What a great post! This is really accurate.
Let me add a nuance about the political debate by comparing Germany and Switzerland.
I have moved from Germany to Switzerland (Zurich) 10 years ago. Germany and Switzerland are often considered similar by outsiders, or at least by Germans. To some extent this is true, but from the beginning I was really shocked by how much better the Swiss political system works than the German one (which is already considered sober and highly functional).
The most obvious difference is how much media and news in Switzerland focus on topics instead of people. The typical news headline in Germany is “politician X says that idea Y is bad”. Such articles usually go a lot into detail on who else favors or rejects idea Y, but they usually don’t discuss the advantages and disadvantages of idea Y.
In Switzerland, the news are really different. The headlines still say which institutions (like political parties, cantons, governments, associations; muss less often people) favor or disfavor an idea. But it usually also gives their reasoning. Honestly, I had (and still have) the impression that “20 Minuten” (a free tram tabloid in Switzerland) does this much more often than “Der SPIEGEL” (one of the most renowned German political magazines).
In terms of voting, this makes a big difference. In Germany, voters vote for or against politicians. I had enough discussions in my family to know that they vote “for Merkel” or “for Scholz” (candidate for chancellor by social democrats in German elections), and they do this because they think that Merkel is better than Scholz (or just like her better), or vice versa. I think this is typical for most countries. And I think is a really stupid basis for decision, because over decades Germans have consistently been in the lucky situation to decide between two (or more) competent and sane politicians. So political agendas should make the difference, but they play a rather minor role. In Switzerland, the situation is very different. Even at election day, people vote mostly for parties and their programs (and not for people), and even more so in referenda.
This post describes very nicely where this comes from, and I have little to add. The sheer amount of political involvement and in-depth discussion, the institutionalised exposure to the arguments from both sides (the official voting booklets, but also lots of pro- and contra advertisement), the necessity to form an opinion… You have described it much better than I ever could. Having lived in both countries, I have the strong opinion that political decisions in Switzerland are much better than in Germany. I would recommend every other country to adopt the Swiss system if I only had the slightest idea how to do that. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that “copy the set of rules” would work, because it leaves out the grown political culture. But at least your post gives me a better understanding of why it works, so thank you for that!