Merkel’s Trump Card For Re-election: Anti-US Sentiment A Driver Of Campaign
June 6, 2017
By FTI Consulting
It’s campaign season in Germany, and in the run-up to September´s vote, politicians of all colors have started to put the guiding principles of German foreign and security policy for more than 60 years in question. What happened?
Simple: Donald Trump happened. It is clearly the American president himself who caused the front runners for the job of Chancellor, Angela Merkel of the CDU, and Martin Schulz of the SPD, to reposition themselves.
In the years AD (Ante Donald), those in power in German politics used to benefit from pictures showing them together with US Presidents. But this has changed with Trump and his continuous verbal attacks against Germany on trade and security policy which started even before his inauguration, and it has reached a boiling point when he decided to withdraw from of the Paris climate agreement. It is now common sense across party lines to stand up united against the American President to defend Germany´s interests, with nuances rather in style than in substance.
Merkel said her experience at recent international summits featuring US President Trump showed her Europe can no longer completely rely on the United States and will have to look more after itself. ‘The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over.’ A rather weak statement, one should say, but given current circumstances, it still made international headlines.
But Merkel is not the only key player in German politics who pushes the button of anti-US sentiment in Germany. The SPD feels much the same pressure and even raised the political bid. Martin Schulz, their candidate for the Chancellery (with presently sinking hopes to make it), labelled Trump a ‘destroyer of all Western values’. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Schulz’s predecessor as SPD party chief, joined in, saying that ‘the short-sighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union’.
Of course, much of the polemic is opportunistic given its campaign time. But underlying, there seems to be a real change of heart, too, at least on the Chancellor´s part: Angela Merkel, always a strong defender of the US in Germany, really seems to have lost hope on Trump, and is ready to prepare for a re-adjustment of relations, with a willingness to invest more in a leadership role for Germany than previously aspired for. Of course, US-German relations are too strong to be ruined in the long run by one person, and the willingness to approach Trump more cooperatively is likely to rise after September if Merkel were to win the election. But until then, the Chancellor uses Germany´s G20 presidency to spread more pictures of herself with Indian, Chinese and African leaders. Let’s see if those pictures can win elections.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting LLP, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals, members or employees.
Mr. Lemke has been advising clients in public affairs and political communications for almost ten years. Born in Hong Kong, he grew up in the north of Germany, and spent his student years in Spain and Canada. Back in Germany, he started his career in political campaigning, supporting the government of Germany with its nation branding activities. Since he joined FTI Consulting in 2011, he focusses on political aspects of finance, technology and consumer protection.