For Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the Left in France is demoralized. He blames several things. First, there is the familiar refrain that social democracy across Europe is out of fresh ideas. Second, François Hollande has alienated the working class by failing to keep promises to protect failing firms, reform the tax system, etc. And finally, the Right, he believes, has renewed itself with the agitation over the gay marriage issue and the defense of "family values."
Is this the beginning of yet another cycle in which France follows the US with roughly a ten-year delay? I think not. The dynamics in France are quite different. Despite the large demonstrations, I do not believe that the anti-gay marriage forces represent a broad political base. It has been sobering to see the large numbers of young people from the posher quarters who say that they have discovered the joys of political demonstration for the first time. As Cohn-Bendit notes, however, we have seen such mobilizations before, most notably in 1984, around educational reform issues. Although some new members of the political class were recruited via this channel, the demonstrations of that year did not fundamentally reshape the political landscape. I don't expect this time to be different. And I find it hard to believe that large numbers of Frenchmen can envision either Frigide Barjot or Tugdual Derville as national leaders.