From 1965 to 1967, Vogel was a member of the German Bundestag, a position from which he resigned to assume the job of Minister of Culture and Education in Rhineland-Palatinate under Premier Peter Altmeier. He continued in the same cabinet position under Altmeier's successor in 1969, Helmut Kohl. In 1973, when Kohl became chair of the national CDU, Vogel succeeded him as state party chair in Rhineland-Palatinate. His failure to be re-elected to this party office in 1988 led to his resignation as premier in a famous speech which he ended with the often-quoted phrase: "May God protect Rhineland-Palatinate!", an unusual display of public piety for German standards. Vogel is a devout Roman Catholic.
During his premiership in Thuringia he earned the nicknamed Vogelbernie (Vogel translates to bird in English) and therefore his office, the Staatskanzlei Erfurt, got nicknamed Vogelkäfig, which translates to "birdcage" in English.
Vogel, Bernhard; Roman Herzog (preface), Michael Borchard, Uwe Spindeldreier (2002). "Lebensstationen". Sorge tragen für die Zukunft: Reden 1998-2002 (in German) (1st ed.). Berlin: Christoph Links Verlag. pp. 237f. ISBN3-86153-283-2.