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Conservative politics, German-style
November 24, 2012 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Jens Spahn is a parliamentarian in Germany's centre-right party, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and a committed Catholic. He is also gay, and has been openly so throughout his 11-year political career. While he does not focus specifically on gay issues, he advocates equal civil rights for gays and lesbians (including gay marriage, tax parity and adoption rights) from a conservative position. He does not regard this to be a contradiction.
posted by acb (32 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Spahn posits that a conservative politician of his stripe, in a conservative seat, is in a better position to promote tolerance amongst the mainstream of society than a left-wing Green politician, and suggests that the role of the conservatives is not to oppose progress but to serve as its rearguard, in a sense presiding over its even distribution.
posted by acb at 2:34 PM on November 24, 2012


I'm happy to see he bounced back after that whole scandal with the people living on his ranch.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:41 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ideas like race equality and gay rights seem to percolate through 'liberals' through to 'conservatives' and then become part of the way everyone thinks. So what was once thought of as progressive ends up being supported by most people after a while. I think that gay conservative politicians appearing show that this kind of thing is happening to gay rights and I think it's great news. The Tories in the UK have quite a few gay supporters too, including a few MPs. It makes me wonder whether increased involvement of gay people in the Conservative Party might eventually lead to gay marriage being introduced over here...
posted by absolutelynot at 2:45 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can you imagine how quickly and violently Spahn would be chewed-up and figuratively burned-at-the-stake in US conservative politics?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:47 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can you imagine how quickly and violently Spahn would be chewed-up and figuratively burned-at-the-stake in US conservative politics?

In the US, he'd probably be a Democrat.

In Australia, he struggle to fit in in the Labor Party.
posted by acb at 2:51 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I think that a member of the CDU in Münsterland is in a better position to promote tolerance than a Green Party left-wing functionary from the city of Cologne. After all, there's a good chance that no one will even listen to him there.

Well that's a dig at Volker Beck if I ever saw one.
posted by hoyland at 2:52 PM on November 24, 2012


Are you kidding? He's perfect for the new ALP.
I am making assumptions about his immigration and economic views, but: perfect fit
posted by Mezentian at 2:54 PM on November 24, 2012


The ALP's still too worried about forsaking the poofter-basher vote to commit itself to taking a pro-gay agenda.
posted by acb at 2:56 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be nice if we (as a society) could stop being all LOLdeluded about LGBT people of faith and/or conservatives. If we were as much about "diversity" as we claim to be, it would be an allowable part of the belief spectrum as anything else. I say more, please.
posted by mykescipark at 2:56 PM on November 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


Also, finally! An opportunity to post the running tally of German politicians in favour of marriage equality. (The website says marriage equality. There's also a push for giving the currently existing 'registered partnerships' the same rights as marriage. By the way, CDU/CSU's not down with either, last I checked.)
posted by hoyland at 2:58 PM on November 24, 2012


IMHO, one mark of a civilised society is when minority groups have the run of the entire political spectrum, according to their inclinations, rather than being artificially corralled at the left-wing end of the pool. I.e., there are openly gay conservatives who are not tortured with self-loathing or jumping through hoops of sophistry to square their positions with those of their co-partisans.
posted by acb at 3:00 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Spahn: I was even an altar boy, and I've always felt at home in the Church. Catholics are often more laid back than they are given credit for -- presumably because at the back of their minds they realize that, if necessary, they can always confess everything to their local priest.

Like abusing children, one assumes.
It's child-sex abuse is big news here (we even have a thread about it). Is it not an elephant in the room in Germany? Did the Catholic Church get its act together, or did the article tale the high road and avoid the Alter Boy angle?
posted by Mezentian at 3:00 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


He does not regard this to be a contradiction.

Do you really think there are people who proudly declare their belief in things they actively consider to be contradictions? Most of us do contain multitudes but deny the hell out it.
posted by srboisvert at 3:00 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it not an elephant in the room in Germany? Did the Catholic Church get its act together, or did the article tale the high road and avoid the Alter Boy angle?

I'm not German so take what I'm saying with a grain of salt. The sort of 'lol, pedophile priests' jokes that get made in the US wouldn't fly in Germany. There have been abuse cases, but they're treated seriously by the media.
posted by hoyland at 3:02 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mostly, I think because there are a lot of Catholics in Germany, plenty of Catholic-majority areas (the south) and Catholics were never marginalised in Germany like they were in the US. (Obviously people got killed for being Catholic or Protestant at various times/places, but you know what I mean.)
posted by hoyland at 3:05 PM on November 24, 2012


Yeah, humans can pretty much rationalize anything. It's a gift.

This doesn't mean that it is always a good idea. But, I've found Catholics, in general, love to rationalize the shit out of their personal beliefs and how that does or does not fit with church dogma.

It's actually sort of inspiring.
posted by clvrmnky at 3:05 PM on November 24, 2012


The ALP's still too worried about forsaking the poofter-basher vote to commit itself to taking a pro-gay agenda.

Other than bringing in all sorts of equality legislation and protections that did not exist previously, and having several openly gay members in the house, including the first lesbian-with-a-baby Senator.

I'm not even sure you can accuse the Coalition (as a block) of "poofter-basher" vilification anymore.
posted by Mezentian at 3:06 PM on November 24, 2012


Other than bringing in all sorts of equality legislation and protections that did not exist previously, and having several openly gay members in the house, including the first lesbian-with-a-baby Senator.

