The privileges sound tempting: attention, recognition, carpool, flunkies, access to important public persons and the certainty of ever rising allowances for members of parliament. These temptations symbolize the atttractiveness of becoming and remaining a member of parliament. The shady sides? Attacs from the public via social media, by the press and from the own party. Alienation from the family by long working days and extramarital affairs combined with the prevailing fear of losing one’s member status. Does power create lonleiness? Questions like these are being answered within the book by Peter Dausend and Horan Knaup called “You can’t be more lonely. Our representatives caught between power, addiction and fear”.
The identity of a deputy
The Bundestag elections are on the brink. I cannot imagine a better moment than this to deal with the national politics structures and balances of power. Upon reading this book I wondered who voluntarily wants to be part of the political madness of Berlin and of the electoral districts? Who is the typical deputy who should represent the people’s voice? Or does he rather represent himself and his party’s interests?
Too many times, the authors claim, deputies are being pushed by the question “How can I get more attention?”
We have long being used to that the composition of the Bundestag does not reflect social conditions: too little women, to little migrants, too little workers, too little representatives of different religions and ethics. The deputy’s heads are being governed by “prompt attention”: reaction rate and sense of self are being simulated by services such as twitter and Co. The most prominent evidence for this theory comes from abroad, from the former president of the United States: Donald Trump.
Demonstration of power at any price
Dausend and Knaup produced an interesting and fascinating book on the overall mood of German deputies by granting insights that Joe Public usually does not have access to.
To go ahead within political life you just have to obey one rule: “You don’t only have to have power but you also have to radiate it.” That is how the Bavarian prime minister Markus Söder puts it. Weak, sensitive and social-orientated people are out of place. It does not matter whether it is about a good list position at the ballot box or one’s own advancement. The second definite rule goes as follows: standing out at all costs, within the party, within the Bundestag debates, in one’s own district.
The tonality of messages is stipulated by the parliamentary party – objection pointless. The representative, that what they say, shall be responsible for two things: implementation of government’s will and to keep the basis of the party at it. “Whoever marches to a different drummer”, a deputy is quoted, “can chuck up its ambitions”.
A tempting offer
And despite all this the deputy’s mandate appeals to much. For the promotion politicians are willing to pay party members: the district chapter, the district itself, the regional party and the party fraction – everybody claims its tribute via so called forced donations. But as a lone fighter you will not make it anywhere. Anybody with ambitions depends on supporters, companions and alliance comrades. At least as long as one’s own power is not cemented yet. And if you made it you might quickly forget your old friends as the example of Norbert Röttgen shows: “Ambition”, the CDU-guy is quoted, “is part of politics, because politics is the will to shape things.” That’s one way to put it if it is about pushing one’s own career and to excuse pushing aside of (party) friends.
Much too quick and much too soon you have to answer this question for yourself: “What is more important: friendship of what you aim to achieve?” The answer for deputies is obvious.
And well, the advantages of being a deputy are simply too tempting: office car with chauffeur, staff, briefcase, umbrella and coat are being carried and provided by somebody. The ego is being pampered. The ego takes center at the staff, at the usher, at the driver, at visiting groups, the press and lobbyists.
Remember you are just a human being
The slogan that slaves whispered into the ears of Roman commanders comes into my mind: “Respice post te, hominem te esse memento”, saying: “Take a look around and remember that you are only human being”.
Oh yes, the pschological component of being a deputy is cannot be underrated. There is talk about a latent “autonomy-dependency-conflict”. With this inner clash the politician hits the hay of dependency. The empowerment at first boosts the self, however after that there are feelings of inferiority and insecurity, whether the state of power can be held and stabilized. Only the gain of more power, that’s what experts claim, can control the fear. Fast enough the value of the self depends of being a deputy. In order to stand the pressure politicians seek refuge with drugs, alcohol or extramarital affairs. The biggest and everlasting fear is to loose deputy status.
These manifestations alone make the book by Dausend and Knaup a must-read. But there is more to it: 17 chapters centre on topics like (lost) dreams, humiliation, fears, guilt, craving for admiration, battle of sexes, success, defeats, scandals and the revive of Wolfgang Schäuble after an assault.
Many reasons I say which makes the book worth reading.