Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Race Thus Far

"Horse-race reporting" is the pejorative term for the lowest form of political writing, namely, handicapping the candidates as though they were nags circling the oval. But I indulge in it in my latest article for The American Prospect. Readers of FP won't learn anything they don't know, but they may appreciate the kicker:

Hence the chief significance of this primary exercise may be to determine the fate of Macron, the only challenger on the left currently given any chance of actually winning the presidency. Of course, it’s still very early in the race, several debates remain before the left primary takes place, and there is no reason to place much confidence in the polls, not only because polls everywhere have been mistaken this year but also because the fragmentation of the French party system has made it very difficult to predict what voters are likely to vote in the primary. Turnout is expected to be light, much lower than turnout in the primary of the right and center that elected Fillon. This augurs ill for the eventual winner, whose victory celebration may resemble a wake around the corpse of the Socialist Party built by François Mitterrand. If a left remains in France after this election, it will bear little resemblance to the party that still dreamed in 1981 of a “rupture with capitalism” by democratic means and a repair of the breach in the workers’ movement that opened when the French Section of the Workers’ International split from the Communists at Tours in 1920.

6 comments:

brent said...

Thanks for this sensible summary of what we know so far. My only question--and it really is a question--is whether Macron should be counted on the 'left,' or thought of as 'center.' Though he served in a Socialist government, I don't believe he was ever a PS member. Apart from supporting liberalized labor markets--largely decried on the left--I'm unclear what, if any, economic proposals he is running on. His financial background and his exhortation to French youth to become millionaires as he did wouldn't sound terribly 'left' to the traditional bearers of that torch, from Jaurès to Mitterand. Is there reason to think that he will run to the left as the race unfolds? Or perhaps his tepid centrism is all there is of a left in France--though the Sanders uprising (and its continuation with Warren) give me some hope that a left response to present conditions is still possible, in France as in the US.

Art Goldhammer said...

Brent, I share your skepticism. Macron appears to be relatively tolerant of immigration, liberal on social issues, and pro-EU. Whether any of this wins him a place "on the left" is of course open to debate, but the whole left-right distinction has broken down to the point where I don't find it very useful. On that spectrum, you're right that he belongs in the center, which is not a very useful designation either. He is what he is: an independent who has served in a Socialist government but also served in an important position (rapporteur of the Attali Commission) under a UMP government.

Anonymous said...

Macron is perceived as "center" rather than "left". He may have taken Bayrou's spot. Enthousiasm for his brand is rising, but no poll has shown him making it to the Second Round. And with the Primary of the Left gaining speed, and showing some of the candidats COULD make it to the second round.
What's amazing is how open the field is right now, so far into the election.

bernard said...

Shorter: Macron is New Labour
Some might prefer Corbyn's Labour. What are his chances to win?...

mpz13 said...

Things change. Change is good. Recent times revealed better than before that what is commonly called "the left" doesn't mean anything specific anymore, but a vague form of self indulgent "bonne conscience". Not an ideology, not a vision, not a program, not even a party. The decay of the PS allowed new political forms to appear. New paradigms. Macron is different, he is an alternative. He is not left, neither center, nor right. These are obsolete indications. We have to learn to use more dimensions. Accept new ideas and broaden our vision. I understand many are still very sceptical. Maybe France is not ready yet for "lateral thinking" or "think different" as marketing advises us to do. Maybe this election will drag us back into the past one more time with obsolete answers because we fear to let go of our nostalgia and refuse to face the real challenges. France's and Germany's population are old... Age is what weakens Europe the most. We pissed the young and they turned their back to politics. Or maybe not this time.

Anonymous said...

Things aren't looking so good for Manuel Valls. I think that between Valls and Macron, people will prefer Macron.
http://www.lepoint.fr/presidentielle/pourquoi-manuel-valls-a-annule-son-deplacement-a-rennes-11-01-2017-2096363_3121.php
I listened to Peillon tonight: he for sure doesn't like Hamon. He refused to say he wouldn't "join Valls" for the second round (he said "Si je suis candidat, c'est pour gagner", which is a platitude since he won't...) but he didn't sound like he liked him much and rendered him responsible for the "betrayals of the left", starting with the Roma in 2013. He invoked Christiane Taubira (France's Elizabeth Warren).. and François Bayrou (Peillon's correct on that point: the PS betrayed Bayrou, whereas he'd helped them win. Sometimes I think Bayrou still wishes he'd taken on Royal's offer to become her Prime Minister. How different so many things would have been for him, and her, and Hollande, and for France... :P)