For party leader Saskia Esken, politics is no problem in Corona times: it feels comfortable on the Internet. In the SPD, however, her style caused skepticism.
If you want to know from party colleagues who the SPD co-chair Saskia Esken is spending a lot of time with, you will not be given a name, but will hear: “With your cell phone”. Whether in the meetings of the parliamentary group or the rounds of the party leaders – participants report that there is hardly a meeting that they do not tap on. She tweets her views from meetings; At the beginning of March, for example, when it came to the admission of refugee children from Greek camps and they called for more effort from Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
Esken argues on the Internet, for example for her idea of a special levy for the wealthy to later finance the costs of the corona crisis: “We have a different understanding of standing together,” she said to CDU Bundestag colleague Jan-Marco Luczak, who Proposal for “absolutely wrong” holds. Anyone who addresses them can count on an answer, no matter how important she or he is. This applies even to those who “kick their shins”, as she once wrote. One asked where the SPD leaders were in Corona times, so little was heard from them; unlike Family Minister Franziska Giffey or Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. Esken replied, “I’m here. What can I do to help?”
“This is their thing right now,” says a companion about the current situation
Some politicians experience these days and weeks as a long dry spell because the corona crisis has torn them out of their routines: suddenly no more massive appearances in front of a large audience, no long evening appointments or committee meetings with cookies and coffee. And there is Saskia Esken, who copes well with the circumstances in which politics can still be done because she has done politics before. She doesn’t need anything else: she is more comfortable with the appearances in front of the press after committee meetings at the party headquarters. Through her speech at the political Ash Wednesday in Bavaria, she and her audience struggled through equally.
The time now? “This is her thing right now,” says one person who has a lot to do with her in everyday life.
Esken is an experiment for the SPD in many ways as party leader, not only because she had little leadership experience for such a task. No SPD boss had ever been on the road so digitally, so unfiltered.
Co-boss Walter-Borjans was often surprised by her tweets, the duo looked unrequested
For her co-chairman Walter-Borjans, but also for her predecessors, Andrea Nahles, Martin Schulz or Sigmar Gabriel, the big interview is more important than the quick tweet. Esken, on the other hand, broadcasts on their channel without their consultants having a say. This has advantages: It looks authentic, it creates a closeness to people with whom the SPD would otherwise find it difficult to address them and win them over.
The SPD is an aging party. On average, its members are 60 years old. There are risks involved: Walter-Borjans has been surprised by their statements time and time again, sometimes they contradict his. Then it looked as if the double point was not coordinated. And the SPD cannot use that right now.
Critics say they lose sight of the essentials
Internally Esken is very skeptical. They get bogged down, it is said, through Twitter lose sight of the essentials, fail to do what it should be about: leading the party.
Large parts of the party base are still alien with Esken and Walter-Borjans. Because both have so far hardly managed to lead the SPD out of the survey depth. The Union, on the other hand, gains strength from the Chancellor’s crisis management in Corona times.
By contrast, Walter-Borjans and Esken have a different perception. They consider themselves to be very popular – especially from the Internet. This may come as little surprise to Esken. With her past as a digital politician and especially with her resistance to upload filters, she built up a fan base before her time as party leader on the Internet.
The fact that she and Walter-Borjans made it to the top of the party ultimately goes back to the commitment of the party youngsters from the Jusos and a massive campaign in social networks. Under normal circumstances, the SPD would have had to struggle with a debate as to whether the two at the top are the right ones.
But what is normal in these times.