Saturday, February 25, 2017

Macronism at Ground Level

Emmanuel Macron the candidate has tried to emulate de Gaulle, floating above the parties, or even Jesus, walking on water (he did not reject the label "Christic" as a description of his campaign style). It has worked well for him so far.

But others have taken his campaign into the villages and hamlets of France, and according to this report, they have fared less well. "He's like all the others." "Tous pourris." "A good-looking scoundrel." Etc.

Now, one might say that these responses reflect the naiveté of the canvassers: three young people who took time off from their studies or jobs in the US to return to France and take Macron's message, which seems to inspire them, to "the people." Or one might say that it's the sort of anecdotal evidence that proves nothing: if, as the polls say, Macron is supported by 20% of likely general election voters, you have 4 chances out of 5 of running into a stream of vitriol if you tap at random into various places on the French electoral map.

But one does have to wonder how deep Macron's support is, what reserves he can mobilize if momentum starts to shift in his direction, and whether his strong early support reflects mainly high-information voters in the larger cities who read newspapers and tune in early to presidential politics. There are many people who doubt Macron's staying power. He has not been tested in face-to-face debate. The FN, judging him to be the most likely second-round opponent at this point, has begun to train its fire on him. Half of Florian Philippot's speech the other day was aimed at Macron, who epitomizes everything the FN is running against: Europe, globalization, cosmopolitanism, and loss of sovereignty. His charge that colonialism was a crime against humanity will be cited again and again by the far right as evidence of his lack of "patriotism," a capital offense in their Manichean view of a world divided between "patriots" and "cosmopolitans."

De Gaulle did not need to develop a common touch. He was a figure of myth. Macron, however much he wishes he were, is not de Gaulle. He may be able to continue his campaign à distance, but for all its modern trappings, it retains a strangely archaic feeling. It is a campaign of mass meetings rather than mass media, coupled with small, exclusive gatherings out of the limelight with influential representatives of what is politely called "civil society" and impolitely called, even by Macron's new "ally" Bayrou, "moneyed interests." Occasionally he will don a hard hat and tour a factory. But even Giscard sought to soften his technocratic image by playing the accordion and breaking bread with peasants. Macron, who is said to be an excellent pianist, needs to set up his piano in some village square and boogie with local burgers.

11 comments:

bernard said...

Macron is, quite literally, the new kid on the block. It follows that he is untested and that anyone can wonder how he will react under this or that pressure. De Gaulle, obviously, was not the new kid on the block and had been tested, and how, in the second world war. What does not follow is that we should expect him to crumble. He may turn out strong enough, we just don't know yet and I strongly suspect that it is the combination of we don't know yet with the fact that he is the only chance against a terrible outcome that is making you so uneasy, Art, not his program.

Alexandra Marshall said...

My biggest worry is that Macron's obvious appeal to urban educated cosmopolitans spells doom for him in the provinces. But I see things through an American lens, where city is almost always in direct opposition to country. As urban educated cosmopolitans tend to be solipsistic and convinced it's us against the world, it's also easy to project that anyone I might like would have to be hated by "the heartland," la France profonde, whatever you want to call it, simply by definition. That doesn't really hold up under examination, though. Could it be possible the same politician could appeal to both city and country mice in France? Could that person be Macron? (I'm less sure on the second than the first and I'm very unsure on the first, mostly due to relative inexperience here.) Not adding much to the discussion here, I realize. We'll see soon enough.

FrédéricLN said...

@Alexandra Marshall : "American lens, where city is almost always in direct opposition to country." This is an absolutely French lens. Macron appeals to country as long as he looks like the anti-establishment candidate, the courageous lonely guy against both PS and LR. This time may be over. But… not so sure: the alliance with Bayrou, and maybe a piano set somewhere, may be greeted as acceptable signs of respect for country peoole. I wonder. At this point I might bet 20 on a final victory of MLP, 10 on Fillon, 15 on Macron, 15 on Hamon, 10 on Mélenchon… OK, I have 20 left for Jean Lassalle. I might spontaneously have said 10. So, maybe the remaining 10 for all other outsiders, but I havent't a decent name. Besides Lassalle, Dupont-Aignan and Yade are the most robust candidates amont the "petits", but I'm not sure the may appeal to the country. Second thought, 30 on MLP, others unchanged.

Alexandra Marshall said...

Here is one thing that might speak to your point about the courageous lonely guy, and in light of yet another emploi fictif casserole for MLP, maybe it breaks through?

https://www.facebook.com/EmmanuelMacron/videos/1920318261534084/?pnref=story

Sorry it's a FB link, not sure where else to find this video. But if he can bring this point into the debates, I wonder if it sticks? Wish it weren't so entirely directed at entrepreneurs, but artisans and commerçants can relate too.

Tim said...

I guess the question is the do the "regions" actually matter electorally. A lot of rural people in upstate New York don't like New York City and politicians from their but people in upstate don't really matter politically.

I think one of the issues is rural voters tend to be fetished by "national" media in France, the UK, US etc. One difference though in the US is you also have local media in places like NYC that couldn't care less about upstate NY. The "local" television stations in NYC like WCBS, WNBC, and WABC could care less about what anyone thinks in the most remote villages of the Adirondacks. The national media on the other hand feels the need to maintain "street cred" in the most rural areas.

Anonymous said...

^The problem is that 'provinces ' aren't necessarily 'rural', they have large metropolitan areas, suburbs, exurbs. 'province ' is just 'not Paris and Lyon. Even Marseilles is 'province '. It's as if an American were to think that Houston is rural.

Anonymous said...

I live in the French countryside ( Anjou Bleu ) and I can tell you that Macron is viewed as yet another sharp suited Paris based politician, a shrug of the shoulders at best frankly . My money on Le Pen alas

Alexandra Marshall said...

@Anon d'Anjou Bleu: this keeps me up at night. (One of many things in the post-Trump era.)

FrédéricLN said...

@Tim : images of "ordinary people" on French TV information programs are collected within a 3 km circle around Pont du Garigliano (the TF1 group, France Télévisions, the Canal + group and even Arte, are hectometers away from each other).

Vanves and Issy-les-Moulineaux make the TV sample of "not-Paris". An ultra-biased sample.

Mir Mohammad Ali Khan said...

nice to read it !

Regards
Mir Mohammad Ali Khan

Anonymous said...

Comments here (rural and post industrial, typically left-leaning ur moving to FN leap frogging the ump - think Ohio) are divided : some call him' candidat Des riches ' others are intrigued.