Friday, September 4, 2015

The Macron Paradox

Emmanuel Macron now enjoys a higher approval rating than any other Socialist. To be sure, he is approved by more on the right (63%) than on the left (45%), but his approval on the left is increasing despite his urging further reforms, which conventional wisdom says are unpopular among Socialist voters.

But perhaps these results aren't as paradoxical as they seem. Perhaps the way to think about this is to suggest that as the left-right distinction breaks down, the electorate is increasingly divided between two new camps: the angry, who despair of government entirely and want to throw the bums out (whether in the form of Mélenchon's "qu'ils s'en aillent tous" or Le Pen's derisive "UMPS"), and the pragmatic, who aren't sure what should be done but prefer leaders who state forthrightly and in some detail what they would like to do and persist in the face of opposition without trimming their sails to suit the prevailing winds.

For the pragmatic voter, Macron is exemplary. They know what he wants to do. They aren't sure it will work, but they're willing to let him experiment. If it fails, they'll move to another policy. What they can't stomach is the kind of politics Hollande exemplifies: impossible to pin down, forever shifting tactics, reluctance to persevere in the face of vocal opposition. Pragmatic voters want consistency and accountability above all.

If this is correct, the question of the hour is then, Do the pragmatic outnumber the angry? I don't know. What's your guess?

On the other hand, the two politicians with the highest approval ratings are Juppé (76%) and Sarkozy (66%). Sarkozy was extremely unpopular in the months before the 2012 election, and Juppé was in his way the Macron of his day, a pragmatic reformer willing to persist in the face of vocal opposition, yet he was ultimately sacrificed to angry protesters. So perhaps the truth is simply that voters are highly fickle. Sometimes they like you if you show backbone, other times they'll cut you down for standing droit dans vos bottes.