenging and does not come without its downside.
Angela Merkel has put numbers on her plans regarding letting refugees into the country, and has been continuously vocal about her policy. This has been a more effective strategy, rather than dance around the issue in an attempt to garner as many votes as possible. The challenge is now for the next parliament to make it easier for these migrants to get work permits, get out of government-owned housing and inspire others to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
The closer German politicians get to saying that, the more they rise in the polls. It turns out that political honesty translates into electoral success. Who’d have thought?
This article was first published by Newsmax.
Pictures are Creative Commons
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