“Vote Willy!” Proclaimed many cultural figures in the 60s and 70s in Germany, urging to vote for the social democrat Willy Brandt. One of those figures was that of one of the best known intellectuals of the time, the Nobel Prize winner. of Günter Grass Literature.
“Let Helmut go!” They proclaimed three decades later, when the Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder was about to replace the Christian Democrat Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who had ruled Germany for 16 years. Culture had a say during the election campaign, among others, former Beatle Paul McCartney and filmmaker Martin Scorsese supported Schröder internationally.
How is the support of the cultural scene shaping up in this 2021 electoral campaign, ahead of the September 26 elections in Germany? Perhaps a little less noisy, but no less prominent for that. Climate change is one of the most important issues in this campaign, and it is no coincidence that cultural workers are increasingly speaking out in favor of Los Verdes and their candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock. Bela B. of the German punk rock band Die Ärzte published an election recommendation that was joined by more than 30 artists, including singer Judith Holofernes from the group Wir sind Helden, writer and musician Sven Regener, the author of best sellers Frank Schätzing, the film director Leander Haußmann and many others.
“Humanity is facing the greatest challenges in its history. The climate catastrophe, which is a consequence of human-made global warming, is not a threat, it is happening,” wrote Bela B., co-founder of the German punk rock band , in a Facebook post that, so far, has been shared 4,000 times and has had more than 9,000 “likes”.
Also the classical pianist Igor Levit recently announced that he wants to commit to the German ecological party during this election campaign, but did not say in what way. The other German parties have, of course, also the support of cultural figures. The writer Juli Zeh, for example, is sympathetic to the Social Democratic Party, like the famous German actress Iris Berben. Actress Ushi Glas supports the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), like her colleague Heiner Lauterbach, both very popular in Germany. DJ Paul van Dyk, meanwhile, surprised by revealing that he is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP). At first glance, his image as a techno music star does not reveal his support for liberals, who, because of their political and economic program, have the reputation of being the party of dentists and lawyers, rather than of artists.
The American actor George Clooney with the then senator Barack Obama. (2006).
New culture of political debate
However, in this political campaign in Germany there do not seem to be prestigious cultural figures like the writers Günter Grass and Martin Walser, or like Klaus Staeck, a renowned artist of political graphic design. The political arena has also changed.
“The voices of culture that speak out now are not necessarily great writers, but bloggers and influencers, like, for example, Rezo, extremely influential when it comes to shredding the CDU’s climate change program,” explains Joachim Helfer. to DW. This writer published in 2017 “Wenn ich mir etwas wünschen dürfte” (If I may wish something), a book in which intellectuals formulate their wishes to the political class.
In general, Helfer detects in the German cultural scene a refusal “to be hooked on the bandwagon of a certain party.”
“In the golden age of the 70s and 80s,” he says, electoral campaigns were, at heart, debates of a limited number of people who were reflected in the cultural sections of the big newspapers. “And that was a national debate . And everyone read the articles, “adds the writer.
“One for all, all for Willy”: election campaign poster for Willy Brandt in 1976.
Supporting Hollywood Celebrity Politicians
On the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States, Hollywood artists and musicians are less discreet when it comes to beating the drums for their favorites in politics. George Clooney, for example, spoke out in favor of Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama. Clint Eastwood endorsed Mitt Romney first and Donald Trump later. Ariana Grande publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders and Cher endorsed Joe Biden.
Such a massive intrusion of cultural figures into politics seems unthinkable in Germany in the 2020s. But what is the cause? “The most important difference is that in the United States the majority vote wins,” says Joachim Helfer. While in Germany the party that obtains the absolute majority, that is, more than half of the votes, wins in the United States. It is enough for a candidate to win the majority of the votes of the electorate of the respective states, under the slogan of “the winner takes all.” Then it can happen, as in the case of Donald Trump, that a candidate wins who did not get the most votes in percentage terms.
“That’s why many American citizens have the feeling that if ‘the other side’ wins they are no longer citizens of their country,” explains the author. “With such brutal polarization of the electoral system, in the end it is a question of survival”.
A question of survival – at least, of survival in the German chancellery – will be these elections for the conservative CDU. As of today, the results in polls for Christian Democrats are regrettable. In general, the outcome of these elections in Germany is still uncertain. Perhaps in the last curve before the elections, more representatives of the culture will call to vote for a certain party in the tradition of Günter Grass and others of his time.
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German elections 2021: which party do artists and intellectuals support? | Culture | DW