The former president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is now chairman of the "Values Union". This is surprisingly practical for the CDU - but a disaster for the German debates about Woke, migration and identity.
Every party has its sleazy child, a member you don't have to play with. The SPD had Thilo Sarrazin until 2020, the Greens had Boris Palmer, the FDP Thomas Kemmerich, only in the AfD, for obvious reasons, is it difficult to separate the dingy from the rest - and now, as the newly elected leader of the "Union of Values" , the CDU has Hans-Georg Maaßen on the neck again.
Like the sleazy child from the old hit by Franz-Josef Degenhardt, the enfants terribles of the parties are in the same city, albeit in a different, worse neighbourhood: Boris Palmer, for example, was apparently bothered by the choice of skin color on Deutsche Bahn advertising images ("which company should depict that?"), Kemmerich had himself elected prime minister with the help of the AfD, Sarrazin criticized the fertility of supposedly stupid foreigners in Germany and tried his hand at hobby scientists in the field of Jewish genetics, which was not particularly suitable for Germans.
So far, so uncomfortable.
In the evening at the family table, after prayer at mealtime, it was said: "You smell like a rabbit hutch again, don't play with the sleazy kids, don't sing their songs
How bad are the dirty children for the mother parties? With Kemmerich, the matter is clear: his flirtation with the AfD in Thuringia caused the FDP almost Möllemannische damage. Although the FDP debated Kemmerich's exclusion, it did not bring itself to do so.
The situation is confusing for Boris Palmer and the Greens: he has given up his party membership and at the same time is extremely successful - he recently won the mayoral election. What are the Greens supposed to do? Differentiation is doubly difficult.
And for the SPD, too, it is not clear whether Sarrazin harmed it. Sleazy children also offer a chance, namely to make a loud distinction: "We're not like that, we don't want to be like that, out with you!" can call the respective party leadership and underpin their own position with a party exclusion procedure.
That is why Hans-Georg Maassen is basically a main prize for the CDU under Friedrich Merz. He has no say, although he has recently become the breakfast director of a club of around 4,000 bitter, mostly male, conservatives.
"Doctor Maassen is obviously not interested in the well-being of the CDU," said Merz. "On the contrary, he constantly violates the principles and rules of the party." The Junge Union demands a decision on incompatibility with the Union of Values. In other words: "We're not like that!"
When the inner Alfred Tetzlaff gets through with Merz again ("social tourism", "little Paschas"), the ex-official serves as an ocher contrast medium - the CDU on a culture war course may be musty, but it has not yet sagged at Maaßen's level: "Red green racial theory", even Merz can't ignore it.
This addition of contrast medium, however, means that insightful gray tones are completely lost. The German debate about wokeism, racism and identity politics is mostly on an embarrassingly flat level.
It's enough for the FDP politician Katja Adler to stutter in a YouTube interview because she doesn't have a clear answer to the malicious question of whether one can be too anti-racism. It's not that difficult though.
Anyone who needs a vacation from these German, flat Kulturkampf debates should look to America: There they have been struggling with "Wokeism" for a long time and that also produces nuances. In a New York Times podcast this week, Maurice Mitchell of the small left-wing Working Families Party, the son of Caribbean immigrants, had his say. He warned activists not to allow contradictions just because of their own identity. Literally:
"As a black person, I'm doing myself a disservice when, as a black son of immigrants, I say that white people should sit back and shut up. I need to be sharpened by the debate. Maybe at the end of the day I think that you're wrong. But I need the back and forth to make my point or change my mind."
Wouldn't it be great if we could talk about migration, identity politics and debate culture at this level? If one could talk about the importance of migration in the case of acts of violence on New Year's Eve and in Schleswig-Holstein without foaming at the mouth? And even without the HGM's racism theories with ethnic connotations?
Maaßen saves the party from having to modernize, so to speak - the culture-fighting course can be maintained in this way, the distinction from the sleazy child ensures bourgeois self-assurance. So it would be very practical for the party under Merz if the ex-secret service agent let the ultimatum pass.
For Germany and our debates, however, Maassen remains what he was at the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution: a catastrophe.