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August 21, 2014, 03:15:32 am
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Author Topic: North Rhine Westphalia  (Read 502 times)
mountvernon
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« on: August 18, 2014, 03:36:14 pm »
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I'm a person of strange obsessions, and my latest is German political geography.  I'm an American and an amateur at this topic, so bear with my limited knowledge.

I have a few questions to pitch at those who know more than I do, but here's the first:

In the 1950s, North Rhine Westphalia was the early heartland of the CDU, and voted for the party by more than the national average into the 1960s.  But the NRW gradually trended to the left, and by the 1970s, it had become the SPD's best major Land, which it has usually remained (Brandenburg and Lower Saxony have been its main competition). Just by eyeballing electoral maps, it appears the biggest shift occurred in the Rhine cities of Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Bonn.

So what happened?  Here are a couple of hypotheses for you to evaluate, but I would love to hear other ones.

1. Secularization.  The Rhineland was one of the heartlands of political Catholicism, but it now appears to be one of the more secular regions of western Germany.  Did the "Catholic vote" for the CDU dry up as churches emptied in the 1960s and 1970s?

2.  The "Christian Left."  The NRW seems to have been the center of progressive Christian politics, both Protestant and Catholic, after World War II: Karl Arnold, Helene Wessel, Gustav Heinemann, the ill-fated Gesamtdeutsche Partei, etc.  Most of these figures either supported the CDU in its early years or tried to revive the Center Party, but usually drifted into the SPD, especially after Bad Godesberg.  Were there enough of these people to matter?
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politicus
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2014, 04:45:03 pm »
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I'm a person of strange obsessions. 

You have come to the right place.
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Every time I see Denmark I just want to punch it in the face...
mountvernon
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2014, 05:10:02 pm »
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I'm a person of strange obsessions. 

You have come to the right place.

Home at last.
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Yeahsayyeah
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« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2014, 04:41:24 am »
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The base of the CDU narrowed over time and the SPD was successfull filling the arising gaps for a long time. There are several factors, that seem to play a role. Of course, if you compare the SPD results of the forties/fifties and later years, bear in mind the self-castration and later ban of the KPD, that had their strongholds at Rhine and Ruhr and still got 14 percent in the 1947 Landtag election.

The SPD was for a long time underrepresented as its "natural base" were workers in a protestant environment. You still can spot the borders of the protestant Lippe region in electoral maps, today. The region that is now NRW was mostly catholic and even the protestant spots like the old towns of Dortmund or Essen where overwhelmed during industrialization by migration of catholics from all over the Rhineland, Silesia and (Congress) Poland.
The Centre Party then emerged as the party of a minority defined by religion (catholics) in a environment after the founding of the German Empire, that was hostile to them (Kulturkampf etc.), so it had appeal to catholic junckers, peasants, bourgeois and workers alike. So it was a catch-all-catholic-party with several wings and had overall reformist social policies (European meaning).
After the division of the SPD they lost the revolutionary types to the KPD so all they got was reformist seculars and Protestants (generalization alert).

You have to bear in mind that all three parties had their own societal organisations, e.g. trade unions. The Rhineland and Ruhr area was a heartland of the Christlicher Gewerkschaftsbund (Christian Trade Union Federation) in the Empire and Weimar years. After 1945 the DGB was founded as a general trade union organisation that united the socialist/social democrat "Free" and the Christian trade unions, who lost their millieu-defining role, though some remnants of these organisations still exist.
Also, the CDU was not the "catholic party" as the Zentrum was and catholics were not a minority anymore in the new Federal Republic. The Nazi era ironically also helped to loosen the bounds between church and people, especially in the urban areas, e.g. by crushing the remnants of the Polish millieu.
So catholic workers now were over time much less inclined to vote CDU based on religion and it seems to have been Adenauer's (from Rhineland, former mayor of Cologne) and Arnold's (long time prime minister, former mayor of Düsseldorf, to the left of Adenauer) personal appeal that delayed the results of this process for several years.

