ABSTRACT

Losses at elections seem to be needed to jolt parties into self-reflection. For the SPD, it needed the experience of 1976 and a discussion paper on the party’s failings by its General Secretary at the time, Holger Börner and Hans Koschnik, the chairman of the Bremen land organization. 1 The Börner/Koschnik aim was twofold: on the one hand they wanted to specify the extent and reasons for the electoral disappointment, on the other hand they aimed beyond a mere election survey at the state of party organization and the problems of membership involvement. As criticism of the 1976 campaign the document is interesting enough. There are allegations that the party appeared too close to the CDU - 70% of the SPD electorate, Börner and Koschnik report - did not expect much change should the CDU win. 2 The “Model Germany” electoral theme was unknown to over 80% of the electorate at the start of the summer recess. At a time when 21% of the adult population felt threatened by redundancies the theme was ill chosen. The details of failure as enumerated by Börner and Koschnik are revealing. Compared with 1972, the newly mobilized support had not been consolidated. Vote losses were highest among women (5%) and among unskilled and semiskilled blue collar workers (6%). 3 On the other hand, the SPD managed to hold on to older voters. Here, Börner and Koschnik focus on a specific deficiency: while 27% of the electorate were over sixty and problems of old age and pension rights formed a significant part of the SPD campaign, old people had no institutionalized voice in the party organization. This has since been remedied. 4