What is plausible about Kevin Kuhnert’s withdrawal is that this job would probably have come too soon. Less obvious is what this has to do with Olaf Scholz.
Missed the curve to the left: Kevin Kuhnert Photo: reuters/Ralph Orlowski
Kevin Kuhnert does not want to become SPD leader – and has a good and a questionable reason for this. The obvious one is that this job would probably be too much too soon for the 30-year-old. The SPD is prone to intrigue, is already difficult to control in normal operations – and even more so in the panic mode in which it currently finds itself. Above all, however, the Juso leader would have raised rescue expectations that could only have been disappointed.
After all, no one suspects that Karl Lauterbach, Petra Kopping or Klara Geywitz will ad hoc light the way for the unsettled party. It would have been different with Kuhnert: He is not only eloquent, clever and tactically adept. He saw with the Groko question that it would plunge the SPD into an existential crisis, unlike the vast majority of the party’s left. Kuhnert embodies the unconsumed – and as party leader should have delivered immediately.
There is something dizzying about the drop between the acclaimed young star and the failed party leader.
It is less obvious that Kuhnert is not running in deference to Olaf Scholz. Rebel versus establishment, get-out-of-the-Groko versus carry-on, new versus old, left versus center – that would be too much polarization for the SPD, according to Kuhnert. This reflects a typical social democratic reluctance to make fundamental decisions.
Only a radical turnaround will help the SPD now
The SPD is a consensus machine that integrates internally and forges compromises technocratically. It has been a party of balance for at least 60 years. It was successful in this for a long time. Now, in an increasingly polarized public, it is no longer successful.
The only thing that can help the SPD now is a radical turnaround. It must make a decision. Will it remain a pale, middle-of-the-road government party, or will it take a turn to the left, even if that means a few comrades jumping ship?
Kuhnert doesn’t think the SPD can do that. That’s not good news.