Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vide ou Trop-Plein?

Le Monde today publishes a major article on "The Left: Ideas for a Refoundation." After a rapid review of the bewildering array of think tanks, circles of reflection, clubs, and foundations that are toiling in the vineyards of the Left, the article, by Frédéric Joignot, goes on to focus on specific proposals by economists Philippe Aghion and Thomas Piketty and sociologist-political scientist Bruno Palier before concluding with a brief lament of the absence of a left-wing cultural policy. The latter is bizarrely opposed to the right's cultural policy, which is allegedly to distribute Carla Bruni's CD at meetings of the council of ministers. Passons.

I won't discuss the various concrete proposals because all have been mentioned in previous blog posts. Indeed, at this level, there is no dearth of ideas on the left. Ideas abound. What is lacking is a politician capable of picking and choosing among them, using them to shape a coherent message, articulating them in a form comprehensible to voters, defending them against the critiques of opponents on the right and rivals on the left. It is at this stage--the transition from ivory tower to stump and television studio--that the Left has fallen short.

Does the fault lie with the politicians, the intellectuals, or both? Or is it perhaps with the Left's own electoral base, socially divided and shaped by diverse traditions and sensibilities? However coherent in themselves, the ideas presented have been developed without strategic and tactical considerations in mind. Who will be the first to take this next step?