Saturday, June 2, 2007

Strategy (reply to Gregory)

Gregory wrote (see comment to previous post):

In the discussion about housing, you noted Allegre's criticism of the "assaut frontal" and seemed to agree with his statement that there are "good ideas" on the right. On the level of tactics, though, the term "assaut frontal" was Fabius's strategy -- that to win, the PS needs primarily to shore up support to its left by clarifying its differences from the right (in effect, a mirror of th e strategy Sarkozy, or for that matter Rove, took on the right). (I believe Fabius adopted this strategy during the time he spent in the States in the spring of 04). One might call this the "base strategy." This is the strategic position taken by Hollande as well.

The alternative, advanced by Rocard, Kouchner and, for a few days after the 1st round of the presidential, by Royal, is to seek out a majority in the center -- in part by signaling a clear break from the supposedly unpopular ideas and constituencies of the left (whose votes one presumes will be there anyway, out of desire to win and fear of the right). One might call this the Blair strategy or the strategy that Kerry pursued in the fall of 04.

I wonder therefore if you are, strategically rather than intellectual speaking, advocating the PS adopt the latter (as Strauss-Kahn advocates at the moment). If so, do you think this is a politically winning strategy (ie, do you believe "anti-liberal" and esp working class voters will come out for a PS, or even MoDem, candidate out of fear of the right -- or do you think this is an intellectual strategy the majority for which will need to be built in the future?

To be clear, my preference intellectually is for the sort of social democracy you advocate but I don't see that as a politically winning strategy, esp at the moment when the greatest menace for the PS is a sharp fall off in enthusiasm among its supporters on the left.
Thanks for the interesting reflection, Gregory. My position is this: I don't think the PS has a winning strategy at the moment. The legislatives will be a wipe-out whether they attack frontally, tack to the center, or run in circles, as they seem to be doing. The more important question is a strategy for the long term, and although there is universal agreement on the need for fundamental change--call it refondation, rénovation, or whatever you will--there is no agreement on what that change ought to be. Nevertheless, I think that Fabius's belief that there is a winning coalition to be put together with what you call the "base strategy" is mistaken, and even if it were correct, I don't believe that Fabius shares the ideas of those whose votes he would court with such a strategy. Hypocrisy may be the tribute that vice pays to virtue, but Fabius's hypocrisy seems to me rather poorly carried off. Viewed strictly in terms of political theater, he can't hold a candle to Sarkozy. It was after all Fabius who said, when asked if he ever thought about being president, "sometimes, when I shave in the morning." Sarko managed to skewer that pretense by being perfectly blunt about his own ambition when asked the same question: "Yes, and not just when I shave."

This is a somewhat facetious answer to a very serious question, indeed the question that lurks behind everything I write in this blog. What should the left do? What should it become? I hope to develop this theme as time goes by. In the meantime I hope other readers will contribute their thoughts. I will be away in Greece for two weeks from June 10, during the period of the legislatives, and I hope that a discussion around this theme will develop in the comments to this post while I'm gone.

With any luck, there will also be some guest bloggers during my absence. In any case, I hope that this fledgling blog doesn't dwindle to nothing while I'm on vacation. The level of interest in the first weeks has been gratifying. Nearly 2,000 people have tuned in at one time or another. Keep reading.


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