Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sauce Hollandaise

There was a time when I was writing nearly every day about the Socialist Party. In the wake of the electoral loss, l'ouverture sarkozyenne, the candidate's repudiation of part of the platform on which she had run for president, and the règlements de comptes among party leaders, it seemed essential to try to figure out whether and how the party would reconstitute itself. Yet the posts became increasingly repetitious. Sniping from this or that quarter, a meeting of quadragénaires seeking not so much to define a new program as to settle on an order of succession, or yet another "analysis" of defeat that amounted to no more than a reaffirmation of banalities such as "we accept the market"--none of this seemed worth saying more than once, if that. So the "renovation" of the party has proceeded without much comment from me or much discernible interest from anyone other than the participants, who rarely include even a decent quorum of surviving Socialist leaders. Meeting in Avignon this weekend, the Hollandaise rump of the party failed to attract Royal, Fabius, and who knows how many others ... it seemed not worth the effort to try to assemble a list of absentees.

So this morning's news that François Hollande, meeting with reporters aboard the train returning from Avignon, still regards himself as a présidentiable for 2012, seemed as good an occasion as any to advert to the virtual absence of the PS from the national scene. Perhaps the upcoming municipal elections will reveal that the party is less moribund than it appears. But if the PS was waiting for massive strikes to destabilize the new regime and inaugurate an era of cohabitation as in 1995, it would seem to have miscalculated. It will have to reconquer power with a program of its own, not wait for control to be ceded to it by default. Or else, if it concludes that its internal divisions are too deep to permit any such reconquest, it had better disband and allow its various factions to strike out on their own in quest of a new political philosophy, which may abandon the label "socialist" altogether (as Manuel Valls has proposed). Many who voted socialist out a sense of "family obligation" no longer identify with the party's current philosophy, if they can even articulate what it is or differentiate it convincingly from that of the parti en face. And countless "family members," from BHL to Julien Dray, from Jack Lang to Claude Allègre, have intimated in one way or another that they are as fascinated by Sarkozy's energy as a moth is by a candle flame, and more or less indifferent to the personalities of the left.

This is not a healthy situation. One cannot disguise rotting leftovers with dollops of sauce hollandaise, especially when the sauce has not entirely prise.

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