Sunday, July 31, 2011

To Each Présidentiable, His Own Think Tank

From Mediapart:

A l'orée d'une nouvelle campagne présidentielle, il n'y a ainsi désormais guère de figure politique importante qui ne veuille disposer de son propre club de réflexion. Répondre à gauche, de François Hollande, La Forge de Benoît Hamon, le Cercle 21 de Manuel Valls, Des idées et des rêvesd'Arnaud Montebourg, et bien sûr Désirs d'avenir, de Ségolène Royal... du côté du PS. Génération France de Jean-François Copé, France9, de François Fillon, Droite sociale de Laurent Wauquiez, les Progressistesd'Eric Besson, le Club 89 de Benoît Apparu... du côté de l'UMP.
The model here is Sarkozy, who with characteristic modesty claimed to have won the presidency by winning "the battle of ideas," following a strategy first outlined by ... the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci.


Romain / Variae said...

Sous le terme "think tank" Mediapart écrase des choses bien différentes ... Répondre à Gauche ou Désirs d'Avenir sont d'abord des associations de soutien, quant à la Forge, elle est en coma avancé depuis longtemps.

FrédéricLN said...

French media use the American word "think tank" to label fuzzy networks of "intellectuels" (usually, civil servants having studied at ENA or Sciences Po) who seldomly meet and release, at best, school-style "dissertations" by some of their individual members.

They are useful to political leaders, as they give them (lonesome knights or feudal lords with a bench of vassals) the feeling they are backed by "le deuxième ordre", "les gardiens du temple", the Republican Church.

Then they only need to win the votes of "le Tiers-Etat". That's around 96% of the population, which is much, but according to politicians, "le Tiers-Etat" watches TV: as you can't raise its support directly, you just have to seduce journalists.

If you can win le Tiers-Etat, what use are the two first Ordres? OK, you need the endorsement of the feudal system in order to be nominated as candidate by one of the two power-sharing parties, PS and UMP ; but what are clerks for?

Politicians actually don't like them so much: clerks talk too much. Publicizing their own ideas, their own "agenda", will undermine the candidate's position if some bug is to be found there (and remember these papers are individual amateur "dissertations", without any proper validation process). So, the candidate's first hope will be that they keep silence.

They will be managed as Reserve troops, expected to be mobilized if the candidate wins the race — because, *then*, he will actually need clerks.

During the campaign, they will be handled as a deterrence force, for their intellectual edge over journalists. Is some journalist crosses the line between power struggles and policies, and start criticizing sharply the candidate's policy agenda, the candidate will be happy to balance that sending some *intellectual* on the stage, ordered to criticize even more sharply the opponent's agenda on the same issues — and to praise (not the candidate's ideas, but) the candidate's willingness to "ouvrir le débat" on the issue, raising awareness, and giving the voters an opportunity to state the vacuity of the opponent's proposals.

In practice, the difficult job for politician's staff is to keep the intellectuals happy while not issuing anything useful, not appearing on the stage, not getting proper feedback from the candidate, not being assigned any sound mission. I guess Parisian restaurants provide a fix for most circumstances.