Opinion: CDU deludes itself with conservative folklore | Opinion | DW | 24.08.2016
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Opinion: CDU deludes itself with conservative folklore

Christian Democrats are outdoing themselves with demands. Reinstating military conscription is the latest. Are they serious? DW editor Mathias Bölinger doesn't think so.

Homeland protection battalions are in vogue again - a throwback to Germany's Cold War defense strategy. These were reserve units tasked with protecting facilities around the country in case of war. Homeland protection battalions were done away with in 2007, but they've been cropping up again, at least in media reports. The Christian Democrat (CDU) Bundestag member Patrick Sensburg wants to reinstate them, along with military conscription, which was phased out in 2011. Such reserve battalions were actually reintroduced in 2012, rebranded as "regional security and support forces." Sensburg, a reserve lieutenant colonel, should have known that. In any case, it all sounds like the past.

Burqa ban, eliminating dual citizenship, reinstating conscription, a loyalty pledge for immigrants, more police, surveillance cameras, face-recognition software and a revamped disaster response plan: The list of conservative demands has been streaming across the news ticker. The particularly heavy talk of domestic security stands in strange contrast to the relative calm revealed by polls taken since the series of terror attacks in July. A contradiction? Not at all. It's not society in panic, but conservatives. Right-wing members of the CDU are chasing right-wing voters.

Conservatism was once the dominating political ideology in Germany. Fifty years ago, the CDU won with its "no experiment" slogan - one of the most successful campaigns since World War II (or, at least, the most talked about). The majority of society today, however, is far different than it was in the 1950s: more diverse, liberal and sophisticated. Sticking to tradition can still win votes, sociologists note, but not elections.

Chancellor Angela Merkel sees the need for her party to change if it is to retain its majority. The CDU has become more liberal, and Merkel's success has proved her correct. Her opponents stand little chance of stopping the process, regardless of the fact that Merkel's refugee policy has cost her some popularity while her opponents have gained. Society hasn't changed that much: People still favor moderate politicians who align with Merkel's views. Giving up centrist voters for those on the extreme is no winning strategy - even if the campaign season calls for paying them some lip service. The demands that candidates are coming up with are intended for a particular milieu. The words they use say as much.

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