This is amazing. In a time of Brexit, Trumpist isolationism and LePen right-wing nationalism, the Germans seem open to electing the former president of the European Parliament as their next chancellor. Just a month ago, the prospects for the moribund Social Democrats looked grim - with the disliked Sigmar Gabriel as the presumed candidate. The SPD was polling just about 20% nationally - not that far ahead of the neo-fascist upstart party Alternative for Germany (AfD). But with Martin Schulz the SPD is suddenly surging - even ahead of Angela Merkel's CDU in some polls:
Knapp zwei Wochen nach der Festlegung auf Martin Schulz zum Kanzlerkandidaten hat die SPD in einer Umfrage zur Bundestagswahl erstmals CDU und CSU überholt.Im INSA-Wahltrend für die "Bild"-Zeitung legt die SPD vier Punkte auf 31 Prozent zu. Die Union dagegen verliert laut der am Montag veröffentlichten Erhebung drei Punkte auf 30 Prozent. "Die Entscheidung für Martin Schulz hat die Stimmung zugunsten der SPD gedreht", zitierte das Blatt INSA-Chef Hermann Binkert. "Damit ist die Bundestagswahl nicht entschieden, aber sie ist völlig offen." Eine von der SPD geführte große Koalition käme demnach auf 61 Prozent. Rot-Rot-Grün erhielte 48 Prozent.
What is interesting is that even though Schulz is connected with the "elite of the elite" EU bureaucracy - despised by a large segment of the German electorate -he is seen as "man of the people", someone who, as we say in America, "you'd like to have a beer with". - very different from the somewhat distant Angela Merkel. Part of the appeal has to do with Martin Schulz's compelling life story:
It was all supposed to turn out differently for Mr Schulz. As a young man, he was on the brink of a professional football career when a serious knee injury destroyed his dreams.He dropped out of school without taking his final exams, and sank into alcoholism and depression.But he dragged himself back from the brink and reinvented himself, first as a bookseller, then as a local politician in his home town of Würselen, near Aachen in the far west of Germany.Since 1980, he has been teetotal. Six years later, at the age of 31, he became the youngest mayor in North Rhine-Westphalia.But it was via the unlikely route of the European parliament that Mr Schulz rose to real prominence.He was elected an MEP in 1994, and found he had the networking and alliance building skills to rise above the hubbub of Brussels and propel himself to the top.He was helped on his way by a public spat with Silvio Berlusconi. Mr Schulz dared to suggest that the then Italian prime minister might face a conflict of interests over his extensive media empire.
For now, Schulz is counting on "Merkel fatigue" among German voters. And it is a long way until the actual election - undoubtedly Putin's propaganda and Fake News machine will work overtime to smear and discredit him - along with Angela Merkel - to promote the Left Party as well as the neo-fascist AfD.
Up to now, Schulz has been vague on actual policy pronouncements, but he has condemned the hateful rhetoric of the AfD and has sharply criticized the "undemocratic" actions and words of Donald Trump:
Der SPD-Kanzlerkandidat hat die Tonlage gegenüber Donald Trump verschärft. Den US-Präsidenten bezeichnet Martin Schulz im Gespräch mit dem SPIEGEL als "hochgradig demokratiegefährdend". Trump "spielt mit der Sicherheit der westlichen Welt", sagt der designierte SPD-Chef. Und weiter: "Was die US-Regierung gerade beginnt, ist ein Kulturkampf." [...] Der 61-Jährige fordert: "Wenn Trump mit der Abrissbirne durch unsere Werteordnung läuft, muss man klar sagen: Das ist nicht unsere Politik."
So whichever candidate comes out on top in September - Schulz or Merkel - Germany's chancellor will be a stay against the destructive policies of Trump & Co.