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From Willy Brandt to today: My path as a swing voter

Elections to the European Parliament have been held every five years since 1979: For me it is the tenth, for my eldest grandchildren the first in which they are allowed to participate.

I hope that my grandchildren will vote and choose a democratically oriented party that is not financed and infiltrated by China or Russia like the AfD in order to weaken Europe. Since I first voted in an election 52 years ago, I have always associated elections with a debate about my own political convictions. I am a staunch swing voter and cannot remember voting for the same party in successive elections. The following video shows that all parties have program points that I can agree with. Such points also seem to exist among the non-electable parties on the left and right fringes, as my Wahl-O-Mat video on decision-making shows, otherwise the AfD would have 0% and not 32% and thus only 40% less than the parties considered electable. Thanks to the option of giving double weighting to important issues when approving or rejecting them, the Volt and Pirates micro-parties still managed to finish ahead of the CDU:

My first vote was in 1972:

  • At the time, I was just two months old (18) and therefore only slightly older than my oldest grandchildren at their first election. It’s good that you can now vote for the first time at the age of 16 to influence future developments. I don’t remember exactly which party I voted for back then in the so-called Willy election, but I do know that Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik made a positive impression on me. I liked his efforts to hold talks with the Eastern Bloc and the communist countries.
  • In spite of this, I probably didn’t vote SPD – perhaps out of protest against the many Juso teachers in Hesse, who seemed to outnumber the other teachers at our school. Their bossiness and attempts at paternalism still have an effect today. Back then, we knew all about SMK, NÖSPL and Stalin’s dekulakization – but nothing about the Holodomor in Ukraine. The aversion lasted for a long time. I only remember the 1998 federal election, in which I voted SPD out of dislike for Kohl.

My political development:

  • Since 1972, I have considered myself a swing voter who, in principle, considers all parties that are not extreme left or right to be electable. I have been using the internet-based election decision aid Wahl-O-Mat since it was launched. I have just re-read my 5-year-old post: https://heiligenberg-blog.de/schwierige-europa-wahlentscheidung and looked at the Wal-O-Mat results:

  • What moved me 5 years ago is repeating itself in a similar form: 5 years ago, it was the morally depraved Heinz-Christian Strache of the FPÖ who drew attention to himself with his IBIZA affair. Now we are seeing this intellectual and moral depravity among parliamentarians and leading candidates of the AfD. They employ a Chinese spy and give him access to secret information. Other AfD members accept money from circles close to Putin and have their trips financed. This reminds me of the term “fatherless journeymen“, which my grandfather Albert, who died shortly before the 1972 election, used to ascribe to certain parties. This term seems to me to apply to the AfD and the parties cooperating with it in Europe. Anyone who votes for them has just as little understanding of the values of a democracy as the left-wing extremists and religious fanatics of all religions.
    If the vast majority of the grandchildren’s generation goes to the polls and votes for democratic parties, it will send a strong signal for a united Europe that should play a greater role in the world.
  • In the European elections, there is no 5% hurdle that would normally prevent us from voting for minor parties if we are not sure that they cannot enter a German parliament. As a physicist, I have only ever thought of VOLT in terms of the SI unit of electrical voltage and not the political grouping that, according to the Wahl-O-Mat, best represents my beliefs. In 1972, the choice was simple: the Willy election resulted in 45.8% for the SPD, 44.9% for the CDU/CSU and 8.4% for the FDP. The FDP tipping the scales is unimaginable today. The remaining 0.9% who did not vote for the three parties in the 1972 Bundestag would be enough for at least one seat in the EU Parliament today. There is no 5% hurdle in the European elections.
  • If I only had the choice today between the 3 parties back then, I would only vote for the FDP because its leading candidate has charisma and comes closest to my ideas of democracy and a European vision.

Current political concerns:

  • Environmental protection and sustainable business are key issues for me. I support measures such as a speed limit and the efficient use of renewable energies.
  • The topic of pensions is also important to me. I think flexible working time models and a pension that takes individual needs into account make sense. As a freelancer, I have the right to work as long as my clients are willing to pay me. The pension is my secure basic income and the paid assignments as an online lecturer are “nice to have”. The fact that you no longer have to work makes the work you choose all the more fun. The additional income also allows me to make my knowledge available to the general public free of charge via other channels, e.g. on YouTube, where more than 4 million views are documented on my main channel with the explanatory videos.
  • Immigration of qualified and well-educated people must be facilitated. Anyone who speaks our language well enough and finds work here, for example in the care sector, should also be granted a residence permit without any red tape. I have seen how necessary this is with some older relatives, because the shortage of skilled workers will worsen with the baby boomers who will soon be retiring.
  • Education is another issue. Why do we need 16 different curricula from the education ministries of the 16 federal states? Almost all educational topics can be solved uniformly for an EU language area. With the exception of subjects such as home economics and general studies, all subjects are relevant for pupils in one language area across national borders. Federalism causes costs, bureaucracy and a patchwork quilt in education. If Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are to be comparable across Europe, this must also apply to previous school education.
  • Bureaucracy seems like sand in the gears to citizens and obscures the benefits of the EU. Anyone planning their first car trip to neighboring France 50 years ago, like me at the age of 18 or 19, needed proof of health and car insurance and usually had to present this when crossing the border. Back then, there was no single currency and you had to exchange money before crossing the border. This was associated with high fees, and if you exchanged the remaining foreign currency on your return, around 10% was lost due to the currency exchange. With the conversion based on old time series on exchange rates, the AI seems to be reaching its limits. Here is a response from the copilot: “the web is being used, answers are being generated for you…Unfortunately I cannot provide a direct conversion table for the end of 1972, but I can provide you with some historical exchange rates for the currencies mentioned. Please note that these rates are based on databases and historical records and may not be accurate as of year-end 1972. (Author’s note: At that time, one German mark exchanged for our DM was approximately 0.55 US dollars). Here are some examples:

Back then, you still had to be good at mental arithmetic when traveling in Europe if you were paying outside the DM currency area and didn’t want any nasty surprises. Calculators had just been invented and were very expensive, and smartphones only existed in science fiction films such as “Space Patrol”.

So much for the benefits of the single currency when traveling in Europe. But there are more positive aspects that people in countries that don’t have it envy us for:

Europe: opportunity for the future

Young voters are often no longer aware of the conflict-ridden “pre-EU era”. Until the middle of the 20th century, there were wars between the current EU member states. A detailed list on Wikipedia and an AI-generated list on the page European Union as a peace project in Europe illustrate why Europe became so attractive to immigrants: Peace, prosperity and democracy make the union of European states appealing.

Nevertheless, there is a need for optimization, for example in the reduction of bureaucracy and the restriction of veto rights, which some countries use to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Hungary is a negative example of this. Details can be found by searching for the terms “Orban” and “nepotism”. The country is led by an EU critic who is enriching himself and his entourage from EU funds. It is therefore important to replace veto rights with majority decisions in order to put a stop to such machinations.

For the future of the EU, more foreign policy powers, less bureaucracy and less Orban would be desirable.

I believe that a federal model like that of the Federal Republic of Germany can also be transferred to Europe. We can retain national competencies in education and culture and at the same time work together at European level. Municipal issues, culture, the environment, agriculture and education policy can continue to be regulated nationally, while the EU is responsible for foreign policy, defense and the economy.

The founders of the EU had the right idea, but they allowed too many design flaws. It is to be hoped that young people will commit themselves to the future of Europe and perfect the good idea.