Does the Habeck method fail?: Why the Vice Chancellor is frustrated
Does the Habeck method fail?
Why the Vice Chancellor is frustrated
A comment by Sebastian Huld
Robert Habeck has not been as unnerved as he was at the beginning of the Greens parliamentary group retreat since taking office. The Vice-Chancellor cautiously begins to ask the question of meaning and only really antagonizes the coalition partners he has counted. They should still listen to him.
Of course, it could all just be for show. Right at the beginning of the Green Party parliamentary group retreat, Robert Habeck really hit the table and publicly counted his coalition partners FDP and SPD. “It can’t be that only one partner is responsible for progress and the others for preventing progress,” Habeck told the media representatives who traveled to Weimar and followed up on ARD that evening: The government was doing it “badly,” they had to “untie knots” and “overcome blockades”. Internal papers would be “pierced” and anyone who claims that it is compatible with the climate goals to continue to install gas heating is spreading a “lie”. boom!
Habeck’s message could, of course, be aimed first and foremost at the members of his party’s Bundestag gathered in Thuringia: Look here, we cabinet members see your concern about too many compromises and are putting pressure on Berlin. But there is more to it than that. Habeck’s frustration, whether justified or not, is real. During his trip to South America last week, the thin skin of the Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection was noticeable. In particular, the debate about the ban on new oil and gas heating systems planned by Habeck and Federal Minister of Building Klara Geywitz from 2024 followed the Greens 9,000 kilometers away. In the face of mankind’s task of saving the rainforest, Habeck found the German furore about the end of fossil building heat petty, backward-looking, even downright ridiculous.
Green beliefs as a traffic light breaking point
His anger applies equally to the FDP, which is currently raising a spirit against almost every climate protection project by the Greens, and to the SPD, which the Greens feel all too often side with the liberals fighting for parliamentary survival. If a climate-neutral Germany by 2045 cannot be achieved with his party’s concepts, then please let the others make suggestions, Habeck demanded in Colombia. The traffic light’s inability to put agreements made into concrete laws fails, “because then you keep checking: How is the media echo chamber? What will my next party congress do? Where are the next state elections?” Says Habeck on Tuesday evening and complains a policy based on “cheap tactical advantages”.
The short-term success logic of political operations stands in the way of the implementation of necessary decisions, Habeck describes in summary the situation of the three-party coalition that started so ambitiously. In other words, the traffic light is just a coalition government like others before it in the federal government. After the extraordinary crisis year of 2022, there is nothing left of the new political style that was seriously planned in autumn 2021. This is less of a problem for the SPD and FDP; their relationship to the political establishment is different. The Greens, however, are very serious in their fight against the climate crisis, which is increasingly emerging as a potential breaking point for the traffic light coalition: How many compromises can the party make in order to achieve the maximum of its ideas without betraying the big picture in the end – a limitation of global warming by 1.5 to 2 degrees?
Agreement through dialogue
More than ever in their 41-year history, the Greens are dominated by the Realos, who want to achieve the transformation to climate neutrality with a pro-market course. Its top representatives like Habeck are convinced that the fight against climate change can only be achieved with majorities in society, not against them. And because Habeck, unlike Annalena Baerbock, was an established author even before his political career, he also wrote a book on this political attempt that is well worth reading: In “From here on differently” the then Green Party chairman wrote in 2021 “an exercise of power that tries Establishing consensus” has “become the core of my political identity”. And: “The dialogue, the conversation, the listening and hearing of the other side is crucial.”
In this sense, Habeck’s media appearances must be understood, which in his first months as federal minister particularly impressed people who did not vote for the Greens. Habeck wanted to explain himself to the audience in simple language, which sometimes resulted in adventurously simple sentences and sometimes outrageous metaphors. During the crisis, Habeck repeatedly traveled to the desperate employees of the PCK refinery in Schwedt, and during their retreat in Weimar, the Greens group also sought talks with LEAG, which mines lignite in Lusatia, because they would prefer to stop open-cast mining in 2030 instead of 2038 . In Schwedt and in Lusatia, however, the Greens continue to be met with skepticism, if not outright rejection. The LEAG representatives didn’t even come to Weimar.
Habeck’s furor unites SPD and FDP
The dialogical politics, Habeck’s attempts to create a new understanding for each other, to bridge camps and forge new majorities in the country: they threaten to fail. In the always heated, headline-driven Berlin political scene, Habeck’s method, which worked well during his time as state minister in Schleswig-Holstein, could reach its limits sooner than expected. The FDP is driven by existential fears, the SPD sees the Greens more as competitors than as allies and is sometimes repelled by their zeal. Even at traffic lights, tough fights are being fought, and neither the success of the coalition nor the well-being of the country consistently trumps the interests of the individual parties. In such a competitive environment, it is not surprising that a draft law banning oil and gas heating systems that has not yet been finalized has been leaked to the campaign-friendly “Bild” newspaper.
What is new is Habeck’s frustration with these realities, which he frankly flaunts. The accusation against the coalition partners – bad style, egotism and hidden interests – is ultimately counterproductive. Nothing should weld the SPD and FDP together as much as a green coalition partner who morally rises above the others. Especially since Habeck is only partially convinced: His public letter to the FDP chairman and Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner had only further hardened the budget dispute. The Greens’ sharp criticism of the SPD’s earlier Russia course and Olaf Scholz’ China course is also well noted by the Social Democrats. It’s not always just the others who play fouls. Habeck’s new political culture fails not only because of coalition partners, the opposition and the media, but also to a certain extent because of the Greens themselves.
Nevertheless, the SPD and FDP would do poorly to accept the green furor with a shrug of the shoulders and carry on as before. The Realo camp of the Greens needs success so that in the end the extreme voices within the climate movement do not gain the upper hand. The question of how sensible it is to remain in the traffic light will occupy the Greens at the latest at the party conference at the end of November. Enthusiasm for the CDU as the more reliable government partner is increasing among the Greens at federal and state level. At the other end of the climate movement spectrum, the latter generation continues to gain traction. If the Habeck method fails in the traffic light, the traffic light as a whole may also fail with it.