Sunday, April 24, 2016


No, the title is not a typo. The question on everyone's lips these days is, Whither Macron? Just as Macron intended. He has played his hand as Sarkozy played his during Chirac's fin de règne. Make your ambition clear, multiply the stabs at your boss to demonstrate your independence, endure his rebukes for a while, and then slam the door.

The latest round between Macron and Hollande is the lamentable EDF affair, detailed here (paywall). Supposedly a slap in the face for Macron, whose recent statements on the future of the Hinkley Point project were countermanded by Hollande 3 days later. But Macron has the last laugh: the €3 billion needed to rescue EDF will make Hollande's economic record look even sorrier than it does already, facilitating Macron's task of running against it--even though he will have only recently abandoned his post as Hollande's minister of the economy. Is it any wonder that voters have tired of these games? Yet they seem not to have tired--yet--of Macron, who is riding high in the polls.

Still, it's hard to imagine Macron getting the nomination of the PS or the broader left, where he is generally regarded as the symbol of everything that has deepened the rift between the government and its base. It's much easier, in fact, to imagine Macron as a potential prime minister under Alain Juppé, who might try to sell such an appointment as a reconciliation of center-left and center-right. Of course there would be howls from Republicans who might think they deserve the nod, but a number of the obvious candidates would seem to have disqualified themselves. Bruno Le Maire has taken a turn to the right in his presidential bid, so Juppé might hesitate to appoint him. Laurent Wauquiez has skated even farther right and in any case stuck his neck out as Sarkozy's liege man. There have been reports of a deal between François Baroin and Sarko that if the latter becomes president, Baroin will be named prime minister, in return for which he is quietly working as head of the association of French mayors to persuade Republican mayors not to dump the ex-president as damaged goods. NKM is too loose a cannon for a buttoned-down leader like Juppé, and she wouldn't bring him the cred with le patronat that Macron has earned with services rendered.

And of course if Juppé doesn't nominate Macron, the young Emmanuel will nevertheless have positioned himself nicely for a presidential bid in 2022 as the candidate of either left or right--such is his marvelous ambidexterity, a very desirable quality at a time when both the Socialists and the Republicans are threatening to come apart at the seams. The party landscape in 2022 may look quite different from what it is today, and no one is better placed to take advantage of a party realignment than Macron.

When you think about it, it's really a rather bizarre situation. The leading candidate on the center-right is a man who was not so long ago booed when he appeared before the party faithful. And the man who might be his choice for prime minister is similarly a bête noire for many in his own camp. The reaction against elitist rule is fueling the rise of the Front National, yet it's easy to imagine two énarques as the next president and prime minister. And they would likely come to office, as both Sarkozy and Hollande did, with approval ratings above 60%. France is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.


Arun Kapil said...

There's a small difference between Sarkozy during Chirac's fin de règne and Macron today. The former was the leader of France's largest political party and had a deep base of political support. The latter is a member of no party, has the declared support of no elected official, and has never run for elective office in his life. If Hollande fires Macron, it's hard to see how the latter will keep himself in the news. And the notion of Macron running for president is laughable. Without a political party or sizable bloc of élus, how would he get the 500 signatures to qualify for the ballot? And would a President Juppé seriously consider naming PM such a prima donna - who publicly dissed his previous boss - and who is bereft of a political base apart from the latest sondage? If Macron is seeking a post-Hollande political future, he's not going about it in the right way IMO. His political fall is likely to be as rapid as his rise.


christopher delogu said...

"France is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Ah bon? Your own analysis, Mr. Goldhammer, makes things look pretty transparent: France loves its enarques, it sees nothing wrong with "politician" being a lucrative life-time career from student apprentice leader on the barricades to old geezer with handsome pension, and it plays along with the media's charades of pretending that there's a difference between Thompson and Thompson. Is France a democracy and if not does it want to be one? There's the ratatouille wrapped in a mystère inside an opéra.

bernard said...

While your post was intriguing - and quite interesting in its hypothesis -, I do suspect that Arun has got it right here, at least until the election. Afterwards, I can see a reshaping of political lines where Macron might gain importance.

Additionally, remember this bloke who went straight from being the economist for the PS to the Ministry of immigration and national identity - do I remember the name right? Well I can't even recall his name. That's how far his political career went.

Art Goldhammer said...

Bernard, Are you thinking of Jean-Marie Bockel? Hardly a man of Macron's class when it comes to networking with the rich and well-connected.

Art Goldhammer said...

No, it's Eric Besson, right, Bernard?

bernard said...

Eric Besson of course, how could I forget. No, wait, everyone has forgotten he even existed!

Quince Lévesque said...

I've not heard all that much about Bruno le Maire — what are his biggest points/issues? How far off the the right is he?

Alexandra Marshall said...

It seems to me French pols are really in a pickle right now. The modern Macron's appeal is that he comes out of nowhere, and hasn't been tainted by some establishment apparatus and seems to struggle under the weight of no particular membership in an ideological camp. And yet, totally agree with Arun, coming out of nowhere is kind of a problem in a system that is run by parties.

How to retain the freshness and newness and have an actual chance? There's no way he could mount a bid for 2017 based on media hype alone. En Marche! feels flimsy now but perhaps Macron tries to turn it into an actual party and goes for it next time around?

I actually like him. France's left has absolutely no idea how to deal with the contemporary economy, with apologies to Montebourg's absurd "Uberisation" canard. None. There has not been one single idea that makes sense in the world we're living in now. The only people who seem to care about flexibility, portability, mobility and the fact that France is actually in competition with the rest of the world are on the right, and they're so socially conservative and corrupt, I hold out no hope. All the right, or Valls for that matter, will bring is more social alienation and jihadism. And now it seems Hollande is really going to go for it in 2017. This will destroy the PS, whom I really wouldn't mind seeing go away. But I worry.