Those old enough to remember that Bill Murray had a career before Lost in Translation (or to remember Bill Murray) will instantly recognise this scene: Punxsutawney Phil is predicting six more electoral cycles of political misery for Germany’s Liberal Democrats. Granted that the animal is a bit on the small side, but first, This is not America, and second, the choice of rodent is rather apt: Aren’t we all guinea pigs when it comes to policy making?
Punxsutawney Phil predicting six more cycles of electoral Misery
The hopeful candidate molesting the furry bugger promises that he will listen, not ignore (whom?). He might change his mind once the beast sinks its front teeth into that yummy finger.
The Pirates are running a rather cheap electoral campaign: No faces (models or not) but only drawings in their trademark orange/blue tones. Their stinginess even extends to the meaning of their slogans. I was a bit thrown off by “Borders are so 80”, then discovered the small “er”, so borders are so 1980s, apparently. Well, yes, I get the implication for Europe. But why is there a “Herzschlag” (heartbeat? or heart attack???) between fear and courage, and why would that make me vote for the Pirates? I have a feeling that Literal Campaign Video Clips might become a thing very soon.
“Höhenflug” is the act of (figuratively) ascending to some higher plane (not an imminent danger here) but losing touch in the process. “Bodenhaftung” is literally grip (get one, please!) or traction, so best illustrated by sitting on a tractor. What better way to show that you are down to earth (pun intended) and in no way out of touch than riding this nifty little machine in your best dark suit, as any local farmer would? Bonus points for gratuitous use of “frischer Wind” (a breath of fresh air), quite possibly the most overused phrase in German politics and code for not being incumbent.
There may be a European election on, but around here, the big one is the local elections. In the plural: On my last count, I will have to vote for town mayor, town council, municipal mayor, municipal council, district council and perhaps even leader of the district council, though I’m not 100 per cent sure re the last one.
Important as they may be, local elections are the domain of the amateurs, as the old saying goes amongst German Political Scientist.1 To make things slightly worse, councillors are elected under an open list system (with not threshold), so there are some incentives to cultivate a personal vote, and quite some margin for error. So far, I have spotted few real howlers but then the Liberal Democrats (FDP), wiped out in the last Bundestag election and poised to do badly in the EP2014, decided to go for this year’s Bad Pun Award.
Another Campaign Poster from Hell
So the guy on the poster is literally fishing (or at least holding a rod while wearing a suit) in clear water (im Klaren, which, if you push it, could be read as a pun-within-the-pun on alcohol), as opposed to fishing in murky waters (im Trüben fishen). The latter used to mean “cheating” but has also acquired connotations of being lost. Say what?
But there is more. The candidate is also “ortsnah” (local, in a technical sense that never, ever applies to persons), as opposed to “weltfremd” (unworldly, stuck inside an ivory tower). One might argue that, on some level loosely attached to logic “ortsnah” and “weltfremd” are not exactly opposites but rather awkwardly related concepts. But quite possibly someone sensed a tension between “ort” (the local place) and “welt” (world) and decided that nothing says “local guy” quite like a misguided rhetorical flourish. With PR guys like this, who needs political enemies?
As we know from Political Communication 101, emotions rule, and help rule. Faith, hope, and charity remain essential tools for any orator worth his/her salt. Cute animals are ok, but cute children are way better. If you can use them not only to create a fuzzy feel-good factor but to deliver a substantive message, you have hit campaign gold. And by the way, this is the 21st century, so being a little subtle does not hurt either.
This short video produced for the centre-right, pro-Euro ND is therefore a little gem. During the first few seconds, an eager pupil rattles off the name of various European countries, and a very pleased-looking teacher states the obvious: they are all in the Eurozone. Then, the adorable little girl drops a bombshell: “Why not Greece?”. Our teacher remains silent. Everyone is silent. And the girl insists: “Why, Sir?”. More silence, then cut to message: We must not gamble with the future of our children (and therefore vote ND).
Everything about this spot is done so well that one could use it in class. The kids are squarely in the right age bracket: neither scary teenagers nor dumb toddlers. Their expression is exactly in the middle between incomprehension and accusation. I love the attention that was given to details: Included in the list of future Eurozone members are Spain and Portugal. If they could make it, why couldn’t we? And the teacher’s face is priceless: pain, shame, and perhaps guilt, because he failed to do the right thing back in 2012. The most intriguing thing is that so much is communicated in a pitch-perfect way without naming names.
Rather conveniently, the spot also fails to mention that the Grand Coalition could have lasted until autumn 2013, and that Greece is now in such a pickle because ND insisted on having early elections. It makes you wonder why a country that is so good at selling politics cannot do politics.