Nobody ever talks about the diversity in German politics

By Lena Herb­st.

For most Ger­mans pol­i­tics hap­pens in Berlin. And Berlin is far away. Most peo­ple expe­ri­ence fed­er­al pol­i­tics, the actors involved or the dai­ly lives strug­gles of MPs, nation­al lead­ers and peo­ple work­ing in pol­i­tics in Berlin through TV news and news­pa­pers. Dur­ing my intern­ship at d|part I got to expe­ri­ence Berlin´s polit­i­cal scene in per­son. As I attend­ed brief­in­gs, con­fer­ences and polit­i­cal events, I did not only meet a great vari­ety of peo­ple. I also learned that there are lots of dif­fer­ent actors and organ­i­sa­tions on the Berlin polit­i­cal scene and that there is a wide range of jobs in the polit­i­cal land­scape to pick from. In this blog I will share some of my impres­sions. So, if you’re inter­est­ed in get­ting to know why I think Ger­man pol­i­tics is more diverse than it might seem, keep on reading!

#1 — Not every­one is male and 49.4 years old 

Sta­tis­tics show that the aver­age Ger­man politi­cian is 49.4  years old and male. And look­ing around who’s in pol­i­tics, that might seem a fair­ly accu­rate description.

Seehofer team

Ger­man Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Horst See­hofer and his all-male lead­er­ship team.
Source: alliance/dpa/BMI


Yet, look­ing at all the peo­ple inter­est­ed and active in pol­i­tics in Ger­man, I found that the scene is much more diverse. Dur­ing my intern­ship at d|part I attend­ed dif­fer­ent kinds of polit­i­cal events and got to work with a range of polit­i­cal actors. Through this work, I met a vari­ety of indi­vid­u­als. Whether it is in terms of age, gen­der, polit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion or inter­ests, the peo­ple who work in pol­i­tics in Berlin are more diverse than it often seems.

There was this one guy work­ing in IT, for exam­ple. He was about 25 years old and, at a con­fer­ence on civic par­tic­i­pa­tion, he was talk­ing pas­sion­ate­ly about a new IT analy­sis tool. This tool allows admin­is­tra­tors to find the peo­ple inter­est­ed in polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion and tar­get them to improve the com­mu­ni­ca­tion with civ­il soci­ety. I was not the only one in the audi­ence, who was entire­ly lost in his expla­na­tion of the tech­ni­cal details. Nev­er­the­less, every­one was fas­ci­nat­ed by the man’s pas­sion, his way of tar­get­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems from a tech­ni­cal per­spec­tive and the ben­e­fits the tool can bring.

In anoth­er instance, an elder­ly woman stood out at a con­fer­ence on migra­tion and inte­gra­tion. She got up from her seat in the mid­dle of a podi­um dis­cus­sion with a state min­is­ter to ask how — and not whether! — she can help to improve the sit­u­a­tion of refugees and migrants in Ger­many. Both cas­es show that every­one can at least do his or her part, how­ev­er small, to par­tic­i­pate in the polit­i­cal process.

#2 – Berlin pol­i­tics hosts a vari­ety of actors and interests

It is not only the peo­ple in Berlin pol­i­tics, who are diverse. I also noticed a wide vari­ety of organ­i­sa­tion­al actors. As the Ger­man Bun­destag got big­ger after the last elec­tion, more polit­i­cal par­ties, and there­fore more inter­ests, are rep­re­sent­ed in par­lia­ment. Nat­u­ral­ly, dif­fer­ent peo­ple also bring dif­fer­ent inter­ests to the table. As I attend­ed events organ­ised by polit­i­cal foun­da­tions I noticed what influ­ence they have on the actions of their asso­ci­at­ed par­ties. But they are not the only ones active in Berlin pol­i­tics. With inter­na­tion­al organ­i­sa­tions, NGOs and lob­by­ists many actors can be found tak­ing part in the polit­i­cal process.

What I found remark­able was that the Ger­man Bun­destag itself can be seen as a lit­tle vil­lage with its own bureau­cra­cy and struc­ture. For one day of my intern­ship I shad­owed an MP (who was exact­ly 49.4 years old and male!). When we had lunch in the cafe­te­ria shared with the pub­lic broad­cast­er, ZDF, I noticed the hur­ry the politi­cians were in. I decid­ed that I am not jeal­ous of their 60+-hour work weeks and there­fore would not go on to pur­sue a career as a politi­cian (although it is real­ly impor­tant that some­one else does!). But to my sur­prise I realised that I don´t have to, even if I want to work in Berlin pol­i­tics. There are many jobs I can pick from! Speak­ing of that, it is impor­tant to men­tion the work done by think tanks, inde­pen­dent research insti­tutes who stand between the the­o­ret­i­cal, aca­d­e­m­ic research in uni­ver­si­ties and the prac­tice-ori­en­tat­ed cor­po­rate gov­er­nance on the mar­ket. Also, in many organ­i­sa­tions the nine-to-five job has been replaced by flex­i­ble work hours and out­put ori­en­tat­ed approach­es, which are exact­ly some of the fea­tures of the work in think tanks and many more.

#3 – The tasks in Berlin pol­i­tics are manifold

In all kinds of jobs, it is impor­tant to not only think about the task at hand, but to devel­op skills beyond your imme­di­ate role. This seems ever more impor­tant in Berlin pol­i­tics. There are so many facets of the work! For exam­ple, it is not only about writ­ing brief­in­gs all day long. In order to talk about stud­ies, research results and issues on the polit­i­cal agen­da, and also con­nect to future sup­port­ers, you need net­work­ing skills. Wher­ev­er I went — polit­i­cal events, brief­in­gs or con­fer­ences — I saw peo­ple exchang­ing busi­ness cards, doing small talk and net­work­ing. The work itself in the polit­i­cal scene varies immense­ly, depend­ing on whether you work in aca­d­e­m­ic research, jour­nal­ism, or actu­al­ly pol­i­tics. But in all areas you need to adopt quick­ly to not lose con­nec­tions, think out of the box and be creative.

My con­clu­sion: There is space for every­one in Berlin politics

Whether it is by being an activist, writ­ing about con­tro­ver­sial issues, the dai­ly busi­ness in the polit­i­cal process with meet­ings, lob­by­ing and deci­sion mak­ing, or by just being inter­est­ed in pol­i­tics in gen­er­al, every­one can find their niche in Berlin pol­i­tics. Maybe some­times the way peo­ple behave in the polit­i­cal scene is not straight­for­ward, but it is these lit­tle things that make our polit­i­cal sys­tem unique. And we can be proud to have a diverse set­ting of polit­i­cal actors, struc­tures, organ­i­sa­tions, and fields of activity.

Lena Herb­st was an intern at d|part in 2018. While work­ing on projects such as our youth vot­ing study and The Sit­u­a­tion Room, Lena also vig­or­ous­ly toured Berlin’s polit­i­cal scene. She went from con­fer­ence to break­fast brief­ing and even shad­owed an MP for a day in par­lia­ment! In this piece, Lena shares her impres­sions from her excur­sions into the heart of Ger­man politics.


The views and opin­ions expressed in this arti­cle are those of the author.

Related Posts

Leave Your Comment