Friday, May 25, 2007

Political language

Langue sauce piquante
is a blog maintained by the proofreaders of Le Monde. Students of political language will be interested in today's post regarding nicknames for the new justice minister, Rachida Dati, that have already gained some currency: "sarkozette" and "sarcosette." Both, the commentators note, have a somewhat condescending, not to say misogynist, ring, the first being a reference to the so-called "Juppettes," or ministresses (not my word) who served Alain Juppé until they were unceremoniously fired, and the latter an allusion to Victor Hugo's Cosette. The proofreaders go on to compare Mme Dati to "Condi," whom they seem to find sympa. For that judgment I leave them full responsibility. More interestingly, they speculate that Dati might some day become a rival to Sarko, just as Sarko turned on his benefactor Chirac (and Chirac on his patrons before him). On peut rêver.

Party Realignment

After May 6 one expected fissures in the Socialist Party and the UDF to widen. Chaos among the Greens is more surprising--or perhaps not, if the words of one disaffected Green are true: "The Green Party is a hornet's nest, violent in its treatment of members, and any head that stands out is likely to be lopped off." Another disaffected Green claimed to be "one who tried to renovate the party. In vain. It's paralyzed. Structurally, the way it works is to resist reform."

If there is drift at the moment from Green to MoDem, Bayrou's new centrist party, it seems unlikely to survive the legislative elections, where MoDem will probably not do well, owing to the scalp-saving defection of too many UDF deputies to the UMP.

The Voice of the Voiceless

In the final days of the presidential campaign, Ségolène Royal remarked that if Sarkozy won, there might be trouble in the suburbs. The remark drew criticism, but it no doubt voiced a fear shared by many. What trouble there was proved minimal, however, and soon dissipated.

When serious social violence erupts unexpectedly, it is common to look back and note the missed signs that an explosion was imminent. Perhaps unexpected calm deserves the same scrutiny.

On the FR2 evening news on May 23, David Pujadas interviewed the rapper Diam's. The name Diam's is probably unfamiliar to many readers of this blog, but she is currently the most popular singer in France. Her raps are sometimes political. One was aimed at Sarkozy, another at Marine Le Pen. She also appeared at a rally for Royal, but later expressed regret about this, saying that her political engagement was directed against certain candidates but not intended to be for anyone (a rapper's version, perhaps, of Pierre Rosanvallon's idea of "Counter-Democracy," the subject of his latest book, "Counter-Democracy: Politics in the Age of Distrust," which I'm currently translating). Pujadas reminded the entertainer of her attack on the new president and asked what she thought of his election. The people have spoken, she said, it's time to move on, adding, "It's not over yet, everything remains to be done." Pujadas then asked what she thought of the nomination of Rachida Dati. That was a good thing, she said with a look of surprise, but still ... it was time to move on.

What to make of this? Not too much, surely, but if the unexpected calm holds, perhaps I'll remember that moment on the evening of May 23 as a sign that the voiceless people for whom Diam's speaks were ready to move on and resigned to working with what they have while "doing what remains to be done." On the other hand, if it doesn't hold, I'll remind myself that hindsight always knows better than foresight which signs were worth attending to.