Only the actual name of their candidate in next year’s election will be Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Schroeder man and current foreign minister. In what some see as having stepped back from the precipice just in the nick of time, and avoiding an ugly marriage of convenience with Germany’s radical Left Party, it could just be that the SPD’s popularity (or its lack of it up until now?) could jump to levels which might actually give Chancellor Merkel’s CDU a run for its money next year.

The good old SPD has actually only been looking old as of late, in other words. Quite literally from another era, founded as it was 145 years ago, its collectivist creed seems more than a bit out of place in today’s globalized world of individual players, a hard reality that has long since established a bridgehead on German soil, as well. The controversial Gerhard Schroeder, to his credit, recognized that the calcified German welfare state would only continue to function at all in a competitive world like this if reformed properly, and introduced legislation to address this need. He divided his party in two in the process, however. But the short knee-jerk flirt with the leftist utopians many disgruntled SPD purists undertook has now come to an abrupt end, with general support for the party having dropped to 20% recently. With Steinmeier and Franz Muentefering at the helm, the wayward flock appears to have come back to the middle-of-the-road.

Still lacking a clear message as to where they are going, the party will have to support Steinmeier, despite him being one of the architects of Schroeder’s reforms, as the most popular senior figure in the party. He is said to be against any form coalition with the Left Party, as is party boss Muentefering, and the SPD left will have no other choice but to support him because he is all that they have left. The party may two wings, but it has come to realize that it cannot fly with both of them.

Of course a possible SPD victory would also mean an even closer rapport with Putin’s Russia, if that’s imaginable (Medvedev is just following orders). Sadly, sizable percentages of the German population have no problem with a policy that appeases the Russians, another aspect of the Schroeder legacy, he being in effect Gazprom’s leading lobbyist in Berlin right now, for instance.

And being the Schroeder man that he is, it is only a matter of time before Steinmeier must begin the rhetoric about “emancipating” Germany and Europe from the United States and begin playing with the division between the pro- and anti-American factions in Europe, always a big vote-getter in Germany. But we’ve been there before, haven’t we? Anyway, even though the SPD may not have much of a chance of winning against Merkel with Steinmeier, or no chance at all, as the saying goes, they know that now is the time that they will have to use it.

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