German political parties function in a fashion that most Americans are not familiar with, so this blog/essay.....is sort of an introduction to how the German political slant occurs.
In each village or town....let's say a population of 1000 residents.....there will be a local pub, bar, or cafe. There might be anywhere from two to a dozen different political parties set up in the town. They organize a meeting and advertise for a meeting at the pub. Serious folks will show up, register, and note themselves as a 'member' of that party in the village.
The political party chief for that one single party, in that one single village.....is a mouth-piece for the town, the county, the state and the national party.
At some point, polls and votes will be taken at the pub on occasion, to show support for one position or another.....giving the membership the feeling that they are being heard. The national guys rely upon this type of vote (call it a pub-vote, if you want) to give them a signal that they've got support to press on an agenda.
When you look at the CSU support for the Maut-tax deal that would affect foreign drivers entering Germany.....the CSU tested the waters in the spring and summer of 2013, finding that their membership were pushing this topic near the top and showing a bit of frustration that tax revenue wasn't being taken in some way. Course, no one in these pub-chats ever got around to how it would work, or how much it would cost. The topic was just generalized to some degree, where some simplicity existed and it could be understood in five to ten minutes.
All of this local pub-meetings will lead to a regional meeting where the town's talking head political guy will represent his folks, and meet up at some hotel conference center on a Saturday, and spend an entire day talking politics with other talking-heads. Another poll will be held and more support will be given for another agenda step.
These meetings lead onto state meetings every month or two, where the regional heads will confer and discuss state and national politics. Again, polls will be taken, and votes cast for or against something.
Then those leaders will meet up for a national meeting....again at some hotel or public conference center. Again, polls will be taken, and votes cast for or against something.
So, when you get to the national level.....it's really a grassroots topic and supported by a majority of the membership, who they can count on for elections.
The independent voter? He or she....are the tough part about how this all works. They don't show up at any pub-meeting, and might flip-flop on various topics.
How many folks from a village of 1,000 attend such meetings? It's hard to say and might go higher or lower....depending on the make-up, economic condition of the village, and enthusiasm. The fact oddball parties flourish and exist.....might suggest that a small portion are active in politics and lack any enthusiasm for any of the top six parties. Here in the Rhine Valley area....there are a couple of Christian-theme political parties, which rarely exist in other parts of Germany.
All of this leads a person to view the apparatus as bulky but generally allowing membership from the lowest guy to the highest platform....to participate. You may not win a regional, state or national election in this way....but members have their say on a fairly frequent basis.
A functionary process like in the US? We would center the topics on local and regional subjects, and start to rationalize that most of these mythical BIG topics that get pushed around for national politics....really aren't that important when compared to what a guy says from his local town, while sitting in a pub and sipping a beer. We'd rationalize a different priority, and shock the national folks. So, for this reason, I don't see the national party folks (either party) wanting to gimmick up the system with the local guys talking.
What works in Germany.....generally works. What works elsewhere.....draws off local circumstances and limits. It is, what it is.