Björn Höcke, AfD's top candidate in Thuringia, stepped forward. Offer in the CDU – Voigt rejects it in clear words”>TV duel against the CDU front-runner Marco Voigt, there was a heated battle of words. FOCUS online spoke to him about whether it was a mistake to give Höcke this big stage Political scientist Wolfgang Schröder spoke: He believes that Höcke managed to to demonize in a duel.

FOCUS Online: Mr. Schroeder, In your opinion, have the fears of political and communication scientists that the duel could be disastrous for Voigt and raise Höcke's profile as a serious political opponent come true?

Wolfgang Schroeder: Ambivalent, because on the one hand, Höcke has managed to partially de-demonize himself and give the impression that he is on an equal footing with the Union, that he embodies the old Union to a certain extent and is not an extreme force. He tried to convey it with a certain charm. On the other hand, he was sometimes very abstract and volatile; It also became very clear that he has nothing of substance to offer on core issues like human dignity, migration and the economy, which suggests that he is capable of governing responsibly and competently.

TV duel: “Höcke used migration as a common feature”

Which scenes were the most important for you in the televised duel between Voigt and Höcke?

It was easy to see how Voigt made it very clear that he would never form an alliance with an ethnic actor like Höcke, because he is ultimately a representative of an extremist ideology. It was a clear delineation of the conservative center, which is very important for democracy. Höcke's common thread is migration, which he has repeatedly raised as the central argument and meta-theme of all problems. Höcke used this as a common thread, whether it was about the EU, bureaucracy, gender issues, the shortage of skilled workers or freedom of expression and anti-Semitism.

Do you think he was successful? Is there a clear winner in the TV duel?

There is rarely a big winner in such duels. While Vogt wanted to increase his popularity and present himself as a real alternative to the AfD, Höcke wanted to present himself as a normal competitor and potential coalition partner. Hacke certainly drew attention to the banalization of evil, thereby allowing extremist forces to portray their agenda as normal and banal and thereby gain a strategic advantage in the public imagination.

On the other hand, Voigt made it clear through his clear delineation what he thought of Höcke's policies and goals. Voigt spoke calmly, clearly and very lively, and especially at the end he emphasized the normative side, that the union stands for the rule of law, human dignity and the equality of people – points that Höcke could not refute.

“It is clear that Höcke is no longer just spitting in other people's soup”

Did Höcke perform differently in the TV duel than in previous TV moments?

Yes, it is clear that Höcke no longer simply spits in the soup of others, but can also design things himself, keeping in mind the changed balance of forces. From the position that he now believes himself to be at the gate of power, he of course played the self-trivialization card, but in the end he doesn't manage to do it very convincingly, so hardly anyone outside his followers buys. him.

Do you think he managed to look “normal”?

Yes, up to a point. But this does not change its main direction. I see confirmation of my opinion that such duels do not give citizens a real insight into the real goals of the actors. I even see a lot of evidence that they give the extremists an advantage. It is about trivializing the demonic, extremist element of their politics and thereby promoting a friendlier perception.

In the show, Höcke also condemned the Nazi era. Was it believable to you?

No, it wasn't reliable, it was instrumental. It was clear that this was expected of him. But it's also dangerous for him in terms of his actual core followers, because he appears less authentic at such events and is therefore less tangible to his followers.

Its key scene was where he asked Aydan Özoguz, the deputy speaker of the parliament and was questioned about possible deportation. He responded by pointing out gaps in his memory.

Had he yielded here, he would have likely unsettled his own supporters. In such situations and on such topics, he always has to walk a tightrope so as not to appear too soft-spoken. Because if he de-radicalizes himself too much, he will lose his myth and become a normal politician, which would destroy his brand and reduce his appeal to radical groups.

“In the beginning, Höcke seemed quite nervous and at times defensive.”

How did Höcke influence you in general compared to Voigt?

At first, Höcke seemed quite nervous and at times defensive, but gained confidence as the discussion progressed. However, after the book scene, he fell into a crisis again. By comparison, Voigt was consistently more present, more concrete and more composed.

What's next for the political landscape of Thuringia and Germany after the televised duel?

It depends on how the conversation is evaluated. We need to see that such public duels between extremist and centrist politicians result in the former presenting themselves as banal, innocuous and innocuous, without making the dangers of their policies any less explosive.

It is important to accept that there is a risk of normalization and demonization while the extreme threat situation continues. That the banality of evil is allowed to present itself so amiably is a great challenge and a dilemma for liberal democracy. Therefore, the real goals of the AfD are not really talked about, which makes the situation difficult.