Former U.S. president Barack Obama endorsed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Thursday, calling him an “effective leader and a strong voice for democratic values.”
BERLIN—One of the hottest campaign topics in Germany’s national elections is something that is a distant dream for the country’s younger voters: pensions.
Older voters have long had a determining influence on elections in Germany. As the aging country grows even older—the over-60 now make up more than a third of the electorate, according to the government—they are becoming the key target of political parties’ messages, something a new cadre of politically savvy influencers is trying to change.
“No millennial knows Helmut Schmidt anymore. They only know [outgoing Chancellor]
” said Dr. Wolfgang Gründinger, a 37-year-old author of political books. Mr. Schmidt was the country’s chancellor from 1974-1982, and his image features in a campaign ad. “Even the Greens try to appeal to the old voters because the young voters, they elect them anyways,” Mr. Gründinger said.
Older voters—those above or near retirement age—aren’t just a big part of the electorate, they are also more likely to vote in a country that routinely has turnout rates around 70% for national ballots. By comparison, Pew Research Center estimates that U.S. turnout was 56% in 2016 and rose into the 60s in 2020. Some younger voters in Germany say this means their interests aren’t being addressed enough in the campaign.
“No one talks about teens and the young professionals [age] 15 to 30,” said Paulina Kintzinger, 24, who works on the election campaign for Annika Klose, a 29-year-old member of the center-left Social Democratic Party and candidate for the federal parliament in Berlin’s central district. “[It’s] like these 15 years of potential voters doesn’t exist in the German campaign.”
Whereas American politicians trip over themselves to win over young voters, dangling everything from policy proposals on student debt to massive get-out-the-vote concerts and celebrity cameos in campaign ads, establishment politicians in Germany promise stability, not change, and often appeal to nostalgia.
This means efforts to mobilize younger voters and focus the parties’ attention on the issues these voters care about have mainly come from non-politicians this year.
Germans have even coined a word for young (and youngish) social-media celebrities who have espoused political causes: “Sinnfluencer,” a portmanteau of the words “Sinn,” German for sense or purpose, and influencer.
These include 25-year-old climate activist Luisa Neubauer. In one Instagram post, she showed her estimate of the per capita carbon-dioxide emissions represented by each party’s platform. Sustainability influencer Louisa Dellert, 31, has used her Instagram account to discuss the various parties’ positions on the speed limit on German highways. Each woman reaches hundreds of thousands outside traditional media.
“Every young person who says that politicians don’t care about them a lot—to me, it makes a lot of sense and it’s kind of no surprise,” Ms. Neubauer said.
“There are parties in this government that freak out just by the thought that 16-year-olds could be voting,” she said, pointing to recent debate in Germany about lowering the voting age. “And that says a lot about whom politicians think they’re working for and whom they’re not working for.”
Inclusion and accessibility advocate Raul Krauthausen, 41, said he is considering explicitly endorsing a candidate on his Instagram account. One of his recent efforts has focused on pressuring the makers of the “Wahl-O-Mat” app and website, which recommends which party to vote for after a user responds to a quiz on election issues, into offering a friendlier interface for people with disabilities. He shares messages from people frustrated with the app’s accessibility on his social-media accounts.
“There are some activists who are really angry now, and I tried to give them more reach with my followers,” Mr. Krauthausen said.
Rezo, a blue-haired German YouTuber known for his music videos, made his foray into the political circuit when he posted a scathing criticism of the center-right Christian Democratic Union days ahead of the 2019 European election.
The CDU pushed back against the entertainer, who doesn’t give his real name, with a document fact-checking his claims, then went on to score a historically low 28.9% of the vote at that election while the Greens shot up to a historically high 20.5% on the back of a campaign focused on preventing climate change.
Sandwiched between videos about electric cars and German soccer’s Bundesliga, Rezo last month uploaded another anti-CDU video that begins by hitting the party for its response to this summer’s catastrophic flooding and characterizes its climate policy as insufficient. A follow-up posted in early September takes aim at what he describes as a cozy relationship between politicians and coal companies.
While the share of young voters in the electorate is small, participation among the young is high by U.S. standards. Turnout hovers around 68% for voters under age 30 and creeps up to the low 70s for voters under age 40.
Despite this, “most of the parties and especially the big parties have a stronger focus on issues that are of interest [to the over 60],” said Dr. Andreas Jungherr, 39, chair of political science at the University of Bamberg.
a Social Democrat and the leading contender for the chancellery, has said his government would focus on fighting child poverty, making housing more affordable and shoring up the country’s pay-as-you-go pension system. The conservative CDU and the free-market Free Democratic Party have put tax cuts high on their agenda.
