Pioneer Briefing US Edition

Habeck for Chancellor?


Good Morning,

Most living creatures are genetically trimmed for energy efficiency. They save calories and muscle power to survive. Birds, for example, use thermals to soar so they don't have to flap their wings constantly.

Politicians, on the other hand, operate differently. They constantly flap their wings, expending energy excessively. A great example of this is Economics Minister Robert Habeck.

Robert Habeck © dpa

Between his staged breakfast ritual on WDR ("This morning I had muesli with water, no joke,") and buying gas from the Emir of Qatar, the Vice Chancellor always finds time for his video projects. Habeck in Algiers. Habeck on a factory tour. Habeck's message to the farmers.

The video "Habeck wants to become Chancellor" is already in the works, at least in his mind. Habeck can’t afford to let his cabinet colleague and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock take the lead again in the upcoming Bundestag elections. This time, the slogan is: Robert first.

However, according to all opinion polls, this "I-will-be-chancellor" energy will witness a significant decline by election day at the latest. This week, Forsa measured the lowest approval rating for the Greens since June 2018 at 12 percent — if you look at all eligible voters, including the large cohort of non-voters, only 9 percent of adults would currently vote for the Greens. Dreams of having a Green chancellor are unlikely to come true.

Here are the six reasons why:

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: The Ups and Downs of the Greens

Percentage of eligible voters who have voted for the Greens in federal elections since 1980

1. Failure of Energy Policy

Initially, good poll numbers after the formation of the Traffic Light Coalition declined due to an energy policy that the majority of voters still consider wrong.

One year after the shutdown of all nuclear power plants in Germany, a clear majority of 58 percent of all eligible voters consider this phase-out to be wrong. According to the latest Forsa survey, 64 percent blame the higher electricity prices on the nuclear phase-out.

Ricarda Lang, Federal Chairwoman of Bündnis 90/Greens © imago

Even among Green supporters, 37 percent share this opinion. This means that Robert Habeck and Ricarda Lang couldn't establish their narrative ("We don't have an electricity problem") in the public debate.

2. Economic Security Before Climate Policy

The Traffic Light Coalition, particularly the Greens, has failed to notice and acknowledge that most people have shifted their focus regarding the German political agenda. Voters are increasingly concerned about rising retail prices, the growing scarcity and costliness of housing and the shrinking economy.

In April 2024, half of Germans see the economic situation as Germany's biggest problem. About 16 percent are concerned about the extent of right-wing extremism. Only 13 percent see the dangers of climate change as a political priority for Germany.

The Green political platform contradicts demand and needs to be more in sync with the economic situation.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: Green Issues on Decline

Poll: The biggest problems in Germany in April 2024, in percent

3. Rising Discontent with the Decision to Arm Ukraine

Fifty-three percent of Germans believe that the West should urge Ukraine to open discussions on ending the war and start negotiations with Russia. As a result, the Greens' support for Selenski's freedom fight - and thus for the delivery of tanks, aircraft and the Taurus cruise missile - is losing its appeal.

Volodymyr Selensky © dpa

What was initially perceived by voters as courageous is now seen as annoying and stubborn.

4. Leaving the Center

The "typical" Green voter is young, female, highly educated and left-leaning. The Greens would get almost three times as many votes from 18 to 29-year-olds as those over 60. Civil servants are three times more likely to vote Green than blue-collar and self-employed workers.

However, rural areas and workers are largely lost to the Greens.

5. The End of Harmony

The harmonious political style of Baerbock and Habeck's new leadership duo initially contributed significantly to the Greens' rise. However, increasing alienation and rivalry are likely to have the opposite effect.

Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock © imago

An open power struggle - for example, over the purely decorative title of "chancellor candidate" - would damage both actors.

Armin Laschet and Markus Söder  © dpa

On the left, people are used to political battles in front of big audiences. This style of politics is less popular in the center. After the debate between Armin Laschet and Markus Söder, the center was unamused, leading to the defeat of the Christian Democrats/Social Unions (CDU/CSU) in the 2021 federal election.

