Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Worry Beads

The Socialists are nervously fingering their worry beads. On the left of the party, Benoît Hamon tells Le Figaro he's concerned. On the right, Pierre Moscovici tells Le Monde that it's the party's last chance. But neither wing is talking compromise at this point. Meanwhile, Bertrand Delanoë, to no one's surprise, has officially thrown his hat in the ring. And the think tank Terra Nova, in conjunction with political scientist Olivier Duhamel, is proposing a way out: a broad-based primary to choose the candidate of the Left.

Sovereign Democracy

Nicolas Véron is critical of Jacques Sapir's concept of "sovereign democracy." Sapir, dubious of the effectiveness of multilateral organizations such as the EU in controlling the market, favors a left-tinged version of "economic patriotism," which he dubs sovereign democracy. Nation-states remain the real nexus of power, he argues, and bilateral accords between nation states are the only effective checks on the market. Véron counters that this necessarily involves a turn toward protectionism in one guise or another, with ultimately negative consequences for economic growth.

The lines are a little too sharply drawn for my taste, however. Multilateralism and bilateralism are not mutually exclusive categories. One way of looking at Sarkozy's innovations in foreign policy is to see him as engaged in changing the mix of multilateral and bilateral commitments in France's external relations. The need for such a change is a consequence of shifting priorities: scaling up the size of the domestic market and establishing a credible commitment to price stability have receded in importance, while securing a stable supply of energy, food, and other resources have moved to the fore.

What City Are You In, Daddy?

If you watched last night's Democratic Convention proceedings, you would have seen Michelle Obama "introduce herself," as the cliché goes, "to America," and then you would have seen Barack Obama "call" to congratulate her and the kids on their performance. So, as the talking heads were bloviating about Michelle's "home run" ("she did exactly what she had to do," said the insufferable David Gergen, advisor to every president since George Washington and Polonius reincarnate), I got to thinking about what would have happened had a comparable scene been staged in France. Just try to imagine Carla Bruni rattling on about her first meeting with Sarkozy at a posh Parisian dinner party. And the family vetting? Would she have brought "Nick" home to meet her sister Valeria, an actress rather than a basketball coach like Michelle's brother, and would Valeria have offered an opinion on Nick's prowess as a persuasive public speaker? And how about the kids? Might Jean Sarkozy have motored on stage aboard his scooter, patted Carla on the rump, and asked an image of "daddy" on the television screen what city he was in? "Pontivy, fiston, Pontivy, et qu'est-ce que tu penses de belle-maman? Canon, hein?"

Think of the press. Would this display of pseudo-private life, this wallowing in sentimentality, this transformation of autobiography into political argument have been characterized by a commentator in the following terms:

She both affirmed his promise and humanized him. You could actually imagine their relationship was a real thing–not a symbiotic power alliance, but a union of two different people with different goals who just happen, when they’re not bickering about the butter, to find each other pretty cool. (Katherine Marsh of The New Republic).

Or these (from Andrew Sullivan):

One of the best, most moving, intimate, rousing, humble, and beautiful speeches I’ve heard from a convention platform. Maybe she should be running for president.

Mind you, I offer this comment, this lament, as a committed supporter of Obama. Such blatant sentimentalizing may be--no doubt is--what has to be done to get elected in America. France is still different. Let's hope it stays that way.

ADDENDUM: Rue89's coverage is more sober and clear-eyed than most American accounts.