In the wake of the "alliance" between Macron and Bayrou, the former today released details of his economic plan. Economists for the most part greeted the plan enthusiastically, but perhaps the most eloquent reaction came from the Financial Times: "Mr Macron’s economic measures do not herald a big break from policies he inspired and helped implement as economy minister under Socialist president François Hollande."
Indeed, Macron promises to maintain tight control over the budget but will increase public investment nevertheless. How will he accomplish this miracle of fishes and loaves? In the time-honored manner: by promising to "negotiate a eurozone budget and EU-wide investment programme with Germany." There is perhaps a somewhat greater likelihood of success in this direction than there was when Hollande tried the same tack in 2012. The German surplus has grown larger in the meantime, and Macron will try to persuade the Germans that this is unsustainable, as many across the Rhine actually recognize, even if they are reluctant to say so. If Martin Schulz should come to power in Germany, Macron might have a decent shot at success. But "the German question" remains the major uncertainty in Macron's program as in the future of Europe. On the other hand, Macron's program, for all its dependence on the German imponderable, is more likely to succeed, in my view, than the programs of any of his rivals, both for reviving the French economy and for giving Europe a new lease on life.
Meanwhile, the Greens are out of the race, Jadot having thrown in his lot with Hamon, who, thus fortified, has agreed to meet with Mélenchon. Fierce noises continue to emanate from the Mélenchon corner, but it's not out of the question that Mélenchon will knuckle under to reality and opt for an "alliance" with the Socialist Devil. If it comes to pass, such an alliance would undoubtedly be a less tranquil affair than the Cartel of the Centers represented by Macron and Bayrou.
My blogging confrère Arun Kapil, whose instincts are usually right about these things, rates the chance of a Mélenchon capitulation to realism as infinitesimal. I'll hedge a bit, however, and say I think there's a small chance (the difference between "small" and "infinitesimal" is left as an exercise for the reader to work out), especially if the weekend polls show a sharp uptick for Macron.
As Arun points out, Mélenchon's real goal is to destroy the hated Socialist Party, and that is more or a less done deal with Hamon as the candidate of total rejection of the Hollande bilan. Mélenchon is still blustering about the need to repudiate all the deputies and ministers who abetted the depredations of the pedal boat captain, but in the end the main thing he cares about is ensuring a platform for himself.
If he becomes Hamon's Passionaria, he could go on speechifying to even larger crowds and plunge the entire presidential race into real chaos by threatening to upend Macron and make plausible the prospect of an extreme right vs. extreme left second round. If he really wants to flanquer la trouille à la classse politique, that's his best shot right there.
You heard it here first.