6. Struggle with the FDP

The ongoing conflict with Finance Minister and Federal Democratic (FDP) leader Christian Lindner doesn't win the Greens any points. The middle-class section of their voters attaches great importance to sound public finances and does not want to see the debt spiral. They have little use for an ecologically planned economy.

Christian Lindner © imago

Even if these voters don't switch to the FDP, they seek alternatives. The demographic that used to support the Greens is now bolstering the CDU's popularity.

In this context, Economics Minister Habeck's performance could improve. Rather than leading a green economic revolution, Germany is bringing up the rear among industrialized nations. Habeck is not presenting himself to middle-class voters as the torchbearer of a new era, but as a man with a lantern.

Robert Habeck © The Pioneer

Forsa CEO Manfred Güllner sums up the inconvenient truth for the Greens:

The Greens have reverted to their traditional status as a party representing the upper tiers of education and income, particularly within the spheres of the public sector and media.

Manfred Güllner © imago

In other words: from the point of view of efficiency, the party could do without its own candidate for chancellor.

  • Suspicion of espionage: Two men with German-Russian citizenship have been arrested in Bayreuth on suspicion of spying for Russia.

  • Active ETF: Since yesterday, three funds from US star investor Cathie Wood have been authorized for trading in Germany.

  • Caspar David Friedrich: In honor of his 250th birthday, a major exhibition on the work of the most important German romantic painter opens today for the first time at the Alte Nationalgalerie Museum in Berlin.

Rising smoke after Israeli airstrikes on Rafah © dpa

Earlier this month, seven people were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza that targeted the humanitarian organization World Central Kitchen.

The question arises: Was this an isolated incident, or is the safety of humanitarian organizations at risk in this war zone?

I discussed this with Gerda Hasselfeldt, President of the German Red Cross, on the Pioneer Podcast. She said:

There is a terrible shortage of everything. Food, drinking water, sanitation, medical care—it's all lacking. Some hospitals are no longer functioning; others can't perform surgeries. And above all, there's a glaring lack of security.

Click here to listen to today’s episode of the Pioneer Podcast.

We also discussed the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, particularly in the southern city of Rafah. Hasselfeldt described the problem as follows:

The escalation hasn't slowed down noticeably yet. Nevertheless, persistent efforts are essential to continue drawing attention to this humanitarian catastrophe.

AfD politician Björn Höcke in the courtroom of the Halle Regional Court © dpa

Trial begins: Yesterday, the first of a presumably four-day-trial against Björn Höcke began in Halle, and our colleague Jan Schroeder is reporting from the scene. The AfD politician from Thuringia is accused of using a slogan forbidden by the German penal code.

During election campaign speeches in Merseburg and Gera, Höcke chanted the banned slogan of the Sturmabteilung (SA) "Alles für Deutschland" (Everything for Germany). The SA, then known as the "Brownshirts" of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), was Adolf Hitler's paramilitary force.

Björn Höcke during an election rally in Saxony-Anhalt © dpa

The trial was adjourned shortly after noon, around 1:20 p.m. Previously, Höcke's defense had filed several absurd motions to delay the proceedings. For example, his lawyer, Ulrich Vosgerau, initially requested a postponement, claiming he had another appointment.

Prosecutor Benedikt Bernzen was visibly annoyed: "The trial dates have been coordinated with you for months." Bernzen stated that in his entire career, he had never experienced so many interruptions before reading the indictment. He described the behavior of the defense as "outrageous.”

Political scientist Johannes Hillje sees the "Trump method" in Björn Höcke's approach. According to Hillje, Höcke and Trump misuse their respective court cases as "campaign tools," as he told my colleague, Jan Schroeder. The far-right politician wants to use the trial as a stage. Hillje says:

Höcke is playing for time.

Donald Trump in the criminal court of Manhattan © imago

Similar to Trump, Höcke urged his Telegram followers to contribute funds to help him "overcome financial obstacles." The purpose:

Fighting for freedom of speech.

Kiev: Volodymyr Zelensky receives Robert Habeck at the presidential palace. © dpa

Habeck traveled to Kyiv with a business delegation that included representatives of the defense contractor Rheinmetall. The focus was on Russia's recent attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure, emergency aid, Ukraine's economy and economic relations with Germany.

