The SPD troika decides who needs the widest office chair. (Left to right) Peer Steinbrück, Sigmar Gabriel, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo by SPD-Schleswig-Holstein (Flickr CC)
A bit like America, Germany doesn't have a government at the moment. Unlike America, it's not because the parliament is a snarling hive of ideologues out to destroy the federal government. It's the fault of Germany's glacial and painful coalition-building process. After the euphoria and despair of the election, the snail will crawl along a razor blade, as Colonel Kurtz would've said if he'd been a German political analyst.
But Die Linke – riding their new third-biggest-party-in-Germany horse – have realized that while the other politicians get ground down in the "talking to Angela Merkel" mill, they can do their two favourite things: 1) embarrassing the SPD, and 2) trying to make Germany more socialist and democratic. This week, their leadership wrote a letter to the heads of the SPD and the Greens, suggesting they work together to get some of their shared policies through, seeing as together they have a majority in the Bundestag. It would be, you know, democratic.
These policies include the minimum wage, which all three parties had in their manifestoes (Greens and SPD want €8.50, die Linke want €10), and which in fact 86 percent of Germans also support. The other measure they could whip into law now with hardly any haggling would be the abolition of the Betreuungsgeld, which no one liked that much in the first place.
It would be a bit like forming a coalition. Except not – it would be better than that, because it wouldn't involve a creating a cabinet. Because that is actually what the coalition talks are really about – which chair Gabriel and Steinbrück and all those other fat bastards can lower their acne-riddled behinds into. "The new government's actual policies? Well, there'll be plenty of time to work all that out while we muddle along later."
Die Linke's plan will never happen, of course, because the potential SPD and/or Green ministers care too much about which office they get to let their MPs make deals with Die Linke on the side. They haven't worked their way through the party system just to let some directly-elected plebs decide things. The souls they sold are fucking going to cost more than that. And it's doubtful whether Die Linke's leaders would actually have made the offer in the first place if they thought the SPD would accept it, because what they're proposing is actually a new form of government – where the directly elected representatives get to decide policies. The cabinet would be more like civil administrators who then do what the parliament decides.
What if, as Die Linke's letter predicts, the talks last for months? What if they last forever? What if the Bundestag MPs secretly locked the door where Merkel and Gabriel and whoever is in charge of the Green party are negotiating and just started running the country without them? What if time-extending drugs were carefully administered into their refreshments and they came out after four hours and it was four years later and time for a new election? Even though someone would notice sooner or later, and it's probably against some law or other to spike Merkel's herbal tea, it wouldn't actually break the German Constitution. Think of all the things we could get done. Is it really too much to ask?