Old Green Fogies

Things Just Ain’t What They Used To Be: The syndrome is a classic one, afflicting us all, as youthful enthusiasm gradually gives way to middle-aged conservatism and stuffiness. In German politics, who once best represented that callow exuberance better than the Green Party*? Theirs was a genuine grass-roots movement, pioneering the concept within Europe – and beyond – of an ecology-oriented political organization, while the member from their ranks who ultimately gained the most national power – Joschka Fischer, Vice-Chancellor for seven years under Gerhard Schröder – had once been a Frankfurt street-fightin’ man.

That’s all different now, as Stephan-Andreas Casdorff writes in the Berlin paper Der Tagesspiegel (Resistance to the well-adjusted grows). For him, the Party is “no longer recognizable” in the maneuvering that is now underway to select its new leadership. Both its internal debates and those it conducts with fellow legislators in the German Lower House (Bundestag) are now as bland as any other politicians’.

Part of this can be ascribed to the fact that the Party has been so successful in actually capturing power. As mentioned, with Joschka Fischer and a team of other cabinet members it actually was a governing party for a while at the federal level. That’s not true right now – it may become true again – but there is a Green in charge of one of the country’s richest and most dynamic states, Baden-Württemberg (that’s mainly where you’ll find the big auto-producing companies, for example; the Landeschef or Governor there is Winfried Kretschmann) as well as in numerous lower-level state and municipal offices throughout the land. With power comes responsibility, so they say, and thus a sort of maturing.

In Casdorff’s eyes the embodiment of what the Green Party has become, and why, is Jürgen Trittin. Once leader of the Party’s radical wing, he accompanied Fischer into Gerhard Schröder’s cabinet, went on to other important posts, and so became a confirmed pragmatist along the way. Back in his radical days, such as when he had just become Federal Minister for the Environment, he was known in particular for his demand that . . . er, all German nuclear power plants be closed down. Anyway, he is now a leading candidate to take up Party leadership once again.

Even if he succeeds, though, he won’t sole Party leader – the Greens don’t do that. They still always have two co-equal leaders, unlike any of the other German political parties. That includes the Piratenpartei, the German Pirate Party, which itself is now inspiring politics of a new kind throughout Europe (and beyond) the way The Greens once did. The torch has been passed.

* Formally known since 1993 as “Alliance ’90/The Greens.”

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