Who can succeed Chancellor Merkel in Germany?

Observations on the failure of the four-party-coalition talks in Germany

La création du premier être, premier représentant d’une nouvelle espèce intelligente créée par l’homme  “à son image et sa ressemblance”, eut lieu le 27 mars 2029, vingt ans pour jour après la disparition de Michel Djerzinski. Toujours en hommage à Djerzinski, et bien qu’il n’y ait aucun Francais dans l’équipe, la synthèse eut lieu dans le laboratoire de l’Institut de biologie moléculaire de Palaiseau. La retransmission télévisée de l’évènement eut naturellement un impact énorme – un impact qui dépassait même de très loin celui qu’avait eu, une nuit de juillet 1969, près de soixante ans plus tôt , la retransmission en direct des premiers pas de l’homme sur la Lune.. En prélude au reportaje Hubczejak prononça un discours très bref où, avec la franchise brutale qui lui était habituelle, il déclara que l’humanité  devait s’honorer d’être “la première espèce animale de l’univers connu à organiser elle-même les conditions de son propre remplacement”.

Aujourd’hui, près de cinquante ans plus tard, la réalité a largement confirmé la teneur prophétique des propos d’Hubczejak – à un point, même, que celui-ci n’aurait probabalment pas soupçonné. Il subsiste quelques humains de l’ancienne race, en particulier dans les régions restées longtemps soumises à l’influence des doctrines religieuses traditionelles. Leur taux de reproductions, cependant, diminue d’année en année, et leur extinction semble à présent inéluctable. Contrairement à toutes les prévisions pessimists, cette extinction se fait dans la calme, malgr’e quelques actes de violences isolés, don’t le nombre va constamment décroissant. On est même surpris de voir avec quelle douceur, quelle resignation, et peut-être quell secret soulagement les humains ont consenti à leur propre disparition.

Michel Houellebecq: Les Particules élémentaires, Flammarion 1998, pages 315f


In the early hours of Monday, Nov. 20, Germany’s Liberal Democratic Party (FDP) officially tanked all efforts by Chancellor Merkel to form a four-party-coalition government in Germany. This unprecedented move by the FDP may well signal the beginning of the end of Ms. Merkel’s otherwise formidable rule over political affairs in Germany and in Europe. It is hence time to introduce to our international audience the candidate within Ms. Merkel’s center-right CDU who is most suited to eventually succeed her both as president of the party and as Chancellor of Germany. The person that comes to mind here first and foremost is Germany’s current Minister of Defense, Ursula von der Leyen. What kind of person is she? And does she have what it takes to live up to the awesome legacy that Ms. Merkel is leaving behind?

If Prof. Stephen Hawking and French author Michel Houellebecq are correct in predicting that the future of mankind will largely depend on its ability to substitute itself by a scientifically created human race, then Ursula von der Leyen clearly represents the next step in man’s evolution towards a flawless cyborg. Her hairdo never moves an inch. Her composure rarely comes undone.  And her body has withstood the test of time and motherhood without apparent sign of wear and tear. Not just has she given birth and raised 7 children, she also found time to gain a PHD in Medicine and a Master degree in Public Health. She spent time in Stanford, California, studied at the London School of Economics and speaks English and French with stunning ease and fluency. In short, she is a perfect combination between Evelyn Waugh’s Lady Marchmain (Brideshead Revisited), TV Azteca’s Patty Chapoi (Ventaneando) and The Good Wife’s Diane Lockhart (Christine Baransky); or to put it in more colloquial terms, she, Ursula von der Leyen, is a captivating blend of what is most noticeable in Ann Coulter, Nancy Reagan, Bree Van de Kamp and Claire Underwood.

If she herself is, however, an improbable product of perfection, we have to admit that this article on her is just as much an engineered hybrid. It oscillates between the Hawking scenario and the current turmoil in Germany’s political class. This is in part because we cannot make up our mind on what to think about the FDP’s recent moment of drama.  While we understand the exasperation that the Liberaldemocrats may have felt about the inability to find a common ground on a number of ultimately rather petty issues, the spectacular retreat of the FDP was in itself so full of narcissistic grandstanding  that we find it difficult to simply applaud that. Much rather is this another confirmation of the fact that our modern democracies have become so disunited that barely anything meaningful still gets done therein. Hence, the need to revert to the Houellebecq scenario, if only to find some comic relief there!

But let’s force us for another second to stick with the immediate implications that the failure of the four-party-coalition attempt in Germany entail. No doubt, the local electorate is a little tired of seeing Ms. Merkel again and again in the limelight. Not that there were too many major mishaps voters could lay at her feet. (Yes, there is this immigration issue, but she has already changed course on this.) No, it’s really about wanting a different performer on central stage; about someone that can instill a new element of energy, another impulse of liveliness into our everyday consumption of our own national identity. Whether this is a reasonable desire or not, is hard to tell. The best possible argument in favor of it obviously rests in the observation that life itself is generally underwhelming enough to not to want some sort of change occasionally.  That however brings us back to Ms. von der Leyen. There is probably little doubt that she would be able to keep Germany’s ship in solid and somewhat calmer waters. The question is whether she can keep her troops united and win elections on the national stage.

Our guess is that she can. It’s true that the slightly WASPish and hence condescending style of her statements can turn some voters of.  And the metallic clink in her voice doesn’t help either. But the truth is that her corporate executive approach to politics sits well with a new generation of voters that favors independence and freedom over motherly compassion and balminess. 

No doubt, the coziness wing of the German society still exists. And occasionally it even exists with a vengeance. See the rise of the far-right AfD in some quarters. But these people will probably disappear over time either because they are too old or because they have become too violent not to be locked up eventually. So there isn’t really all that much to fear here.  No, this is the age of blind spot sensors, of Google goggles and self-driving automobiles; and it’s the world of Michel Djerzinski, of plastic surgery and prenatal screening . So you might as well enjoy it rather than fight it. After all, you’ll be a cyborg too in a not too distant future. Therefore, go, Ursula, go.

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