marin17_Clemens Bilan - PoolGetty Images_olafscholz Clemens Bilan/Pool/Getty Images

How Olaf Scholz Won Germany

In the space of just months, Olaf Scholz has completely reversed the Social Democrats' decade-long decline. By running on a message of dignity and respect for all workers, the party has adapted to the current moment and managed to siphon voters away from just about every other party.

MUNIUCH – Olaf Scholz and the Social Democrats came out on top in Germany’s federal election with 25.7% of the vote, narrowly edging out outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which received 24.1%.

It was an astonishing victory for a party that polled at around 14-15% just four months ago, when Scholz proclaimed his intention to become Germany’s next chancellor. At the time, his announcement sounded rather bold, even fanciful, considering that the SPD had come to be regarded as an irreparably damaged and diminished party. For years, the party had been hemorrhaging more and more of its traditional working-class and middle-class base. Now, some of those losses have been reversed.

How did Scholz pull off this electoral surprise? A partial hint can be found in the SPD’s crisp campaign slogans: “Soziale Politik für Dich” (“A social policy for you”) and “Respekt für Dich” (“Respect for you”). In the party’s online debates about its electoral program, the overarching message that emerged was that Scholz has a “plan for the future,” and knows how to win back votes from the populists. The party’s focus will be on “respect,” “dignity,” the “future,” and a “sovereign Europe.” It is not for those “who think they are better.”

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