Despite his enthusiasm and great ambitions, he did not immediately enter politics. He first studies law and works as an employment lawyer for several years. At that time, shortly after the fall of the Wall, state-owned enterprises are being privatized on a large scale in East Germany. Scholz advises the works councils of those companies on the arrangements for employees who lose their job. He leaves politics for what it is. “During that time, I reconsidered many of my views,” he would later say in an interview with Der Spiegel say. “I detoxified myself.”
He returns to politics, but his views are more moderate, he becomes more pragmatic. He climbs up within the party, becomes mayor of Hamburg, among other things. There he tackles the housing shortage and, by negotiating himself, succeeds in restoring the broken construction of the Elbphilharmonie, which has since become a tourist attraction. He then becomes the country’s Minister of Employment and then of Finance, and Vice-Chancellor under Angela Merkel.
There are also blemishes. As mayor of Hamburg, he underestimated the protests around the G20 summit in his city, which could get out of hand. While he was Secretary of the Treasury, much went wrong in settling the Wirecard scandal. His ministry was also recently searched in an investigation into errors in dealing with money laundering cases.
He is also not always popular within his party. In 2019, he and another party member are running for the presidency. The duo loses. Party members would find him, among other things, too technocratic, too pragmatic and even right-wing. Scholz has a nickname: ‘the Scholzomat’. He is said to be robotic, does not give passionate speeches and shows little emotion. The newspaper Die Zeit declares him politically dead.
But as with all setbacks, Scholz is out of it. One of his employees is said to have left a note in his office, writes Der Spiegel, which reads: ‘Scholz’s First Law: We are never offended – we are never hysterical’. He manages to reconcile with the party and becomes a ‘kanzler candidate’.
It is precisely this mastery and, according to many Germans, dullness that helped him to win. Where his opponents fail, he remains calm. The scandals from his past don’t stick to him, maybe too complicated. There are enough Germans, seeking stability, who entrust him to fill the gap Merkel leaves behind.