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Jack Janes

Abstract

German-American relations have been impacted by the war in Ukraine for reasons that have to do with domestic and foreign policy challenges. Germany is struggling with its responsibilities to increased expectations in Washington and within the European Union. The responses in Berlin to the Russian invasion of Ukraine have resulted in tensions within Europe as Germany tries to shape its policies around what Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called the Zeitenwende (turning point) of German foreign policy. The u.s. has also signaled its expectations that Germany needs to be a partner in sharing the burden of confronting Russian threats in Ukraine and Europe. Another challenge for German-American relations is emerging around relations with China, which may generate friction across the Atlantic as the United States seeks to confront China on the global stage while Germany remains tightly connected to China as its largest trade partner. How and why Germany and the United States need each other is in transition.

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Stephen F. Szabo

Abstract

The new German government resulting from the 2021 Bundestag election will have to revise and reshape the legacy of the Merkel era's policies on Russia and China. Germany's own interests as a geoeconomic power will have to be balanced against concerns about the values of these two illiberal states and the strategic challenges they pose. The new coalition government in Germany will have to find consensus between three parties that hold often conflicting views, led by a team with little foreign policy experience.

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The Enduring Effect of Immigration Attitudes on Vote Choice

Evidence from the 2021 German Federal Election

Hannah M. Alarian

Abstract

Immigration attitudes have long been critical in predicting electoral behavior in Western Europe. Whether such attitudes will continue to motivate political behavior in the current pandemic environment is yet to be seen. This article addresses this topic by exploring immigration's prevalence and impact on Germany's 2021 Bundestag election. Combining evidence across multiple German election surveys, I find that immigration remains consequential in shaping political behavior throughout the country. In spite of immigration's reduced political salience, voters continued to view immigration as one of the most important political problems facing Germany. Moreover, immigration-minded voters were significantly more likely to support the Alternative for Germany on the far right and punish the Greens on the left. The article concludes that reducing immigration's salience will not necessarily change its influence over modern German elections.

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Inertia and Reactiveness in Germany's Russia Policy

From the 2021 Federal Election to the Invasion of Ukraine in 2022

Jonas J. Driedger

Abstract

Despite signs that Russia was preparing an invasion of Ukraine, the newly elected German government stayed with pre-existing approaches that involved engagement and the threat of limited sanctions. However, in February 2022, just before the invasion began, Germany blocked the Nord Stream 2 pipeline system, announced weapon deliveries to Ukraine, and massively increased defense spending. This article shows that inertia and reactiveness heavily influenced the timing, nature, and extent of this massive shift in Germany's Russia policy. German leaders continued the existing policy in part because it had been formed by still influential figures and was in line with societal views. However, at the dawn of the invasion, the failure of previous policies had become undeniable, pressure from Ukraine and nato allies peaked, and societal views finally shifted. Reacting to this untenable situation, key figures in the German elite pushed through a series of measures that nato allies and Ukraine had long demanded.

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The Pandemic Factor

The COVID-19 Crisis in the Alternative for Germany's 2021 Federal Election Campaign

Lars Rensmann and Thijs de Zee

Abstract

This article examines how and why the covid-19 pandemic featured as a central issue in the Alternative for Germany's 2021 Bundestag election campaign. Using a wide range of political communication tools, the radical right party's opposition to public health policies against the pandemic ranged from a critique of hygienic measures to hosting coronavirus denialism and conspiracy myths suggesting that “the elite” had manufactured “corona hysteria” to subjugate the German people. Mirroring its general radicalization process toward an anti-system movement party, the AfD's campaign primarily gave voice to an ideologically driven, conspiracist, and authoritarian-nationalist core electorate, which has its center of gravity in the East. In the environment of an emerging “pandemic divide,” the party also sought to appeal to a robust minority of corona skeptics. More generally, the AfD's campaign points to the still underresearched role of science denialism and conspiracy myths in radical right mobilizations of a counterfactual age.

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Reordering German Liberalism

Re-examining the Social Market Economy in the 2021 Bundestag Election

Mark I. Vail

Abstract

This article analyzes economic policy debates and parties’ policy positions during the 2021 Bundestag election campaign, with an emphasis on shifting conceptions of the economic role of the state. Focusing on fiscal and labor market policy, it argues that the election campaign and the commitments of the new Ampel coalition reflect increasing support for more robust state involvement in the economy. It argues further that these shifts in elite discourse demonstrate a continuing rethinking of Germany's economic model and the need to rebalance the relationship between public authority and the decentralized model of social organization and policy responsibility central to German liberalism.

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Carol Hager

Abstract

The climate crisis unfolded in real time during the 2021 Bundestag campaign, as western Germany experienced sudden, catastrophic flooding. The climate issue presented a varying and at times unexpected array of challenges and opportunities to the German political parties. In this article I will analyze the shifting role of climate change as it played out during the campaign, in the coalition discussions that followed, and in the first nine months of the new traffic light coalition government.

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Catalysts for Change

Small Parties in the 2021 Bundestag Election

David F. Patton

Abstract

In 2021, the small parties continued their electoral ascent in Germany. For the first time they received more votes than did the cdu/csu and the spd. Three finished with a double-digit result, and the combined vote share of the top two small parties exceeded that of the largest vote-getter. After the election, a novel three-party coalition arose at the national level. This resulted in a centrist alternative to grand coalitions and converted the electoral gains of the small parties into increased policymaking influence for the Greens and the fdp. This article considers the impact of the small parties, analyzes their success in 2021, and examines the campaigns, results, and prospects of Alliance 90/The Greens, the Free Democratic Party, the Alternative for Germany, and the Left Party.

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From Zero to Hero?

The Rise of Olaf Scholz and the SPD

Ed Turner, Davide Vampa, and Matthias Scantamburlo

Abstract

Germany's Social Democratic Party, the spd, was in government between 2013 and 2021, but until just weeks before the federal election of 2021, its electoral prospects seemed poor. The party was able to turn things around and surge, in the final period of the campaign, to a remarkable victory. This article sets out structural challenges faced by social democrats in Europe in general and in Germany in particular, focusing on policies and voters, coalition politics, and questions about party organization. It argues that in each area, the spd, with a mixture of sound strategic choices and good fortune, was to some extent able to extricate itself from the challenges it faced, and that its success owed much to the peculiarities of the 2021 election.

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Kanzlerwahlverein No More?

Failed Internal Coalition Building and the CDU/CSU's 2021 Campaign

Matthias Dilling

Abstract

In 2021, Germany's Christian Democrats suffered their worst election defeat in a post-war federal election. This article looks at the campaign that preceded this downfall. While the cdu's party congress in early 2021 showed favorable signs for a successful campaign, Armin Laschet, the newly elected party leader, missed the opportunity to unify the cdu's different wings and consolidate a coalition backing his leadership. This resulted in a damaging clash with the csu over the chancellor candidacy and ongoing internal disunity. Laschet attempted to rectify this very late in the campaign, but his team failed to integrate the cdu/csu's most important actors. The Christian Democrats were thus ill-equipped to respond to a difficult context and unexpected developments. Returning to its traditional factional integration will be paramount for the cdu/csu to rebound from this historic defeat.