Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The EU Crisis

Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber reflects pertinently on the divergence between European elites and people. The elites, maintaining the attitude that has led to the present impasse, want to believe that if repeated rejections of the Lisbon Treaty indicate the existence of a problem, it is a problem best left to them to fix. There is important business to be done, they say, so let's get on with it somehow or other. Yes, the disgruntled voters need to be dealt with, but this is a problem that can be fixed.

"Ordinary voters" are of another mind altogether. (In Austinian language, they seem to believe that a vote is a performative and not merely a constative utterance: the expression of the will of the people is supposed to change the state of the world, not merely provide a datum for leaders to take into account in their calculations.) Henry points to a Ouest France article that reports a sharp decline in French support for the EU (down from 61 to 30 pct since 2003 according to the Eurobarometer). According to a BVA poll, the French want Sarkozy to use his EU presidency to push for more consumer protection and more environmental protection (43% in favor, 66% among left-wing voters). They could care less about European defense (2%) and the Common Agricultural Policy (3%). Yet 53% believe that foreign policy should be orchestrated at the European level.

Similar thoughts are expressed by French Politics guest contributor Christopher Bickerton in the Guardian.

Guilty Confession

I've had some fun mocking the "contributions" of the various Socialist courants to the upcoming convention. I feel a little sheepish about it. The exercise requires no great talent. It's like shooting fish in a barrel, to borrow a phrase. No one is likely to attribute to Plato or Hobbes sentiments like these (from Aubry's contribution, not previously ridiculed here):

We want every family to have decent housing, adapted to its situation, not too costly, in a pleasant and respected (?) setting.

We want every child to have the same chance to succeed in school and in life and to be able to acquire basic knowledge and gain familiarity with culture and sports.

And fifty-six pages more of the same. The problem is that when I bash the Left in this way, it's simply used as ammunition by those who dislike either the Left or France or both. So, for instance, my comment the other day on the Moscovici-Montebourg contribution was picked up by mega-blogger Andrew Sullivan, who introduced my comments with a remark to the effect that some things never change, especially the French Left, with the result that French Politics received more hits on Monday (over 3,500) than on any other day in its history, and links decrying the "loony left" ended up on my pages.

This was not my intention. If Sullivan were to read me closely rather than mine my posts for useful nuggets, he would know that I regard the dilemma of the Left as a tragedy rather than a farce. The humor is gallows humor, and if I mock leftist doublespeak and empty verbiage, it's because I am myself incapable of proposing a way out of the current impasse. I do think it would help if the issues were faced more forthrightly rather than evaded by circumlocution and pious wish. In any case I feel guilty that my cheap shots seem to attract attention more readily than more thoughtful reflections, but such is the nature of the blogosphere.

As for handicapping the Socialist sweepstakes, more and more of the smart money seems to be shifting to Aubry, who has the backing of the two largest Socialist federations, those of the Nord and Pas-du-Calais. She is probably also the contender who divides the party least, just as the Third Republic was said to be the regime that divides the French least, and in a contest of this sort the equilibrium position often turns out to be the least divisive rather than the most arresting. But the party contest is one thing, the party's fate is another. Aubry seems to me unlikely to unify the party or quell the factional infighting, which stems from the deeper dilemma alluded to above: how to define the Left for the decades to come. Her father, Jacques Delors, might have imparted a new tone to Socialism had he decided to become a candidate back in 1995. But he didn't, and Aubry herself, beholden as she is to the traditionalist federations that are the base of her support, isn't likely to change the party's direction. If she and Delanoë agree to share power, the influence of Jospin and Hollande will cast its pall over yet another presidential election season. What the Socialist Party needs is new blood. The situation is ripe for a charismatic leader to step forth.

"Totally Stupid"

Patrick de Carolis, the head of France Télévisions, evidently believes he's on his way out. When asked what he thought of Sarkozy's remark that there is no difference between the private and public networks as presently constituted, he said, "I find that false, I find it totally stupid, and I find it profoundly unjust." The pres was irritated the other day when he visited France3 and a technician refused to say bonjour. One suspects he'll be even more displeased with the answer of M. de Carolis.

As for the facts ...