14 days Aiwangeritis. What a storm in a Bavarian teacup. Out of the blue, with the best poll numbers, the head of the Free Voters is overtaken by old allegations that he wrote or distributed a Nazi leaflet at his school, the media is combing through his past, digging up new stories, former classmates and teachers The inside incriminates or exonerates him, the opposition parties see the light of day and demand his resignation, Söder stands by him out of desperation for power politics, the President of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, distances herself from Aiwanger, as does the President of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, Charlotte Knobloch, the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial does not want a public visit to Aiwanger during the election campaign and the CSU greats Erwin Huber and Theo Waigel are writing a “position paper” against Aiwanger, despite Söder’s dictum that the matter is over.
And Aiwanger himself, the greatest beer tent speaker of all time after Franz Josef Strauss, cannot find an appropriate language for all of this, tries to fill in gaps in his memory, remains silent in a special session of the state parliament, formally apologizes without being able to say for what, and stylizes himself as a victim of ” Smear campaign”. Trumpism light, in Lower Bavaria format.
So far, so well known and repeated often enough. The two open points, Aiwanger’s past, for which he could certainly claim leniency after many years of inconspicuousness when it comes to anti-Semitism, and his speechlessness on the matter, which does not deserve leniency, will probably remain open wounds for the Free Voters and for a while represent the CSU. It remains to be seen what will come of this in the state elections on October 8th, and what that will mean for Söder as a candidate for chancellor.
However, I would like to bring up for discussion here one aspect that aims at the depth of this story. It is impressive how much Aiwanger’s supporters show solidarity with him and follow him in the identity-political reframing of the conflict, the staging of a confrontation between “normal” people and the left-green elites and media, formulated by beer tent speaker apprentice Merz as follows: “Kreuzberg is not Germany, Gillamoos is Germany.”
Identity politics debates are often, perhaps always, personalized, shortened debates about deeper social problems, similar to conspiracy theories. Can the Aiwanger story also be read this way? Like a psychoanalytic problem shift? Are tempers here becoming so heated because society has not (yet) found viable answers to the really pressing questions – peace in the world, climate change, affordable housing, care, etc. – and the impossible understanding is being postponed to conflicts of identity politics? There are tangible enemy images there, you can assign blame, legitimize your own rigidity through the role of victim or accuser, and suppress the need for a common search for solutions through demarcations and divisions.
In other words: Is the Aiwanger story a symptom of a political blockade to reform? Would we rather get angry at Aiwanger – and of course he gives plenty of reason to do so, because the necessary changes in society are overwhelming us and challenging us in our carry-on identity?
For further reading:
• Blog post “Radical Universalism” – a review in seven lines.
• Amartya Sen: The Identity Trap. Munich 2007.
• Susan Neiman: Left is not woke. Berlin 2023.