Commenters have been asking me to write about the Macron candidacy. I had originally intended to wait until he released his "detailed program" in early March, but I realized that this would be a cop-out. As Macron himself says, "programs are meaningless."
In any case, we do not need figures and spreadsheets to know what Macron's program will look like. He has a track record. He is a social liberal supply-side reformer. He favors deregulation of product and labor markets, including professional labor markets (like notaires and pharmacists). He is a pragmatist, who will retreat on matters of principle, such as eliminating the 35-hour week, in favor of "negotiated" arrangements where the balance of power is likely to result in change in the direction he desires. He thinks globalization and free movement of capital and labor have been on balance beneficial to France, and he is the most outspokenly pro-European of all the candidates.
What this means in practice is that he will continue the supply-side, pro-business reforms inaugurated by Hollande (with a good deal of advice from Macron himself). These are the very policies that made Hollande so unpopular that he could not run again. And yet Macron is at this writing favored to win the presidency (by default, as it were, Fillon having pulled off the remarkable feat of stabbing himself in the back, while Hollande's self-proclaimed heir Valls succumbed to the abrasiveness of his own personality, allowing the more likable Hamon to seduce the jonesing left primary electorate with a heady pipeful of the intellectuals' opium).
Macron will come into office with one advantage that Hollande forfeited: He will be introducing the reforms he ran on rather than reneging on all his campaign promises. We now know from Hollande's own confessions to Davet and Lhomme, as well as from the book of Aquilino Morelle, that he was a social liberal supply-sider, just like Macron, as early as 1985, when he wrote articles for Le Matin advocating the same kinds of measures that Macron favors today. But Hollande camouflaged his true beliefs in order to hold the divided Socialist Party together as its first secretary and later as its candidate and president. Macron never joined the Socialists and never pretended to be anything but what he is.
But will the country follow him as president? The CGT is unlikely to be any mellower in its opposition to future Macron reforms than it was in its resistance to the Macron and El Khomri laws. Business has already manifested its receptiveness to Macron's message and supported his campaign with substantial contributions. Macron, no fool, will move quickly and decisively as soon as he takes office, as even Hollande now recognizes he should have done. If he wins, as I think he will, he will have at least a temporary mandate to do what he promises. More than that, he will reap the benefit of Hollande's "turn" to social liberalism, which, as I have noted, was not really a turn at all. Hollande failed, but his very failure has drawn the venom from the opposing forces. France is at last ready for Macronism.
But of course Macronism may fail to solve France's problems. He will have a couple of years to show what he can do, after which all bets are off. A change in the German leadership is possible (polls now show Martin Schultz with a chance to become the next chancellor), and that could help. But uncertainty reigns at the moment, not least because Trump is such a volatile presence.
If the "radical center" fails, the likely alternative, with both mainstream "parties of government" in total disarray, will be a turn to one of the extremes. If the Front National's time is to come, it won't be this year but 2022, with five more years of party building in full-throated opposition to everything Macron stands for: neoliberalism, globalization, and the European Union. There will also be some sort of realignment on the left, but I don't think it will be led by either Hamon or Mélenchon.
One final word: imagine what the French political scene would look like if Macron had not jumped ship last summer and had not remained outside the Socialist Party. With Fillon discredited and the Socialists led by the untried and unconvincing Hamon (notwithstanding his enlistment of Thomas Piketty to the Hamon team), I think the likelihood of a Le Pen victory would be substantially greater than it now is. Macron likes to think of himself as a latter-day de Gaulle: a bit presumptuous, no doubt, but in this limited sense, yes, he may well be the savior of France's honor in 2017. Faute de mieux. I am not an enthusiastic Macron supporter--I have too many doubts about all aspects of his position and what seems to me his relative unconcern with the least well-off and identification with the rich and successful--but of the options on offer, his is the least bad alternative. Not a ringing endorsement, I know.