Monday, May 26, 2014

Social Breakdown of the FN Vote

Here. The young, the less educated, the less well-paid white- and blue-collar workers voted Front National. Abstainers stayed away from the polls because "voting doesn't change anything."

And as for the familiar charge of tous pourris--if the news about the false invoices used to drain tens of millions of euros from UMP coffers illegally to finance Sarkozy's campaign had been announced the day before the election rather than the day after, the FN might have gotten 30 percent instead of 25.

More details here.

Copé's chief of staff falls on his sword

Jérôme Lavrilleux, Copé's chief of staff at the UMP, has assumed responsibility for "missteps" in the handling of Sarkozy's campaign finances. Conveniently enough, his confession exonerates both Copé and Sarkozy. I find it difficult to believe that he is solely responsible, however.

The European Tragedy

As I survey the wreckage across Europe, I keep thinking back to May 2012, when there was still hope of renewal. I trace yesterday's dismal outcome back to the original sin of the Hollande presidency: Hollande's reneging on his promise to renegotiate the TSCG. This is what his voters expected. He had told them he would do it. And then he didn't. It's as simple as that.

Consider the counterfactual. Suppose he had bucked Germany on the TSCG and hence on austerity. Even if he had failed to persuade the Germans, he would have taken a stand, and because he would have shown some backbone, things would look very different today--even if he had failed to persuade the Germans in 2012 (as he undoubtedly would have failed). With Matteo Renzi's strong showing in Italy and unexpected stirrings on the left in Spain, Hollande could have joined forces with progressive elements to the south to exert renewed pressure on Germany. Instead, his presidency is a flamed-out wreck, and Renzi is left without the support that a feisty France could have provided.

It is clear that voters across Europe want change. Instead, they will get Juncker and a reinforced Merkel--the twin pillars of the calamitous status quo. And Hollande has now committed himself so deeply to austerity that a change in course will only make him look weaker still. He has no choice but to dig in. Of course Valls might rebel, might deliver an ultimatum to the president that he will resign unless he is allowed to stake out his own European policy. In which case Hollande might as well abdicate. But if he persists on his present course, he is doomed to impotence for the foreseeable future. His territorial reform has countless enemies whom he cannot defeat in his weakened state. His spending cuts will increase unemployment, sending still more of the working class over to the FN. His efforts to divert attention to Africa will look more and more ludicrous as Europe crumbles around him. And the justification of all this--to maintain the Franco-German alliance that is at the heart of European union in Hollande's estimation--will become more and more hollow as the Union is threatened with disintegration as a consequence of Franco-German policy choices.

Hollande has modeled his whole career on that of his mentor, Mitterrand. But Mitterrand when elected in 1981 kept his promise to nationalize, even though many advisors told him it was unrealistic. And it was, in the narrowly economic sense, but it was an act of pure political realism to satisfy the deep desire of those who had elected him for a concrete commitment to a change of direction. True, the price paid for the education of the electorate by bitter experience was high, but it was necessary. Hollande wouldn't even have had to pay such a high price for putting up a fight in 2012. Germany's responsibility would have been clear. Instead, he made German (and UMP) policy his own, and now he cannot escape from his identification with its failure.

Mélenchon overwhelmed

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, deeply upset by the results of the election, let his emotions show last night. The irony is that FdG voters turned out in more substantial numbers than PS voters (the abstention rate was remarkably low), but there just aren't enough of them.