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Den großen Wurf ist die Politik schuldig geblieben

Should it not be der Politik (dative) – as in the construction jdm etwas schuldig bleiben? Or, is this a typo error?

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The ‘dictionary construction’ jdm etw schuldig bleiben only contains the objects of the phrase. As you probably know, it means to fall short on something, to not deliver something to someone. The accusative object is whatever it is that is lacking while the dative object is the intended recipient.

But as with most verbal phrases, there should also be a subject, the person who failed to deliver. And as with most subjects, it is in nominative case.

In the example sentence, den großen Wurf is obviously accusative and your question hinges on the case of Politik. Well, they are the ones who didn’t deliver (not the ones who should receive the delivery) so the word must be in nominative: die Politik. A recipient is never mentioned (some objects can be left out).

Thus, the sentence is correct.

  • Thank you. I realise only now that the subject is missing in the construction "jdm etw schuldig bleiben" so one could say "Ich bleibe Ihnen eine Erklärung schuldig." My confusion lies in who/what owes whom/what and of course that determines the case. z.B.Mir bleibt eine Erklärung schuldig (Acc. fehlt.) or returning to the construction of my original sentence from "der Spiegel" "Eine Erklärung (Acc.)bin ich schuldig geblieben." Oder?? – Ian Armstrong Oct 13 at 22:24
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    I suppose archaic language would express mediopassive with a self reflexive pronoun, to leave the recipient undefined. However, this today would be understood literally self reflexive, they owe it to themselves. Another possibility would be "us", which is but too ambiguous as to who is in the in group. Hence it is simply elided. "schuld haben" is also frequently not transitive. "schuld an etwas haben" is always dative, "er hat schuld an dem problem", although akkusative "er hat Schulden an die Bank" also exists (which was first?). ... – vectory Oct 13 at 23:13
  • ... imaginably, both akkusativ and dativ object were once one and the same, "er hat schuld an die witwe", yes? – vectory Oct 13 at 23:14
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    @IanArmstrong Thinking more about this construction, I’m arriving at the conclusion that subject and accusative are required but dative is not. In lieu of a subject, I think a passive construction (Mir ist eine Erklärung schuldig maybe?) would be preferred. – Jan Oct 14 at 3:45
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In

Den großen Wurf ist die Politik schuldig geblieben.

die Politik is as the subject in nominative. You can restructure the sentence as follows:

Die Politik ist den großen Wurf schuldig geblieben.

(As Janka pointed out in the comments:)

There is no dative object, as it's the people.

  • And there is no dative object, as it's the people. – Janka Oct 12 at 22:31
  • Exactly. Thanks @Janka. – Olafant Oct 12 at 22:42
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It shouldn't, because "Den großen Wurf" is in Akkusativ and not Nominativ, and as such is not the subject of the sentence, but an object. Note that German word order is quite flexible except for the position of the verb.
Please see Olafant's answer for more.

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