Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Rise of Mélenchon

Take a look at the poll comparator and focus on Jean-Luc Mélenchon's recent performance. He's up sharply in all the polls in recent weeks and is now approaching the 11% level. All the papers are repeating the story of Sarkozy's droitisation of his campaign and its success in taking votes from Marine Le Pen. But the real story of Sarko's convergence with Hollande, now confirmed by 3 polls, is that Mélenchon has been taking votes from Hollande. No one would have given him a chance to get 11% a couple of months ago, but there he is, a result of both his own dogged campaigning around the country and Hollande's dispiriting caution. For the second round, it doesn't matter. All, or nearly all, of Mélenchon's votes will go to Hollande by default, although there may be a substantial abstention. But it's a symptom of the listlessness of Hollande's campaign that Mélenchon is evidently peeling off voters who once thought they would go for the Socialist. This isn't a vote of adhesion to the extreme left; it's a protest vote against the Socialists, who aren't meeting the expectations of their rank and file. No surprise there. They haven't been meeting the expectations of the rank and file for decades. But it doesn't bode well for the future in case of a Socialist victory, and centrist voters may be paying attention. The last thing cautious middle-of-the-road types want is a Socialist who doesn't inspire respect in his own camp.

Hollande Plods On

In what might well be an unwitting summing up of Hollande's campaign to date, Le Monde wrote:
Ceux qui attendaient des surprises auront toutefois été déçus. Le candidat socialiste s'en est tenu, en effet, à une sorte de synthèse de ce qu'il avait déjà dit plusieurs fois ces derniers mois.
A mauvaise langue might even go so far as to say that the 75% tax on incomes over €1 million was announced as a sort of counter to this criticism: at least we couldn't say we'd heard this before. Not having anything new to say wouldn't be a major flaw if a coherent alternative to "more of the same" had been in place since 2007, or since the global collapse, or since the advent of the euro crisis, but that isn't the case. What Hollande is offering is not something new and different but a promise to be a bit better and, above all, a different manner of execution from the other guy's. There are signs that voters have begun to tire of this and are looking for something a little more robust from the candidate that a good many of them would like to vote for if only he would give them one good compelling reason. If he doesn't, he may find that the late-campaign onslaught, when Sarkozy veers back toward the center and starts pounding away with the heavy artillery of "realism" and "fiscal responsibility," is too much for him, especially with the enemy closing in recent polls to within hand-to-hand combat distance. There had better be one or two surprises up those gesticulating sleeves.

UPDATEA l'image de sa prestation àl'émission "Des paroles et des actes", jeudi, M. Hollande semble avoir pris le parti de continuer à éviter toute prise de risque. Pour certains, là est peut-être le problème. "Ça tourne à vide. Il a usé quasiment toutes ses cartouches. L'équipe avait quand même théorisé l'idée que la présidentielle était gagnée et qu'il fallait en faire le moins possible", s'inquiète anonymement un responsable du PS, qui ajoute : "François fait semblant de faire campagne. Il fait du François Hollande."

UMP Reaches the Godwin Point

Jacques Béhague, UMP VP of the conseil général of Hautes-Pyrénées, has touched the Godwin Point:
"J'accuse Monsieur Hollande de faire renaître ces mêmes haines qui ont conduit l'humanité dans ce que nous avons connu de plus effroyable et de nauséabonde,poursuit-il, tout dans la mesure. J'accuse monsieur Hollande de prôner le nettoyage ethnique de tous ceux qui auraient le malheur de 'trop' gagner d'argent, soit par la confiscation de leurs biens et de leurs revenus, soit par l'incitation à l'émigration."
To be sure, Béhague is neither the first nor the highest UMP official to compare the Socialist candidate to Hitler: a smiling Claude Guéant already observed that the Front National was both "national" and a "Socialist." Of course the PS had already accused Guéant of being a Nazi for his remarks about a hierarchy of "civilizations."

Boys will be boys.

Germany Overcomes Its Reluctance to Lead

With news that Angela Merkel is pressing her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, to assume the chairmanship of the Eurogroup, as the collective gathering of 17 Eurozone finance ministers is known, it is apparent that Germany is overcoming any reluctance to assume a public leadership role in the resolution of the euro crisis. To be sure, Germans haven't been exactly bashful to date, but it has been said that Germany preferred to "lead from behind," to borrow a phrase, because it didn't want to arouse undue resentment in smaller states by throwing its weight around. Meanwhile,
France outraged other shareholders in the bank this last week by making a move to install its own candidate at the top of the bank, according to two people briefed on the matter. That prompted Britain and Poland to nominate their own candidates.