Following Habeck's arrival, a Russian airstrike occurred, preceded by drone attacks in seven regions the night before, including the area where Habeck was located. The minister stressed the need for Germany's "persistent and unwavering support" not only for Ukraine but also for Europe:

Yes, Ukraine is fighting for its own self-determination, for its territorial integrity against Putin's aggression, but it is also fighting for the values that unite and define Europe.

Sergei Nechayev, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Germany © dpa

Suspected spies: In Bayreuth, two men with German-Russian citizenship were arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia. The Foreign Office has summoned the Russian ambassador, as Annalena Baerbock writes on X:

The suspicion that Putin is recruiting agents here to carry out attacks on German soil is very serious. We will not allow Putin to bring his terror to Germany. This was communicated to the Russian ambassador today.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock © imago

The accusation: The Federal Prosecutor's Office has already charged several people with spying for Russia - however, these cases had nothing to do with the preparation of explosive attacks. One suspect is accused of being willing to plan and carry out attacks primarily on German industrial and military facilities. And: for the sabotage of Germany's military support for Ukraine.

Nancy Faeser describes the case in the interview as "a severe form of suspected espionage for Putin's regime," but she also emphasizes that they have been prepared for such cases since the beginning of the conflict.

Cathie Wood © imago

As of yesterday, three funds managed by US star investor Cathie Wood have been approved for trading in Germany. Wood is known for her focus on disruptive tech companies, risky investment style and sometimes extremely strong performance.

All three funds are active ETFs. These are funds that can be traded daily on the exchange, offer a high level of transparency and have a relatively low cost structure. Unlike most passive ETFs, which simply track an index like the DAX, Wood actively selects stocks. Unlike actively managed mutual funds, investors do not have to buy the funds through an investment company.

Full Risk: Woods' flagship, the ARK Innovation ETF, generated a return of over 300 percent from the March 2020 low to February 2021. In the subsequent bear market, the fund gave back much of its gains.

Tech Mix: For risk-averse investors, the new funds may still be an option. Florian Berberich, head of sales at ARK Invest in Germany, told our colleague Philipp Heinrich:

The Nasdaq is underinvested in the disruptive technology leaders of tomorrow. At ARK Invest, we are trying to close that gap.

ARK's key focus areas include AI, robotics, blockchain, genome sequencing and battery storage. According to Berberich, the overlap with the Nasdaq is only five percent.

"The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" by Caspar David Friedrich (around 1817) © imago

To celebrate the 250th birthday of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), the most important German painter of the Romantic era, a major exhibition of his work opens today at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

The exhibition Infinite Landscapes, in collaboration with the Cabinet of Prints and Drawings (Kupferstichkabinett) of the Berlin State Museums, will run through August 4th. Visitors can expect 60 paintings and 50 drawings from various countries, including well-known masterpieces such as "Monk by the Sea" and "Abbey in the Oak Forest."

"Chalk cliffs on Rügen" by Caspar David Friedrich (1818) © imago

Caspar David Friedrich embodies the typical image of a Romantic artist: introverted, timid, deeply connected with nature and filled with religious fervor. His passion for medieval themes was partly inspired by his friend Goethe.

"Woman at the Window" by Caspar David Friedrich (1822) © imago

Revival: The painter's death nearly drove him into obscurity. It took some fifty years before he was rediscovered. Hugo von Tschudi's legendary Berlin Century Exhibition in 1906, also at the Alte Nationalgalerie, brought him back into the limelight. And now we are witnessing the rediscovery of the rediscovery. Or as the philosopher Novalis (real name: Friedrich von Hardenberg) said at the time:

The world must be romanticized, that's how you find the original meaning again.

Wishing you a wonderful start to your weekend. Stay informed. Stay with me.

Best wishes,

Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer
  1. , Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer

Editorial Team

Eleanor Cwik, Alexia Ramos Gonsen, Lukas Herrmann, Nico Giese & Paulina Metzler

With contributions from Claudia Scholz, Philipp Heinrich & Jan Schroeder

Translation Team

Eleanor Cwik & Alexia Ramos Gonsen

Graphics Team

Aaron Wolf (Cover Art)


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