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Environment

Where Greens Rule

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Well, not exactly, but it seems that German greens have matured into a potent political force. I do think this Foreign Policy piece hypes their ascendancy, but there's no denying that greens have long been players in German politics in a way that is unimaginable in the U.S. And it appears they are now appealing to a broader swath of the German populace. What's their secret? According to the author of the Foreign Policy article, it's a mix of idealism and self-interest:

The new voters swelling party ranks -- young people born in the 1980s and thereafter, eastern Germans, previous non-voters, and scores of refugees fed up with the other parties -- are attracted not only to the Greens' pious promises to steward the planet, but also to their appealing plans for fostering economic growth. "Greens aren't traditionally credited with economic competency," [Reinhard] Bütikofer, [a Green EU parliamentarian] admits, but he argues that the party has played a large role in Germany's current economic rebound. The country is now reaping the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of "green jobs" -- 400,000 in the renewable-energy sector alone -- created from 1998 to 2005, when the Greens ran the government in coalition with the Social Democrats. "Voters previously inaccessible to us, like farmers across Germany or skilled craftsman, have benefited from environmentally driven innovation -- and they know it," he says, citing the sprawling wind farms that dot northern Germany. "We've built a strong case for a green economy while all of the other economic models have lost credibility."

This claim sounds exaggerated to me, but again the larger constrast with American greens, who are all but irrelevant, is striking. (Indeed, some policy analysts argue that environmentalism has been in a long death spiral.) While German greens are enlarging their constituency, their American counterparts remain stereotyped as tree-hugging elitists, who care more about saving imperiled critters than the bruised economy. Unfair or not, for all the success of American environmentalism in the last century, it still remains a botique movement that has never wielded the kind of political clout that German greens are crowing about now.

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