Monday, November 10, 2008

Two Scenarios for the PS

Gérard Grunberg sees the fate of the French left hanging on the decisions Ségolène Royal makes in the next few days. He envisions two scenarios: an "Epinay" scenario, in which she turns to the left, runs on an anticapitalist, "hexagonal" common program, and hopes that by 2012 the broader electorate will be ready to support such a line; or else she turns openly to the center, recognizes that "anticapitalism" is no more promising as a theme today than it was yesterday, and runs on a platform of restoring the health and fairness of the market economy.

This analysis is fine as far as it goes, I think, but it avoids the question of what kind of party is to emerge from this congress. This, in turn, is a function of a decision about how the eventual presidential candidate will be chosen--a decision that need not be taken now but ought to be taken soon. What Royal wants at bottom is a broad-based presidential party à la Sarko's UMP. She would like its candidate to be chosen in a national primary with broad eligibility for voting. But to make this a condition now of coalition with motion E would be divisive. It seems to me that this calculation is guiding her choices at the moment. If she is to become a candidate in an eventual party primary, it's better if she isn't designated the party leader now. The party leader will have to organize the primary and negotiate the conditions under which it is held. It would be better to have a neutral, or at any rate a less partial, figure in that role. Hence Peillon or Dray (though I'm not sure how credible Dray would be as a neutral arbiter). Although Grunberg presents the "Epinay" option as the more probable, I think--and I suspect he thinks--that the other option is the one Royal has chosen and that its consequences are being played out at this moment in the discussions of which surrogate will become party leader. That is why Mélenchon has quit the party and why other diehard supporters of the Epinay option, such as Emmanuelli, are desperately trying to organize an "anyone but Ségo" blocking force.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Someone recently remarked that successful presidential candidates - and successful presidents - are able to make people dream. This was not some sort of cynical remark, but a statement of fact: politicians need to energize their base, need to create a form of enthusiasm that we will adhere too, even if we are perfectly aware of what our rationality tells us. It is a sort of suspension of disbelief if you will.

This naturally fits Mr. Obama quite well, and it also fit Mr. Sarkozy quite well during their electoral campaign.

The problem with the political direction that the PS has to take is that everyone knows that it cannot win a presidential election on its left if it alienates the center (whether that is Bayrou or someone else), and it cannot win on its right if it alienates its left. Everyone needs to be serious sometimes and have dreams at the same time. So in reality the PS must attract, as in loosely regrouping around itself, a large coalition of diverse interests.

For many years indeed, people have told the PS that it must choose immediately between its left and its right, when actually the only successful choice that the PS can make is to choose both, and deal with ideological purity some other day. Our dear Mr. Rocard was already ranting about that in the seventies, poor boy.

This is where Royal comes in. She combines in her views elements that belong both to her right - moral and family values - and to her left - economy management, employment regulations -. This is actually not something new and the recent crisis has not actually altered that much her positions. I do remember back in 2001 when I and a few friends were trying to think who would be the next socialist leader (Jospin's fate was a foregone conclusion in our view), we eventually converged onto Royal because we thought she had the right mix, and sort of embodied many of the contradictions of French society. Additionally, we thought that she had the capacity to make the French dream.

Well, I guess I must have been one of her earliest supporters.