Reviews | How Millennials Are Changing German Politics


At the same time, the position of the new generation is different from the identity politics of many young American political activists; on the contrary, these young Germans agree with Mark Lilla’s argument that liberalism has slipped “into a moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity” which prevents it “from becoming a force. unifying capable of governing ”. Instead, they yearn for a “unifying” political approach that focuses on the economic grievances of the masses – or their alleged need for cultural homogeneity.

After decades of postmodern politics, they yearn for great narratives, from both sides. Call it solidarity within partisanship – a nostalgia for clear lines that transcend political issues, rather than a wet blanket of consensus that covers socio-political divides.

But is this also what voters want?

It makes good sense that the consensual policies of Ms Merkel, Mr Schulz and their generational peers have strengthened political fringes, especially the far right. That’s not entirely true, however: Polls show that Germans, even if they are tired of Merkel, still value consensus.

“Germans are generally oriented towards compromise, not polarization,” said Andrea Wolf, board member of Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, a leading German pollster.

Although Merkel’s poll numbers fell during the refugee crisis, they rebounded. “I doubt that the political approach of the younger generation of decision-makers is what voters really want,” Ms. Wolf said. “It is perhaps rather what they or they to want.”

Real politics always consist of bullets. Do you want to raise the lower middle class? We need to adopt tax breaks, restructure social security contributions, strengthen the education budget – what the next grand coalition will commit to doing, if the negotiations are successful.

The challenge for German politicians in the future will be to come up with a narrative broad enough to create a sense of direction, based on more fundamental values ​​than increasing gross domestic product by a few percentage points, but in avoiding the kind of utopian visions that German voters are rightly suspicious of.

If they are successful, they could unleash a new era of political energy. If they fail, we could see a dark turn towards the kind of fractured and incoherent politics that haunts the rest of the world, full of holes that the far right can slip through. There is a catch, however. By raging against the slow and boring politics of compromise, the members of the new generation join the very populist song they are about to defeat.


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