Monday, January 23, 2012

The Times' Take

Steven Erlanger of the NY Times describes Hollande's speech of yesterday thus:
Mr. Hollande tried on Sunday to answer his critics with an impassioned if wandering speech about his conception of the presidency, shouting himself hoarse as he talked about resuscitating “the French dream” of a better life built on equality, justice and secularism.
“The French dream is confidence in the future, in democracy,” he said. He emphasized better education, and said that if he were to be judged on one thing, he would want it to be whether the lives of French youth were better in 2017, at the end of the next presidential term.
I have now watched enough of Hollande's presentation to agree by and large with Erlanger's account:  the speech was a valiant if meandering effort, the candidate shouted himself hoarse, all the Socialist elephants were lined up in support, and the crowd was more than enthusiastic. For a rather different take, self-avowedly "subjective," by an Hollande supporter, see Romain Pigenel's blog:

Un meeting réussi, c’est quand le bruit de la foule – les hourras, les cris, les « François Président », les « tous ensemble », toute cette liturgie de meeting – finit par devenir tellement continu, et tellement fort, qu’il couvre des passages entiers du discours du candidat, et que finalement personne ne s’en plaint, et qu’un sourire béat, un peu bête, illumine tous les visages, saisis par l’émotion magnétique du moment.
The reaction of the French press, meanwhile, seems generally positive, along the lines of Gérard Courtois's column:
Trois défis attendaient M. Hollande au Bourget : séduire, rassembler, convaincre. Autant le dire simplement : il les a relevés. Evidemment, un tel rassemblement militant – 20 000 personnes autour de leur champion – est, presque par définition, enthousiaste et fervent. Donc aisément trompeur.

It is tempting to provide a phenomenological commentary on the self-willed transformation  of what Sartre would have called "the serio-practical inert" into "the group-in-fusion," but I will resist the temptation. I have on occasion been caught up in this kind of collective enthusiasm. It's a heady feeling while it lasts, but it frequently ends in disappointment. In this case disappointment may come either before or after the election, but the apparent elation of yesterday's crowd will soon have to face the reality of campaigning and perhaps governing in a worsening economic climate with few ideas of how to reverse the decline evident among any of the candidates. including Hollande.

Two more positive reactions, from the left and the right. And a negative from the right. And more from the left. And still more. This last post suggests that Hollande appealed successfully to those to the left of him by making his "real enemy" the "world of finance." This sort of rhetoric leaves me cold, but evidently it's not without effect.