That the CDU abandoned the Christian left by favouring remilitarisation brought a bourgeois element to the SPD that surely set up the symbolic changes of the Bad Godesberg party program and helped to come out of their class tower. Long-term prime minister Johannes Rau, came from the GDP.

After 1966 the SPD was for a long time seen as successfull moderating the economic and social changes that came with the decline of the coal and steel industry. They were percieved as "Kümmererpartei" ("a party that takes care of"; much of the appeal of prime minister Hannelore Kraft comes from hat) and the CDU never had that much of an offer towards the urban working class, that has been struck by many crises for over 45 years. 

Migration after World War II also plays a role (Most of the expatriates and those who left GDR came from protestant areas). The so called "guest workers" and their offspring probably did not play an electorally role until the late 80s, but they were and are still, strongly leaning towards the parties of the left.

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mountvernon
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« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2014, 07:27:36 am »
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Thank you!  So the "Christian Left" hypothesis has some validity, particular given the Christian trade union heritage in the NRW.  Would you say that the Rhineland has a relatively high number of SPD Catholics?  I noticed that the last two minister-presidents of the Rhineland-Palatinate are SPD Catholics.  (I know that Catholics are heavily CDU, but if you look at polls, at least some do vote SPD).  And according to Wikipedia, Oskar Lafontaine identifies as a nonobservant Catholic.  He even studied for the priesthood as a young man.  (A Saarlander and a Leftist, I know, but he can't be the only one).

Does my secularization hypothesis have any strength?  Cologne's City Council is dominated by parties of the left, with the Greens almost as strong as the CDU and SPD. (It's not as left-wing as Hamburg or Berlin, but where is?)  Aachen and Munster, two university towns with ancient Catholic traditions, are now centers of support for the Greens.  I'm guessing that the Church doesn't have the influence it once did.
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mountvernon
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« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2014, 07:48:14 am »
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Note that I said a "relatively high" number of SPD Catholics in the Rhineland.  I meant relative to elsewhere in Germany, especially the South.  I know that practicing Catholics are the base of the CDU, and I'm sure that, even in the NRW, Catholics are much less likely to back the SPD than are either Protestants or the unaffiliated.
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palandio
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« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2014, 08:15:19 am »
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Good that you mentioned the Saarland. The Saarland actually has the highest percentage of Catholics among all German Länder (even higher than Bavaria). Until the 70s a majority voted for Christian Democratic parties, but in the 2013 federal election even with the Left on the ballot the SPD polled 31.0% in Saarland (vs. 25.7% nationally) and the CDU only 37.8% (vs. 41.5% nationally).

Confession is a very important factor in German voting traditions that you can often spot easily on the maps, but it is by far not the only factor and there are many CDU Protestants and SPD Catholics depending on region, socio-economic factors etc.
If you look at election maps it is plausible that SPD support among Rhenish Catholics is substantially higher than among Sothern Catholics, probably even higher than among Eastern unaffiliateds.
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Ethelberth
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« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2014, 09:28:48 am »
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in Southern Bergische land (a big Lutherian area in Rhineland) has CDU deputies. Few exceptions in NRW.
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palandio
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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2014, 02:04:57 pm »
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Oberbergischer Kreis
39.9% Evangelical Church in Germany
31.4% Roman Catholic Church
  5.2% Evangelical Free Churches
  4.9% Other official religion
18.6% No official religion (includes all Muslims except Ahmadiyya)

Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreis
28.7% Evangelical Church in Germany
41.2% Roman Catholic Church
  1.3% Evangelical Free Churches
  4.5% Other official religion
24.3% No official religion

Total North-Rhine Westfalia
28.5% Evangelical Church in Germany
42.5% Roman Catholic Church
  1.1% Evangelical Free Churches
  5,4% Other official religion
22.5% No official religion

