Happy Politicians

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Domestic Political Squabbling Fades, Along with Political Discourse, as Germans Prosper

Steinmeier, Merkel, Gabriel, 2.7.14 dpa 3
Chancellor Angela Merkel together with cabinet members Walter Steinmeier and Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD, in early July.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Too much consensus is not good, as it weakens the domestic political debate and prevents any real progress from being made. A functioning democracy needs a functioning opposition and the German consensus model may have run its course.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Chancellor Angela Merkel enjoys higher levels of popularity than any of her coalition partners.
    • There is some squabbling in Berlin over issues like road tolls and family policy, but the key players are getting along.
    • A lack of existential problems has led German politicians to give key policy areas, like immigration and education, short shrift.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

Germany is doing well. There are no major disputes, and everything is just fine.

Or is it?

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel left for her summer vacation this year, she sensed that she would hardly remain undisturbed throughout her trip. There is no summer vacation when it comes to foreign policy crises, including Ukraine, the war in Gaza and the sudden chill in German-American relations.

At least she doesn’t have to worry about Germany. Domestic politics have become such an afterthought that it doesn’t even help the typically slow summer news season. Once an arena for decades-long bitter disputes, domestic politics has hit the pause button, and not just for the summer.

Domestic policy is working like clockwork. But it’s also no longer that important.

Germany, which not too long ago was characterized as and considered itself to be the sick man of Europe, has been on the rise for about a decade. Unemployment has been declining, and Germany has become a magnet for European labor migration. The economy is growing exports are booming, tax revenues are setting new records and the federal government has balanced its budget for the first time in almost five decades. The income gap is widening, and yet Germans are more satisfied than ever with their lives. It’s more of a coincidence that this coalition happens to be in power at a time when things are going so well for Germany.

The challenges of the last decade have only strengthened the new German self-confidence. Germany remained unexpectedly robust through the 2008 global financial crisis and the 2010 euro crisis. The crisis affected virtually all European partners, but the country in the middle of Europe prospered. Their exceptional economic position has since earned the Germans a hegemonic role in Europe.

Today the country is so far removed from any crisis that riskier domestic policy programs have disappeared from the agenda. Instead, the chancellor’s position is more uncontested than any of her predecessors.

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