“Not about me!”

In German politics one hears time and again: Es geht hier um die Sache! – this is about substance. Or Es geht hier nicht um meine Person! – this is not about me as a person.

This is the German politician’s way of saying, that their political program, not them as a politician, is the focus, is at center stage. They want to persuade based on their message, not by who they are. As if one could make a clear distinction between the two.

In 2013 two women in the CDU (Christian Democratic Union – the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel) – Katrin Albsteiger and Barbara Lanzinger – ran against each other in a party-internal race for an election to the Bundestag in Berlin. German political parties do not have primary races. Neither of them, however, spoke of a Machtkampf – literally: power battle – between them.

“This is not about me”, Albsteiger wrote. “This is not about my person”, Lanzinger said in an interview. But it was about them. As members of the same party they stood for the same political platform. They had no other choice but to persuade the other party members that they could win in the general election.