Tuesday, November 15, 2016

En marche, mais où?

Emmanuel Macron will announce his candidacy tomorrow. Why choose this moment? Perhaps it was planned this way all along, but I think we can discern a possible Trump effect. Macron has concluded from Brexit and Trump that this is the year of the anti-system vote. In terms of policy, he represents a fairly standard Third Way, neoliberal, "structural reform," "supply side" agenda, but in terms of optics he is the new guy on the block, the broom that promises to sweep clean, toss out the scoundrels, and start politics anew. So this is the moment to strike, with the world still reeling from the Trump shock.

It also puts Macron's hat in the ring ahead of Manuel Valls, who is no doubt itching to get in as François Hollande's approval rating drops toward zero. And it steals a little of Alain Juppé's thunder, planting a flag in the center of the spectrum ahead of Juppé's likely win in the impending Republican primary.

Will Macron's high poll ratings stand up now that he is in? I have been skeptical until now, but this has been a year of shocks. The media have loved Macron until now, but they may turn on him. Young ambition is always vulnerable, no matter how good the story line of the bright, ambitious young subaltern turning on his mentor along with the other conspirators: Et tu, Brute?

With Macron now in the ring, will Juppé seem less inevitable? Will fewer left-wing voters cross over to vote in the Republican primary? Will this be enough for Sarkozy to squeak by? What will Bayrou do, and will it matter?

A very complicated presidential contest just got even more difficult to handicap. Macron moved now precisely in order to maximize the confusion, which he hopes will work to his advantage. He may be right.