Editor-in-chief Gregor Peter Schmitz takes a look at the new one starmagazine and talks about the debates that are occupying Germany this week.
Robert Habeck admires Barack Obama. At least he admired him once. In 2009, when Habeck was still an almost unknown Green Party politician from Schleswig-Holstein and Obama was the most powerful man in the world, Habeck spent time in Washington and from there wrote almost awe-inspiring columns about the “Miracle Obama”.
Since then, Habeck has experienced Obama moments himself, at least in the German version. He was able to jump into enthusiastic crowds during the election campaign; for a while he was seen as someone who struck a new tone in politics. There are other parallels too. Obama, the best-selling author, trusted in the power of words and great speeches. Habeck, the children’s book author, likes to give big speeches, partly because his boss, the Federal Chancellor, neither controls nor considers them necessary. Obama once tried as a social worker to bring ordinary people together. Habeck raves about people who work with their hands. He already discussed with angry farmers when his party colleague Annalena Baerbock was still lecturing on international law.
And yet Obama, like Habeck, is in danger of finding herself in tatters of her political career. The presidential primaries are beginning in the USA, but they no longer have anything in common with the optimism of 2008; they look like a final battle for democracy. “Obama’s triumph in Iowa showed faith in humanity. If Trump wins now, it will show how that faith will be destroyed,” writes the New York Times. And Habeck? He was harassed by angry protesters on a ferry, and he is currently polarizing like no other politician.
Did two great communicators fail to communicate? At the end of his term in office, after Trump’s election, Obama asked an employee: “What if we were wrong? If we underestimated how great the frustration is with too much change?” Habeck is also concerned with these questions; he likes to quote them. He has already described how, years ago, a man at Hamburg Central Station shouted to him that he had to be shot.
Both embody change so much that they themselves became targets. Obama, the global citizen who hung out with Hollywood stars, the intellectual. Habeck, the cool one, the fuzzy head, the heartthrob. Both have a certain tendency to complain that their good intentions are not sufficiently appreciated. But why do they divide people so much? Is it because of them, because of their government, or in Habeck’s case because of the disputed traffic lights? Or maybe it’s our political culture? Did the people not understand them, or did they not understand the people? My colleagues Veit Medick and Jan Rosenkranz met with the Vice Chancellor, a man who didn’t seem like he was under pressure at all – but sees our republic and democracy under massive pressure.
Who do we mean when we talk about this democracy? Aren’t we all democracy? Is there a need for a decent uprising when, as research by the Correctiv platform reveals, AfD members are discussing the “remigration” of millions of people? The Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy has found that many Germans prefer to withdraw into private life; they are tired of the many crises and debates. A new German Biedermeier, especially at a time when our democracy seems to be at stake? Our columnist Jagoda Marinić is stunned by such a development, she writes: “The AfD wants to expel migrants and Germans from the country. That could affect anyone. Anyone who wants to preserve democracy can no longer remain silent.” You can take exception to Marinić’s text, you can discuss it, you can find it alarmist or too harmless. But you should read it.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.