So yes, Oberbergischer Kreis is plurality evangelical, but evangelicalism is not really dominant. Free church evangelicals which are relatively numerous in the Oberbergischer Kreis are usually more conservative-leaning than EKD evangelicals. And in the 2012 Landtag elections the SPD won one of its two constituencies and got a plurality of Zweitstimmen in both. Altogether even the exception can partially be explained.
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eric82oslo
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« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2014, 02:15:57 pm »
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How will the Amish vote look like. Tongue
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Ethelberth
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« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2014, 02:19:56 pm »
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Kreiss Mettman is also very evenly split or swing area. Different results in different elections although SPD geprägt.
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mountvernon
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« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2014, 02:27:05 pm »
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Is it fair to say that Southern Protestants are less likely to support the SPD than are their northern brethren?  The Protestant areas of Baden-Wuerttemberg  and Bavaria seem to support the center-right parties, if not quite as unanimously as their Catholic neighbors.  (And Ba-Wu is less Catholic than either the NRW or Rhineland-Palatinate).  

Is this because of relatively higher religiosity?  (I know that Wuerttemberg has a reputation for Protestant piety, but I don't know about Baden or Franconia).  Or just because these areas are relatively affluent?
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Ethelberth
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« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2014, 02:39:22 pm »
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In Bavaria the protestants voted FDP.  Somebody said that the most clear religion party correlation can be found in Palatine.
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palandio
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« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2014, 02:55:23 pm »
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Franconia, like the rest of Bavaria, has certainly drifted to the right because of its relatively popular conservative government.

It should also be noted that while the Nuremberg metro and the areas around Hof and Coburg have quite a strong left-wing tradition, in other parts of Franconia the SPD (and KPD) was negligible before 1945. That holds particularly true for the rural western part of Middle Franconia, which was a stronghold of the German National People's Party and then of the NSDAP.

I fear that Ethelbert is not right about the FDP voting protestants in Bavaria. The FDP in Bavaria has almost no political tradition except for maybe a handful dentists from Lake Starnberg. (Edit: You are right that the FDP was more popular among protestant than among catholics, but nowhere in Baden-Wuerttembergish dimensions.)

Palatine on the other hand is quite amazing. Look at Kusel.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2014, 03:01:06 pm by palandio »Logged
mountvernon
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« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2014, 03:24:57 pm »
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Well, what makes Baden-Wuerttemberg so Baden-Wuerttembergish? 

The CDU does better than it "should," given the percentage of Catholics.

B-W Protestants seem to have no problem voting CDU.

The FDP has enduring strength there like nowhere else (although I gather they aren't doing well now).  Is it just an indigenous liberal tradition?

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palandio
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« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2014, 03:45:00 pm »
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Baden and Wuerttemberg have been (radical) liberal strongholds at least since the 1848/49 revolution.
During the Weimar Republic the combined left-wing results (SPD+USPD+KPD) were usually 10% or more below the national average, though there was not the same downward trend as in Bavaria.
After 1945 most centrist and right-wing voters went to the CDU, some to the SPD. That's true for almost all of Western Germany, but in Ba-Wue the starting point for the SPD was lower to begin with.
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mountvernon
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« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2014, 04:21:29 pm »
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Thanks, palandio.  So both B-W and Franconia had many Protestants with strong non-socialist political traditions (liberal and extreme-right, respectively).  Neither area has had much heavy industry, I gather.  And I believe both areas have reputations for religious piety.  So they were well suited to back the CDU/CSU/FDP.

Do any wags call the CSU "the marriage of the black and the brown?"
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palandio
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« Reply #17 on: August 20, 2014, 01:04:22 pm »
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You might find these tables about Weimar federal election results interesting:
http://www.wahlen-in-deutschland.de/wrtw.htm
http://www.wahlen-in-deutschland.de/wrtwbaden.htm
http://www.wahlen-in-deutschland.de/wrtwwuerttemberg.htm
http://www.wahlen-in-deutschland.de/wrtwfranken.htm

(gonschior.de's databank contains tables down to the district level, but seems to be down at the moment.)

Actually Wuerttemberg, Baden and Franconia had quite some heavy industry locally (Daimler, MAN etc.), but I'm not so informed about its proportions.

About the CSU there is a famous quote from the most famous CSU politician of all times, Franz Josef Strauß: "To my right is only the wall". A school comrade of mine, at that time a strong CSU supporter once said: "Black from the outside and brown inside, that's a CSU sausage."
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