I live in Germany as a regular citizen. That means, i am not an political activist (at the moment) or otherwise involved in political processes.

In my opinion, the German politicians are going in the completely wrong direction/doing many "wrong" things.

For instance:

  • At the moment, public officials don't pay taxes for the tax-financed pension system or for the national health insurance. I think that would be a really good idea.
  • Germany is heading towards a police state with the recent legislative changes to the police laws. (Source. For instance, they do threaten already privacy advocates, even if they are just witnesses. The police also recently received the right to install a "Bundestrojaner" onto the devices of criminals, even when the criminals are just accused of selling with drugs. However, I'm not sure if that's also part of these new police laws.
    • I totally don't understand, why the SPD appointed a Goldman Sachs guy as finance minister, as I think he acts based on the interests of the industry and not in the interests of the citizens. He is not neutral.

Of course, that is highly subjective, but I feel I have to express this opinion somehow (based on facts). I feel I have the democratic responsibility to tell the government/politicians what and why I think they are doing the wrong things, and what would be better.

However, I don't know what the most effective way to do that is. I feel like participating in demonstrations (and I have) is not a good solution. If I remember correctly, Herbert Reuss has recently said (as response to the criticism of the police laws in NRW), that he expected already to receive complaints from left-wing citizens. Of course, I am one of those left-wing citizens; so how can I make Herbert Reuss understand that his solution is wrong?

At the moment, my response as a democratic citizen is to fund organisations who fight juridically against those police laws. I feel that this is democratically more effective compared to the participation in demonstrations, but that doesn't change the believes/understanding of the involved politicians.

I'm also not sure whether it would be effective to write a letter, explaining why I think the police laws are the wrong approach. I guess he wouldn't take me seriously, as I'm left-wing. And I'm also not sure whether my letter would even reach him, as it would first be read by his secretary.

Would it be effective to talk to my local politician in his office about these issues?

So in short, I'm searching for effective ways to make politicians understand my political opinion.


4 Answers 4

  • Join a political party. Participation in political parties in Germany has been on the decline for the past few decades. That means that every single member has a much higher influence. Being a member of a party allows you to influence the decisions of the party to a certain degree. Most parties in Germany have a delegation system where the regional party groups vote a representative who then participates in party committees and conventions. Make sure they vote someone trustworthy, or get voted yourself if you can gain the trust of your local branch. Also, many parties have internal networks where people with special interests gather in order to give advise to the party leadership. You can increase your influence within the party by not just being a paying member but also by showing up to regional party meetings.
  • Support non-government organizations which support your views. You can do that in several ways, ranked from least effective to most effective:
    • By increasing their reach on social media by liking and sharing their content
    • With your money by donating to them
    • By joining them as an active member and take part in their campaigns
  • Take part in peaceful protests. You might be a bit wary of that because you've seen some ugly pictures from protests which turned violent. Note that such protests are the exception, not the norm. I participated in several protests myself, and not a single time have I witnessed any physical violence or repression. If you are unsure about whether a protest turns violent or not, look which organizations support it. When you see mainstream political parties on the protest announcement, it's usually safe to participate. When you read any antifa or nazi groups, you should better stay away. Also, don't participate in "blockade" demonstrations which have the purpose to prevent something lawful from happening through physical presence. The police can and will remove you and might use violence if you resist.
  • Contact your elected representatives (even those you didn't vote for) and tell them about your concerns. Try to phrase your ideas as constructive criticism, not as demands or even threats. Also avoid guilt-tripping them through emotional manipulation - it doesn't work. Provide logical and to the point arguments which come from their political direction. For example, a CDU politician might be open to cost/benefit concerns while an SPD politician might be more open to socioeconomic arguments. If you really care, send them a physical letter by snail mail. Most representatives in Germany usually consider these the most serious input.
  • You forgot number 1: Vote! Everything (including everything you have listed) flows from there.
    – Flydog57
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 23:06
  • especially thank you for the "physical letter". That is basically the answer, i was searching for; it seems really effective.
    – uuu
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 18:10

I'm sorry, but the answer won't contain anything earth shattering.

  1. Vote

  2. Donate to political campaigns. Politicians, whether you like it or not, listen to donors more than to regular citizens.

  3. Influence people - either regular citizens, or, if you manage to, politicians - through speech.

    Write blogs. Letters. Books. Speak to people. Convince them that A is right and B is wrong.

  4. Use judicial system.

    Some things (like overreach by police) may potentially be unconstitutional, in democratic systems with Constitutional oversight.

  5. Stage protests of varying degrees; from demonstration to civil disobedience to insurrection. I would of course not recommend the latter.

  6. Run for office

  7. Become a person of influence outside of politics and use that as a lever to increase the weight of your opinion.

    In modern western world, the best way there is, unfortunately, to become an celebrity, preferably of entertainment kind.

  • 'What are both of you's qualifications?' - "I'm the former Secretary of State." - and, "I'm the guy from that show You're Fired"
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 16:25
  • Donations work slightly different due to the way the German system is set up, unless you're talking thousands of Euros. To be tax-deductible, the donation has to go to the party rather than the individual.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 17:05
  • @Mazura - right. Because one Trump surely trumps the fact that Hollywood celebrities drive left wing politics and policies in hundreds if not thousands.
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 17:26
  • @o.m. - I know there is a technical difference, but does that matter in the big scheme of things? donors are still listened to more.
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 17:27
  • 1
    1a: Join a political party and be active in it. I have no idea about Germany, but here in the US, if you join a party and take part in it's activities, you feel much more like your voice is being heard (I regularly go to (and speak up at) the State Convention every two years)
    – Flydog57
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 23:09

I like Philipp's answer. However, with the EU elections coming up, there is one more point. Volunteer for the campaign of the candidate you like best. (Probably after joining that party, but it is not usually required if you are willing to help.)

Campaigning in the streets will probably only shift a few percentage points of the result, while social media and press coverage shift more, but every bit counts. And those couple of votes might make a difference in a proportional representation system.

And if you don't want to campaign formally, talk to people.

Regarding the political point you raised, members of parliament get a mix of pay, non-monetary perks, and future benefits. What matters for them and for any other employee is the bottom line. It doesn't matter if one is paid €500 more just to pay €500 in private insurance, or if one is paid €400 more just to have it automatically deducted from the payroll, or if one gets no extra pay and no deductions.

The three fair questions are:

  • Is the absolute amount of pay and benefits for members of parliament (and civil servants, for that matter) right? If you were to tell police officers or firemen that they will have pension insurance deducted from their pay, surely you'd give them a matching raise. Same principle for members of parliament.
  • Is the overall split in the healthcare system between public and private insurance right?
  • How do members of parliament have to account for their office expenses, and what can they do with it? That's much more on target than the pension system.

Indivisible is a guide to political activities written after election of Donald Trump.

It explains how to become a political activist, what to do, and what does not work. Lessons learned from the success of "Tea party" movement.

Explains stuff like:

  • How your MP thinks — reelection, reelection, reelection — and how to use that to save democracy
  • How to organize locally (MP cares only about the voices of people s/he represents - see reelection)
  • Four local advocacy tactics that actually work, like Town Hall actions

Short and to the point, worth a read.

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