Thursday, April 2, 2015

My Op-ed on the Recent Elections



Mitch Guthman said...


An excellent op-ed. I agree with what you say but I think it’s important to clarify exactly how the FN is redrawing the map of French politics and, equally, why the parties normally aligned with the PS are fragmenting. What I believe is driving voters to the FN is the apparent acceptance of German leadership on the economy and the increasing rejection of the social welfare state by the PS leadership in the name of “reform”.

There is great unhappiness with the way in which the EU’s leadership and Germany, in particular, has cratered the economy as it has catered more and more to the interests of the gang of sociopaths who gather annually to pleasure themselves at Davos. Basically, most French voters simply do not agree with the PS that what is good for Davos Man is also good for France.

Yet, by moving ever further to the right and seemingly embracing the German vision for the EU, they have chosen Davos over both la France profonde and the traditional base of the PS in Paris and the larger cities. Is it any wonder that, having abandoned the cities (workers and the middle class) and further alienated everybody else, the PS has nothing and no one except property developers and eurotrash on whom it can count for support?

I believe it is this abandonment of the traditional policies of the left by the PS, coupled with the rejection of the social welfare state and the devaluation of French republicanism by all of the parties, that has given the Front National its opening. Who speaks in defense of secularism? Le Pen. Who speaks in defense of the social welfare state? Le Pen. And who gives voice to the anxieties about Germany and the direction of Europe? Again, only Le Pen.

Yet, apart from my serious doubts about the sincerity of Le Pen in embracing the traditional concerns of the left, the great irony here is that as the PS has abandoned the historic achievements of the left such as republicanism,laïcité and the social welfare state in an effort to attract the mythical “centrist majority,” Le Pen has gladly seized the opportunity to (probably dishonestly) pick up and use to great effect the symbols and values that the PS has discarded.

Although she is making a different point, I would like to highly recommend this op-ed by Sylvie Kauffmann about the FN’s usurpation (my phrasing, not hers) of France’s republican values.

Anonymous said...

Never mind Mitch. German rule could soon come crashing down thanks to the Greeks. Athens says its runs out of cash April 9. Its politicians are courting Putin and China just bought most of its T-bills. Give it a week or so and Europe will be very busy bailing out lifeboats.

brent said...

Interesting litany from Mitch of "... only LePen." Yes, the PS has abandoned major tenets of social democracy, and possibly it has not been as strong a voice for laicité and republicanism as it might have (though it surely hasn't 'abandoned' them). But MLP is hardly the strongest advocate for those things.

Who is the most vociferous advocate of rigorous laicité, expansive social welfare, and a republicanism that absolutely excludes the FN while promoting the more direct democracy of a '6th Republic'? That would be J-L Mélenchon, who went so far as to wage a painful campaign against Marine LePen in an effort to arrest her momentum. (He failed, but no one else on the 'Left' particularly tried.) So what does it mean that an observer from the Left like Mitch apparently forgets the existence of Mélenchon and the FdG, with its 10% of the electorate, its growing alliance with the Greens, its support for Tsipras and 'another Europe'? Is the media black-out of the real Left doing its work? Or has the self-styled Left simply given up?

FrédéricLN said...

Congratulations for this op-ed, short, to the point, yet balanced.

"It is no wonder some observers believe that the PS has entered a death spiral" — I agree, but I state that in other places such as my town Argenteuil, it's a bit different; the rise of FN — that PS did not push at all — is "une bonne affaire objective", an opportunity after all, for PS to save seats despite poor popular support. It's also true of UMP, which obtained a landslide victory despite low percentages of votes.

Of course, it's quite obvious that voices obtained by FN reduced support for others, that is about 1=1.

But that implies that PS and UMP may feel that electoral victory or failure depend more and more of *factors beyond their control*, i.e. of small random effects changing rankings.

Otherwise said: if the electoral rule becomes the following "1) at first turn, one of the two historical parties is randomly selected to compete against FN at second turn, and 2) at second turn, the candidate of the historical party wins", that's a very good deal for both PS and UMP. If they good be given a guarantee ad infinitum that each of them will win ~50% of seats at each election, why would they worry?

Not depending on effective impact of their policies, is the best they can hope.

Of course this "electoral rule" is fictitious. First, it does not work for elections with proportional representation, i.e. European and Regional elections. There FN wins ~25% of seats. But who cares of European and Regional elections? Neither Hollande nor Sarkozy, for example.

Second, and more important, re. elections for which parties care, i.e. presidential, legislative and municipal elections, the above alleged "electoral rule" strongly depends on the FN reaching, say, between 22 and 30-33%. Above that, FN will take much, if not all. Under the arithmetic perspective only, that looks very much like the way undemocratic parties won elections, and the control over European countries, in the 30s to 40s.

I'm unsure whether historical parties will take the risk of transforming their policies enough to earn new popular support. A kind of exodus during which the parties-mortality rate would be over 50%, I guess.

PCF did not try to change (or too late, too reluctantly) and transformed into an ever-smaller lobby of local authorities. UDF under Bayrou, the 3rd party then, tried to change and moved from ~9-14% popular support in 1997-2001 to 4-5% presently — a majority of members and elected people (skipped to UDI i.e. the "centriste" flanker of UMP, as they could remain elected only thanks to UMP support. Of the 4-party historical system of the 70's, only 2 remain there, and I can't feel, neither among their militants or elected people, any willingness for change.

This makes a sharp difference to 2005-2006, where both parties were strongly shaken by moves of change, with "royalism" and its "démocratie participative" on one side, "sarkozysm" which looked like a French version of reaganism or thatcherism, on the other side.

Now we have conservatism and willingness not to change anything to the present state of politics and policies — on both sides.

A bit too long, I apologize — and need to think a bit more about it.