I have never participated in politics (apart from voting) and am not looking to make a career in politics. However there are a few issues where I feel like I could and should make a contribution towards the public discourse.

From my understanding the best way for me to do so is become active in a local party. Now there are two choices for me:

  1. A small party whose values align very well with mine
  2. A big party that I am sympathetic towards but don't agree with overall

In the first case I can probably find like minded people but I fear that making an impact on our society overall would be next to impossible. In the second case there is a good chance that my voice won't be heard although if I somehow manage to get a discussion going, there is at least a remote chance of making a positive contribution.

I hope you can give me some insight in how I should proceed with my goal being making the biggest overall impact that I can on the issues I care about.

(I don't mind discussing the specifics but I felt they were not relevant for my question.)

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    Does the small party fall below the limits to have any representation whatsoever? I.e. no members of parliament (or whatever level your issue is)? What level is your issue? I'm less interested in the details and more interested in if it is something where you want the national policy to change? The regional policy? The local policy? For example, I would consider trash pickup a local issue but nuclear energy a national issue. Of course, Germany may be different. – Brythan Nov 19 '17 at 6:45
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    This is a matter of opinion. It would depend on the parties their relative strength, their future potential, your debating skills etc etc. So both "big" and "small" would be valid answers. – James K Nov 19 '17 at 9:21
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    When you have a specific issue you care about very passionately, then you might also consider the option to support or join a non-governmental organization. – Philipp Nov 19 '17 at 10:37
  • George Monbiot makes a distinction between participatory and representative democracy; try this article. – Mozibur Ullah Nov 20 '17 at 22:44

Keep in mind that outright parliamental majorities are unusual, except for Bavaria. Usually there will be coalition agreements between different parties.

  • The parties with a good chance to end up part of a coalition are the Linke, Grüne, SPD, FDP, and CDU/CSU (depending on where you live). The AfD has little chance to find partners or to win an outright majority, and all others are too small.

  • A small party might well have a good chance to find coalition partners, and if the issue is important to the small party they might try to preserve it during the negotiations. The same applies if none of the other parties has strong opinions on the issue.

That's assuming you get your position on your issue as an accepted part of the party platform. It will take a long time, and many allies, to get into the federal Wahlprogramm. It might be easier at the municipal level.

  • Keep in mind that even if your position is a good idea with no negative side effects, almost all policy takes money to implement. Money is limited, so supporting your issue will take support away from other issues. You will have to find allies.

  • If your specific issue is well aligned with one of the smaller parties, e.g. environmental issues with the Grüne, or tax reform with the FDP, then you will find plenty of other people where with strong opinions. Your issue might be reduced to half a sentence hidden in the party manifesto. If you go to a party which is not traditionally aligned with your issue, you might have a better chance to become the local expert.

But these tactical thoughts are almost secondary. None of the parties is just waiting for a guy who says "stop whatever you are doing, listen to me, this is important." If you want to influence policy, you have to "work your way up" from the local level, learn procedures, make alliances.

Visit the local chapter meetings of some parties you might want to join.

Tell them that you are making your mind up if you want to join that party or perhaps another one, and that you'd like to watch. The local meetings will be a mix of routine administrative issues and policy discussions. They might be working on a paper they're preparing for a regional party conference, or set the schedule for next year, or whatever. There may be some situations where they are not exactly happy about newcomers, but generally they'll let you in.

Find out if their local chapter is active or lazy, if you like the people, if you can imagine standing with them in the pouring rain and handing out leaflets.

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