Friday, December 6, 2013

The Right-Wing Kaleidoscope

A few weeks ago, all the headlines were about the rapid disintegration of the center-right as it raced headlong in pursuit of the galloping Front National. This week, however, the bit and pieces of the fragmented Right seem to be recomposing themselves in new patterns, rather like a kaleidoscope. And the dominant color is by no means "bleu marine" but rather a sort of pallid powder blue. On the one hand we have the reconciliation of Juppé and Fillon, who fell all over each other extolling the suppression of personal ambition in favor of "the general interest," while on the other hand we have the newly reunited centrists led by Borloo and Bayrou forming an alliance with the UMP's NKM to divvy up the seats on the Paris city council.

All of which means that the presidential election is still a long way off. Juppé and Fillon may yet square off against each other, but first they have to keep Sarkozy from re-entering the ring and keep Copé's ambitions under control. So a tactical alliance is in order. And NKM will need all the help she can get to win in Paris, so putting a little water in her wine is a smart move for her (unless it's MoDem/UDI who are watering their wine, since NKM would seem from certain angles to stand to their left, if the left/right distinction has any meaning in this particular arena).


Mitch Guthman said...

I have a vague idea that there are two factors at work in the Paris election. One is that if you take national party affiliation out of the mix and focus on the issues of importance to Parisians, NKM looks to be the better and more appealing candidate for the left. I think people will be surprised at how she’s going to draw a lot of PS voters based on quality of life and anti-corporatist issues.

The other is that we may be seeing a local manifestation of the nationwide collapse of loyalty by the base of PS voters and that might be reflected in this election in significant defections to NKM.

Mitch Guthman said...

Nationally, I think the fact that it’s likely that MLP will make the second round dramatically changes the way candidates will approach the first round. If right wing or far-right voters see their preferred candidate as having a really good shot at making the second round, that’s whom they will vote for. They won’t be inclined to support the furthest right candidate of the UMP as a way of moving politics to the right.

After all, the only reason to vote for somebody who courts you with coy little “dog whistles” and “symbolic gestures” is if you are convinced that a first round vote for the most conservative UMP candidate is your only realistic way to move politics rightward. Otherwise, why not vote for the person who thinks like you, wants what you want and will absolutely, positively move heaven and earth to deliver the policies you want? If Le Pen is seen as a viable candidate likely to get to the second round, why not support her rather a pale and insincere imitation?

At the same time, it’s going to be very difficult for the UMP to shore up its right wing to stave off defections to the FN. That's one of the great dangers to the UMP that come from legitimizing the FN. It seems to me that, for example, the “red wine and pork sausages” crowd is going to be very likely to defect to Le Pen and I don’t see the UMP holding on to them without very concrete, very extreme proposals that everybody will assume are likely to be backtracked on in the second round—and so, again, why not vote for the candidate who won’t double-cross you, especially if she has a really, really good chance of making the second round. So my prediction is that the furthest right elements are highly likely to defect to MLP in the first round.

So where are there other voters up for grabs in the first round? I think the voters of the left are there for the taking. The degree of disaffection with Hollande and the PS is truly staggering. Looking at the polls and the steady flow of articles about PS or even Communist voters leaning towards Le Pen, I can only conclude that ties of loyalty and habit for a very large number of PS voters are fraying and perhaps close to dissolving. I think there is a very realistic chance that the PS will be devastated in the législatives, setting up a cascade of defections from the party to such an extent that Hollande—a sitting president—will not reach the second round. And this will assumption of Hollande’s inevitable defeat will become a self-fulfilling prophecy so that each wave of defections will further demoralize PS voters and encourage still more defections.

Where will the disaffected PS voters go in the first round? Hollande’s natural constituency (to the extent that he has any) is the centrists and the center-left, who will likely go to Bayrou, now that he seems at last to be rousing himself as he sees a remote chance of the presidency and a good chance of being a kingmaker.

Whatever remains of the left of the left in the PS, will vote for the FdG in the first round.

I believe the greatest threat to the PS base in the first round will come from the FN. I have been saying for a long time that MLP is co-opting many of the traditional issues of the left in French politics. Increasingly, if you are outside the political class or finance, you mean nothing to the PS leadership and you will get nothing but lip service from them.

Not to rehash my many comments on this point, but on questions like Europe, immigration, the economy, retirement, income security, there are only two people who are speaking out on behalf of ordinary people. If you put transcripts of speeches by JLM and MLP side-by-side, I think you will find a disturbing amount of overlap. That’s not a good thing. And it also suggests that a Hollande-MLP second round may not work out the way the PS’s brain trust is assuming.

It also may explain why the UMP is suddenly looking at shifting to the center instead of courting the far right.

bernard said...

Did I miss something or is the next presidential election taking place in May 2017?
There will be a lot of occasions for the so-called moderate right to recompose itself a hundred times over till then. Frankly speaking, I am watching but I'm not really watching.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, dissafected PS voters around here are either leaning toward the Verts or toward staying home and "voting with their feet".