The FDP said it gives priority to issues that are popular among young voters including education and the need for digitization in schools amid Covid-19. A party spokesperson also pointed to gains made among under-30 voters during the last federal election four years ago.
How should German politicians better engage with younger voters? Join the conversation below.
A spokesperson for the SPD touted its slate of young candidates, including 34 candidates under age 30 and around 80 candidates under 35. The party is also calling for investments in schools including digitization and access to higher education, and a push to abolish the temporary employment contracts often offered to young people.
The Greens declined to comment. The CDU didn’t provide comment on the matter.
Some pollsters think the lack of focus on younger voters is politically risky. The German political system has grown more fragmented over time: There are now six parties in parliament compared with three less than 40 years ago and the most popular is polling at just 25%. This means smaller groups of voters could now more easily influence the shape of the next government, especially this year when polls suggest the next ruling coalition will have to include three parties for the first time.
“My generation feels like we are so ready for change,” Ms. Kintzinger said, reflecting on Ms. Merkel’s 16-year stewardship of the country that earned her the maternal nickname “Mutti,” meaning “mum.”
“At some point you don’t need them anymore because you’ve grown up,” she said.
Write to Erin Delmore at email@example.com
Corrections & Amplifications
Those over 60 years old now make up more than a third of Germany’s electorate. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that age group makes up two-thirds of the electorate. (Corrected on Sept. 12)
Singh’s NDP has one of the boldest climate policies of the major parties. The party platform includes reducing carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stresses that it “will put workers front and centre of their climate action plan”, and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
Avi Lewis, the longtime documentary filmmaker and climate activist running as the NDP candidate for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country district, told openDemocracy that “there is no party on Earth that is currently addressing the climate movement in the way it needs to be”. For Lewis, the climate emergency isn’t just a climate emergency, “it’s also a housing emergency, transit emergency, inequality emergency”.
However, Lewis decided to run as an NDP nominee because he “sees a sense of urgency in the platform”. “All these emergencies are linked,” he says, “but so are the solutions.”
According to Maggie Chao, campaign director at Leadnow, an independent progressive campaigning organisation, the parties are “moving in the right direction” and recognise that “climate change is a pressing issue”. However, Chao insisted that “we’re nowhere on the scale and pace we need to be”.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama endorsed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Thursday, calling him an “effective leader and a strong voice for democratic values.”
Obama said in a Twitter post Thursday that he wishes his friend Trudeau “the best in Canada’s upcoming election,” and that he is “proud of the work we did together.”
The high-profile tweet comes as the Liberals remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle with the Conservatives in the polls, just days away from the vote, on Monday.
The former Democratic president’s endorsement could help sway some progressive voters to cast their ballots for the Liberals instead of the NDP, given that Obama is a “progressive icon” who remains popular across Canada, said Daniel Béland, a professor of political science at McGill University.
“The NDP is a threat to the Liberals and the Liberals want the NDP to stay where it is or even decline in the polls, so they will want to frame this as a major endorsement that could sway progressives,” Béland said.
But it’s unclear whether it will actually make a difference.
“Will this actually generate any significant shifts in the polls? You know, I’m a bit skeptical. I will have to look over the next few days,” he said, adding it “can’t hurt” the Liberal chances.
“I think it favours the Liberals, probably to the annoyance of the NDP,” said University of Ottawa professor Errol Mendes. To what extent depends on the amount of attention the endorsement gets in the news media, he said, adding “it will have an impact if it’s played up a lot.”
Obama, for many Canadians, is still a major world figure, Mendes noted.
Obama voiced his support for Trudeau in the 2019 election. The endorsement from the first Black president of the U.S. came at a critical time for Trudeau, who was facing a scandal after old photos of him in blackface and brownface emerged during the campaign. A campaign staffer told the National Post at the time that Obama’s tweet “recharged the base” after the embarrassment of the blackface photos, providing reassurance that Trudeau was “not a racist.”
Because the context isn’t the same in 2021, and because we’re now further away from Obama’s presidency, the endorsement this time around may have less impact, said Béland.
It could also have a negative effect, according to Mendes. “On one level, it could backfire where people would say, we should not have a foreign person intervening in our election,” he said.
It could also have the side effect of boosting the People’s Party of Canada, the conservative party started by former MP Maxime Bernier. Obama is the “antithesis of what they believe in. They seem to be very much following the Trump type of politics,” Mendes said.