Whom Gillard, by all accounts, loathes. Gillard's views on issues like gay marriage are, despite her professed atheism, scarcely more enlightened than Abbott or Rudd's. It's almost as if it were a dog whistle to the bogans: “I know you find gays disgusting. I'm thinking what you're thinking, middle Australia”


I'm not even sure you can accuse the Coalition (as a block) of "poofter-basher" vilification anymore.


Under its present leadership, it is sticking to a regressive and exclusionary narrative: “we, and people like us, are Australia. White, Christian, suburban. Not the poofters or Muslims or aborigines.” The penny that, as David Cameron in the UK says, marriage (including gay marriage) is an inherently conservative institution, hasn't dropped; either that or this abstract intellectual idea is drowned out by a visceral fear of gayness as a contamination.

If Turnbull was in charge, I imagine things would be different. Or at least he has been dropping hints that they would be in order to court the views of progressive Australia.
posted by acb at 3:13 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Though I don't feel like doing too much to encourage Republicans here in America, they would do well to hire this guy and have him come teach them what a winning conservative message sounds like in the 21st century. If they want to survive, they more conservatives need sound more like this guy.

Luckily for everyone, there's about zero chance of American Republicans listening to what a gay European has to say, conservative or not. The CDU needn't sully itself with such foul associations, and Americans will continue to move ahead without ideological bigots running things.
posted by wormwood23 at 3:14 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are we sure he's a Roman Catholic? Because they've made their position clear from the top down.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:17 PM on November 24, 2012


Thorzdad: "Can you imagine how quickly and violently Spahn would be chewed-up and figuratively burned-at-the-stake in US conservative politics?"

We have two major conservative parties. As the article states, he is center right. Our center right party is the Democratic party, which is full of Christians who support gay rights. He would fit in just fine.
posted by idiopath at 3:23 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ideas like race equality and gay rights seem to percolate through 'liberals' through to 'conservatives' and then become part of the way everyone thinks. So what was once thought of as progressive ends up being supported by most people after a while. I think that gay conservative politicians appearing show that this kind of thing is happening to gay rights and I think it's great news. The Tories in the UK have quite a few gay supporters too, including a few MPs. It makes me wonder whether increased involvement of gay people in the Conservative Party might eventually lead to gay marriage being introduced over here...
By "here" do you mean the UK? Because it's absolutely and literally on the agenda. No main party opposes it. Draft law could be introduced to Parliament within weeks. By this time next year, it is highly likely that the UK will have equalized its marriage laws. The same is basically true of France too, but they're a little ahead. Most likely, 2013 will see about 130,000,000 folk in those countries given equal wedding rights. The German debate will be cut short by this, as, like you say, it will be the "new norm" in Europe for every party. It will be all over bar the shouting.
posted by Jehan at 3:37 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guys. I mean, Americans.

Jens Spahn is a parliamentarian in Germany's centre-right party

This guy is practically a socialist by US standards.
posted by cmoj at 4:34 PM on November 24, 2012


SPIEGEL: How does it feel to be in a parliamentary group with colleagues such as Norbert Geis, who sees being gay as a "perversion of sexuality" and says: "The Apostle Paul considers it a sin. I see it the same way"?

Spahn: Of course that irritates me more than when a colleague differs in his opinions on highway construction.
Best reply ever.
posted by Xany at 4:59 PM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I admire both his pragmatism and tolerance. I wish more conservative politicians in the U.S. would follow his example.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 5:25 PM on November 24, 2012


Recall that Germany is the source of Grimm's Fairy Tales.
posted by telstar at 6:59 PM on November 24, 2012


I don't know whether the Republicans' attitude towards gay marriage actually cost them electoral college numbers, but it certainly can't have helped them. The first rule of winning votes in a two-party system is that you aim your policies towards the centre.

The Republicans lost sight of this principle when they designed their platform around their hardcore members, who thought that Republican policies ought to appeal to people like them. The GOP almost certainly had these votes already - where else could they go? The votes the GOP had to win were those from the centre. Those votes would actually count twice: a loss for the Democrats and a win for the Republicans. Instead, the Republicans spent so much time chasing their tail that they disappeared up their own fundament.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:10 PM on November 24, 2012


But doesn't the popularity of the tea party mean that any moderate candidates have a very hard time getting through the primary?
posted by Authorized User at 9:04 PM on November 24, 2012


To Australians: what about the Democratic Labor Party? They're socially conservative, yet fiscally liberal.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:08 AM on November 25, 2012


The DLP is basically the rump of a faction that split from the Labor Party over communism. Most people don't think of them as a "real" party and they didn't have Parliamentary representation for decades; everyone was surprised when they managed to get someone elected to Federal Parliament in 2010. As for being fiscally liberal, they're actually very pro-union. Historically they were very closely aligned to to the political views of senior Catholics, although they weren't directed by the Church per se.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:22 AM on November 25, 2012


This guy comes across as classy, pragmatic and having a wry sense of humor. He kinda reminds me of moderate republicans like Schwartzenegger.
posted by gryftir at 4:30 AM on November 25, 2012


It makes me wonder whether increased involvement of gay people in the Conservative Party might eventually lead to gay marriage being introduced over here...

I'm sure I read an interview by David Cameron, a couple of months ago, doing his compassionate conservative bit and explaining why gay marriage is a natural fit with the Con party.
posted by ersatz at 4:04 PM on November 25, 2012


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