Episode 18: Hamburg as Barometer: What’s Happening in German Politics

Eric Langenbacher

Senior Fellow; Director, Society, Culture & Politics Program

Dr. Eric Langenbacher is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Society, Culture & Politics Program at AICGS.

Dr. Langenbacher studied in Canada before completing his PhD in Georgetown University’s Government Department in 2002. His research interests include collective memory, political culture, and electoral politics in Germany and Europe. Recent publications include the edited volumes Twilight of the Merkel Era: Power and Politics in Germany after the 2017 Bundestag Election (2019), The Merkel Republic: The 2013 Bundestag Election and its Consequences (2015), Dynamics of Memory and Identity in Contemporary Europe (co-edited with Ruth Wittlinger and Bill Niven, 2013), Power and the Past: Collective Memory and International Relations (co-edited with Yossi Shain, 2010), and From the Bonn to the Berlin Republic: Germany at the Twentieth Anniversary of Unification (co-edited with Jeffrey J. Anderson, 2010). With David Conradt, he is also the author of The German Polity, 10th and 11th edition (2013, 2017).

Dr. Langenbacher remains affiliated with Georgetown University as Teaching Professor and Director of the Honors Program in the Department of Government. He has also taught at George Washington University, Washington College, The University of Navarre, and the Universidad Nacional de General San Martin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has given talks across the world. He was selected Faculty Member of the Year by the School of Foreign Service in 2009 and was awarded a Fulbright grant in 1999-2000 and the Hopper Memorial Fellowship at Georgetown in 2000-2001. Since 2005, he has also been Managing Editor of German Politics and Society, which is housed in Georgetown’s BMW Center for German and European Studies. Dr. Langenbacher has also planned and run dozens of short programs for groups from abroad, as well as for the U.S. Departments of State and Defense on a variety of topics pertaining to American and comparative politics, business, culture, and public policy.



Jeffrey Rathke

Jeff Rathke

President of AGI

Jeffrey Rathke is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining AICGS, Jeff was a senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at CSIS, where his work focused on transatlantic relations and U.S. security and defense policy. Jeff joined CSIS in 2015 from the State Department, after a 24-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, dedicated primarily to U.S. relations with Europe. He was director of the State Department Press Office from 2014 to 2015, briefing the State Department press corps and managing the Department's engagement with U.S. print and electronic media. Jeff led the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was deputy chief of staff to the NATO Secretary General in Brussels. He also served in Berlin as minister-counselor for political affairs (2006–2009), his second tour of duty in Germany. His Washington assignments have included deputy director of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs and duty officer in the White House Situation Room and State Department Operations Center.

Mr. Rathke was a Weinberg Fellow at Princeton University (2003–2004), winning the Master’s in Public Policy Prize. He also served at U.S. Embassies in Dublin, Moscow, and Riga, which he helped open after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Rathke has been awarded national honors by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as several State Department awards. He holds an M.P.P. degree from Princeton University and B.A. and B.S. degrees from Cornell University. He speaks German, Russian, and Latvian.



Julian Mueller-Kaler

Atlantic Council

Julian Mueller-Kaler is a Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center and also researches global trends in the Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative. At the Council, Julian works for Dr. Mathew Burrows, studies the implications of emerging technologies on society & politics, and leads the GeoTech Center’s efforts to evaluate China’s role as a global citizen. He graduated as a Fulbright-Schuman scholar from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service with an MA in European and Diplomatic Studies and holds a BA in Politics and International Relations from Zeppelin University, where he studied with scholarship from the Leadership Excellence Institute Zeppelin and the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation. During his tenure at Georgetown he acted as co-chair for the 2019 Transatlantic Policy Symposium and worked as a consultant in the office of the German Executive Director at the World Bank Group. Originally from Sommerach, Germany, Julian served as president of the Club of International Politics, worked at the German Bundestag, the political affairs department of Deutsche Bahn AG, and the German Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal. In addition to an ongoing doctorate at the Geschwister Scholl Institute for Political Science at LMU Munich, he is affiliated with the Americas Program at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin.

He was a 2017-2018 participant in AICGS’ project "A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation: Global Responsibility, Joint Engagement," sponsored by the Transatlantik-Programm der Bundesrepublik Deutschland aus Mitteln des European Recovery Program (ERP) des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi).

On Sunday, Hamburg voters went to the polls for what is the only (scheduled) regional election in Germany this year. Recent regional elections have served as a barometer for the political parties on the national level and offer insights ahead of the planned 2021 federal election. High voter turnout in Hamburg suggests that citizens are engaged and are paying attention to the issues going into 2021.

View the polls.

On this episode of The Zeitgeist, AGI’s Jeff Rathke and Eric Langenbacher are joined by Julian Mueller-Kaler to discuss the outcome of the Hamburg election. They discuss how the Volksparteien performed in Hamburg and whether the parties can adapt to the new post-modern social cleavages following cultural and identity issues; if the Alternative for Germany’s lack of appeal suggests an east-west or rural-urban divide; and how growing support for the Greens could play out at the national level. They also look at how German politics is affecting European leadership, direction, and decision-making.


Jeff Rathke, President, AGI


Eric Langenbacher, Senior Fellow and Director, AGI Society, Culture & Politics Program
Julian Mueller-Kaler, Resident Fellow, Atlantic Council; Non-Resident Fellow, AGI

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.