Melissa Haussman, a professor of political science at Carleton University, pointed out the endorsement can only reach individuals who haven’t yet voted. Elections Canada said Wednesday an estimated 5.8 million Canadians have already cast their ballot in advanced polling. That’s nearly a third of the total number of Canadians who voted in 2019.
She said that Obama’s support is the “next best thing” to getting an endorsement from current U.S. president Joe Biden. “It’s sort of Biden by proxy,” given that Biden served as Obama’s vice-president, Haussman noted.
While she agreed the endorsement “absolutely” helps the Liberals with buzz and momentum, Haussman said it’s hard to say how many votes it will actually deliver.
Mendes pointed out the Obama tweet is part of a pattern for the former president, who has publicly mused about other countries where the progressive vote was divided, allowing right-wing parties to gain a footing.
“Because he has this global perspective, I think he’s probably seeing that is happening here in Canada, where if the progressive vote between the Liberals and the NDP is divided it will allow not only the Conservatives to come through, but potentially even increase the voting for Maxime Bernier’s party. So I think that’s one of the reasons why I think he’s intervened.”
The Obama endorsement comes the same week Trudeau held an event with former prime minister Jean Chretien, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole received an endorsement from former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
China on Thursday denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.
Under the arrangement, dubbed AUKUS, the United States and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
France, which loses its own submarine deal with Australia, called the plans brutal and unpredictable.
The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.
U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China by name in the joint announcement and senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters ahead of time, said the partnership was not aimed at countering Beijing.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the three countries were “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts”.
“China always believes that any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and help enhance mutual trust and cooperation… It should not target any third party or undermine its interests,” he told a regular briefing in Beijing.
Johnson said the pact was not meant to be adversarial and said it would reduce the costs of Britain’s next generation of nuclear submarines.
“Now that we have created AUKUS we expect to accelerate the development of other advanced defence systems including in cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and undersea capabilities,” Johnson told parliament.
The partnership ends Australia’s 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines, a spokesperson for Morrison told Reuters.
France accused Biden of stabbing them in the back and acting like his predecessor Donald Trump.
“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” Le Drian told France-info radio. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”
The three leaders stressed Australia would not be fielding nuclear weapons but using nuclear propulsion systems for the vessels to guard against threats.
“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” Biden said.
“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” he said.
Morrison said Australia would meet all its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
One U.S. official said the partnership was the result of months of engagements by military and political leaders during which Britain – which recently sent an aircraft carrier to Asia – had indicated it wanted to do more in the region.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the focus on the Indo-Pacific but said Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in its territorial waters.
Singapore said it had long had relations with Australia, Britain and the United States and hoped their grouping would contribute to peace and stability.
Japan said the three countries’ strengthening of security and defence cooperation was important for peace and security.
A U.S. official briefing before the announcement said Biden had not mentioned the plans “in any specific terms” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a call last Thursday but did “underscore our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific”.
U.S. officials said nuclear propulsion would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the new partnership, on which the EU was not consulted, showed the need for a more assertive European foreign policy.
“We must survive on our own, as others do,” Borrell said as he presented a new EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. “I understand the extent to which the French government must be disappointed.”
Biden said the three governments would launch an 18-month consultation period “to determine every element of this programme, from the workforce to training requirements, to production timelines” and to ensure full compliance with non-proliferation commitments.
Among the U.S. firms that could benefit are General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.
General Dynamics Electric Boat business does much of the design work for U.S. submarines, but critical subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are made by BWX Technologies Inc
U.S. officials did not give a time frame for when Australia would deploy a nuclear-powered submarine, or how many would be built.
A U.S. official said Washington had shared nuclear propulsion technology only once before – with Britain in 1958.
“This is frankly an exception to our policy in many respects… We view this as a one-off.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Nandita Bose, David Brunnstrom, Mike Stone, Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Colin Packham in Canberra; Additional reporting by John Irish and Matthieu Protard in Paris and Gabriel Crossley and Judy Hua in Beijing; Editing by Alistair Bell, Richard Pullin, Jon Boyle and Nick Macfie)
Present Yourself as a ‘No Brainer’ to Hire
Canadian dollar falls as Canadian data shows economic momentum easing
Politics Briefing: Post-debate Nanos poll shows the Liberals ahead in Ontario – The Globe and Mail
GM extends EV Bolt production halt to mid-October
Canada’s Trudeau hammers main election rival’s COVID-19 approach
Goodbye Pfizer, hello Comirnaty: Top COVID-19 vaccines given brand names in Canada – CBC.ca
Trump's Big Lie is changing the face of American politics – CNN
Art show in Minto – Wellington Advertiser