Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Carbon Tax an Election Casualty?

The UMP may have lost its appetite for imposing the unpopular carbon tax now that the adoption of ecopolitics has not only failed to win the party additional support but seemingly strengthened Europe Écologie by giving credibility and publicity to its central issues.

What's Up in Brittany?

So the PS and EE have an agreement everywhere except in Brittany. Why? According to EE, it's a matter of looking out for the peasants and the consequences of fertilizer runoff: Speaking of René Louail, a former official of a farmer's group, EE's Christian Guynovarc'h said:

Et nous demandions que lui soit confiée la vice-présidence car nous estimions capital de lutter contre ces fléaux des algues vertes et de la pollution aux nitrates. Mais le PS ne voulait pas en entendre parler". Côté PS, c'est ce qu'on appelle, sans plus de précision, "les exigences insurmontables d'EE.

Hmm. I guess I need a little context here. I would think that farmers might find it difficult to give up their nitrogen-rich fertilizers. But I'm a city guy. Anybody know the story?

The UMP Is Starting to Look Like the PS

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  Tolstoy may have been right about human families, but with political families it's different: each unhappy family resembles all the others.

A Lesson for France

Tocqueville believed that the future of democracy could be divined by studying the United States and that France could profit from the lesson. If so, the French may want to pay attention to the candidacy of Murray Hill, a public relations firm in Silver Spring, Maryland. Corporations have long been "moral persons" in the United States, and the Supreme Court has now ruled that they have the same rights as real persons when it comes to funding political campaigns. Murray Hill has taken the next step: le don de sa personne (morale) à la nation, to borrow a phrase from Pétain.

Until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence-peddling to achieve their goals in Washington," the candidate, who was unavailable for an interview, said in a statement. "But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves. (h/t TexExile)

David Martinon

Remember David Martinon, the Sarkozy flack who got in the way of young Jean Sarkozy and had to be dispatched to the antipodes, en l'occurrence Tinseltown, USA? Well, it seems that he's landed on his feet, even if he can't get any ministers of note to travel to LA for fear of finding themselves pilloried in Le Canard enchaîné for squandering taxpayer euros on sunshine and non-Perrier bottled water. He's even thinking of making a career in the film business. Despite the suggestion in the article that Martinon was once considered a possible successor to Sarkozy (by whom? lui-même en se rasant le matin?), it's nice to know that there's life after Neuilly, and that a guy who looked totally clueless as a candidate can grow into a fellow who dazzles Hollywood gallery owners with his "charisma."

As it turns out, it might have been better if Sarko had kept Martinon in Neuilly and allowed Jean time to finish law school before pushing him into the public arena, because one of the things that voters repeatedly mentioned to pollsters as a reason for disillusionment with Sarkozy was the ill-fated nomination of Jean to head EPAD. A job for which an énarque like Martinon would have been perfect.

The "Bradley Effect"

In the United States pollsters refer to a so-called Bradley effect to explain why polls are (allegedly) often wrong in contests that pit a white candidate against a black. The theory is that people are reluctant to say that they're voting against the black, for fear of being tagged "racist," so they say that they are undecided or even that they will vote for the black candidate. If there ever was a Bradley effect, it seems to have diminished in recent years. But now Le Monde is adapting the theory to the French case to explain why pollsters underestimated the Front National vote in Sunday's election. But as Le Monde also explains, pollsters are aware of all sorts of biases in their surveys and do not predict results based on raw data. They always apply correctives based on past experience, and not just to correct for Bradley-type effects.

So the real question here is why the corrections applied in this case were wrong. One possibility is that a certain portion of the FN vote varies from election to election precisely because it is a protest vote rather than a pro-FN vote. The FN has its core supporters, to be sure, but it is also a convenient place to express a general ras-le-bol. Voters of this type may have preferences that swing dramatically from election to election. For example, suppose you have 3 percent of the electorate that is really disgusted with all the parties. One time they might vote for the LCR because they caught Olivier Besancenot on TV and liked what he was saying (and LCR's vote share rises sharply, leading to all sorts of wild speculation and even, perhaps, to a restructuring of the party). Then they hear that the NPA (LCR's successor) is running a veiled candidate, so they switch from Trotskyism to anti-Islamism and vote FN because they've seen the FN minaret poster. But maybe they don't want to say they're voting FN. When the pollster tries to correct for this by asking for opinions about a series of personalities, the answers don't necessarily offer the portrait of a confirmed Lepenist: they like Besancenot and Mélenchon, say, and are indifferent to Marine Le Pen. Or maybe, because the whole political process fills them with disgust, they just hang up on the pollster. The numbers involved here are relatively small, and the people involved are motivated by volatile political emotions rather than fixed preferences.

All Is Not Quiet in the East

The electoral geography of the Front National (from Le Monde).