No doubt about it: Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the phenomenon of the 2012 presidential campaign. So many people are turning out to hear his speeches that the Front de Gauche is having to take out unanticipated loans to cope with the crowds.
A few months ago, all the talk was about Marine Le Pen. Would she keep Sarkozy out of round 2? How much of the working-class vote would she attract? Mélenchon has created a new dynamic, however, ex nihilo. It's a phenomenon that bears analysis, but so far there are few data to go on.
I know of no good sociological breakdown of the Mélenchon electorate. How many of the folks in these crowds are workers? How many ex-NPA or ex-LO? How many disaffected Socialists? How many curiosity-seekers turned off by Hollande's hunkered-down say-nothing make-no-waves campaign? How many aficionados of le verbe politique, dazzled by Mélenchon's rhetoric? How many nostalgics for the good old days when France had parties that believed in "revolution?" How many would-be buveurs de sang et bouffeurs de curé aroused by Laurence Parisot's denunciation of Mélenchon as a "terrorist?" How many anti-EU, anti-globalization, 2005 non voters, Sixth Republic fans, or disappointed Montebourgeois? How many anti-Sarkozystes primaires who simply want the most vociferous of the president's detractors? And how many, finally, voters sincerely convinced that Mélenchon has hit upon the right combination of policies to lead France out of the crisis, restore growth, reduce unemployment, and put state finances back on an even keel?
And what if some enterprising TV host arranged for a debate between Mélenchon and Cohn-Bendit? Amateurs of les grandes gueules politiques would be sure to tune in in large numbers. How about it, Ruquier or Ardisson?