“The reasons for the success of German social democracy”

Grandstand. At a time when a social democrat, Olaf Scholz, the incarnation of the “centre left”, is going to lead Germany, while northern Europe and part of southern Europe are led by social democrats and , on the other hand, the French left seems to be struggling, it may be interesting to come back to the reasons for the success of German social democracy.

Let’s first scan an analysis that we could find here and there and which is a little easy: the victory of Olaf Scholz would be due to the weakness of the Christian Democrat candidate. Admittedly, the latter multiplied the awkwardness and appeared “out of step” and ultimately not up to par, especially since, from the start, his candidacy was contested by part of his camp. But for those who analyze things more carefully, the reasons for the Social Democratic victory, admittedly short (25.7% for the Social Democratic Party, SPD, against 24.1% for the Christian Democratic Union, CDU), are deeper. This has not been sufficiently noted, the Social Democratic Party has, during this election, reconnected with the popular electorate whose favor it had begun to lose in the federal elections of 2009, while it was still collecting, in 2005 , 44% of the vote of the workers and 35% of the vote of the employees.

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During the last federal elections, 26% of workers and 24% of employees voted for the SPD, a gain of 3 and 4 points respectively compared to 2017. In addition, 32% of unionized employees made this choice. This observation should be compared with the fact that the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) had its high result of 2017 in large part to a breakthrough among workers (21%, a gain of 15 points compared to 2013), declaring themselves since “Workers’ Party”. This tangible development in 2021 should be linked to the desire of the Social Democratic Party and of Olaf Scholz himself for a clearly social positioning of his campaign, which also corresponded to the shift in his parties in recent years.

Mutation, even rupture

This change was marked by a distancing, even a break, on certain subjects, with the era of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, of whom Olaf Scholz had nevertheless been one of the actors as Secretary General of the SPD. Historian Mark Lilla’s analyzes of the 2018 US election have been closely revealed by German Social Democrats: according to this academic, Hillary Clinton’s libertarian campaign, too focused on issues related to diversity and questions from liberals in the big cities, ended up forgetting the economic and social issues, pushing a large party of workers in industrial regions to vote in favor of Donald Trump.

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