Thursday, September 15, 2011

Socialist Debate Thread

I'm watching the Socialist debate but would rather hear your comments than offer my own, so feel free to use the comment button below. My chief reaction, at the midway point, is that I'm glad the primary is only a month away. I'm not sure the country can take much of this. I must say, Hollande, for a front runner, came off as an awfully angry man, while Royal, the seasoned candidate, seemed (characteristically?) ill-prepared. Montebourg's opening statement was very polished indeed, but I'm rather allergic to his main formulas, démondialisation et protectionnisme. And now the feed is getting flaky. I hope it's back for Aubry.

The televised political debate has to be one of the least intellectually satisfying forms of political discourse ever invented. Surely there's a better way.


Stephen said...

I can't even begin to think about a winner. I'm pretty disappointed by all of them.

Cincinna said...

    I agree, none seem ready for prime time. I might add that none is very adept at this, copied from American style primary debates. A medium not not well suited for French style elocution and actual ideas, just short sound bites. 
    The idea of the electorate choosing the party's candidate is better than the smoke filled back room system of days gone by, but it does have it's weaknesses.
    I think it does, however, give French voters a chance to see who could possibly go head to head with Sarko in a debate and not be overshadowed & squashed. Sarko is a focused, articulate & powerful debater. 
    After the drubbing Royal took in her live debate with Sarko last time, I'm surprised she isn't ashamed to run again. Debating her  former "husband" or whatever you call the never married father of her four children looks uncomfortable, & a little creepy for both of them. Some sort if displaced rivalry & revenge that should have no place in a national debate.
  One of them should have had the grace and decency to step aside. Francois Hollande was always the better candidate, smarter & more experienced. Unfortunately, the PS has fallen into the same trap of Identity Politics as the US. They ran Royal not because she was the best, but because she was  a woman. 
  Just my 2¢

Anonymous said...

I was very surprised by Hollande's lackluster performance, especially in the "interview" and "debate" sections (he was very good in the "conclusing remarks" part), so, overall, quite disappointing, especially for a front-runner.
Aubry performed better than I expected, in particular, she was less wooden than I'd seen her be. Her difference with Hollande was on the nuclear issue, she pounced and he ended up sounding weak on the issue. He fought back by stating *I* always knew I'd be a candidate and I wasn't waiting for DSK to make up his mind (sth of the kind). The swipe was swift and couldn't be answered since Aubry had used up all her time.
The fact cannabis factored in at all surprised me. If Baylet brought it up I take to mean he's there to support Aubry (ie., he made her position on weed seem less extreme by calling for free sales in drugstores.)
Royal was regal and hammered her point home - the banking system must be regulated and bans that speculate on debt must be brought to heel. It was funny how often the others used her very unique vocabulary (croissance verte, donnant-donnant, I don't remember the rest but it was constant).
Montebourg and Valls each created their niche within the spectrum and positioned themselves very clearly. I liked Montebourg best, even though I don't think he'd stand a chance, he sounded self-assured and with clear points. On electability of course he'd lose each time.
In the end, there's a "middle line" with Aubry and Hollande, a "bridge to Sarkozy" with Valls, and a "change things" line with Montebourg and Royal. I know all three can't be in the second round, so I'd wager there'll be one from the Aubry and Hollande duet, and one from the Montebourg and Royal duet. At this point we can"t really tell which ones.
Although François Hollande told a reporter he believed there wouldn't be a second round - which meshes with what I'd heard his supporters say.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

A pretty good factual summary.

It just occured to me that Hollande and his supporters may be so hell-bent on a one-round-only election because that's what Royal did last time. Kind of a revenge of the (philandering) nerd-turned-solid-presidential-candidate. But I don't see how that's possible: even if Baylet get 0.5% votes,there are still 4 candidates and it's impossible their combined score would be 49 or less.

Passerby said...

I only watched pieces of the debate, as there could be only limited productive discussions in such a setting. A lot of different participants, all trying to voice their differences but holding their punches by fear of alienating the broader base of socialists voters.

From my perspective (which I would qualify "de centre droit"), my first impression on the primary so far is that some of the socialist candidates could have a broader appeal in 2012 than in previous elections. Quick overview:

- Martine Aubry: Her remark on the "100 000 emplois jeunes" took me by surprise. These jobs never were the anti youth-unemployment solution that was announced, and they were decried for not leading to real jobs afterwards. But beside the point she tried to make, what surprised me the most is that she intended to bring forward her legacy, while, if chosen the socialist candidate, the right will exactly attack her on this point (particularly the famous "35 heures"). Socialists' best chance for presidency is positioning against Sarkozy, not on the Jospin years legacy (which partly got Sarkozy the job in the first place!)
It seems to me that she intends to campaign "as before" without taking into account changes in public opinion.

- Ségolène Royal: In the past I've never found her convincing or trusted her competences. Too much liabilities in my book, for her to stand a chance to make me change my mind. She probably thought she could campaign again on "personality" and leave propositions in the blur. Her campaign is clearly not getting a popular support like last time. In my view she remains Sarko's best chance at reelection.

- François Hollande: The biggest surprise for me this year. Beside his weight loss, I think that he 's successfully modernizing his image. In the various interviews of him that I heard lately, I found him articulate, focused and (something new) determinated. For me, his recent explanation on his absence at "la fête de l'huma", signals that he knows that he needs broader appeal at the center. He's actually a candidate that I can imaging voting for.

- Arnaud Montebourg: He spent years polishing an image of a "thorn in the establishment's side", and he now campaigns on traditional left positions. To me this "back to the eighties" strategy is a mistake. And he doesn't come across has honestly believing what he proposes. He never was the front runner, but I feel that he's damaging his image.

Manuel Valls: A candidate that openly speaks about moving toward social-democracy. This bodes well for the future of the PS, as this topic seemed, until recently, almost taboo. At least when candidates were speaking directly to the left voters. He seemed much more in phase with his time than Aubry or Royal. However, 4/6 candidates do not share his appeal for the center. I think his views are a bit too early for the core socialist audience that will vote at the primary.

Jean-Michel Baylet: Not a household name: not a single chance. Despite a good attempt to catch attention, and maybe youth appeal, on the cannabis issue.

@Cincinna: beside Sarko's debate skills, in my view Royal dismissal performance was mostly her own (un)doing.
More than 4 years afterward, I still can't believe how a serious candidate could even think that voters would swallow such out-of-touch-with-reality statements:
"Je le dis, demain, si je suis élue Président de la République, les agents publics seront protégés et en particulier les femmes ; elles seront raccompagnées à leur domicile lorsqu'elles sortent tardivement des commissariats de police."

@Anonymous: thanks for the link to the Le Monde summary

Anonymous said...

@Passerby: regarding the scheduling for female police officers, it's always puzzled me that it raised such an outrage in France (especially considering female police officers tend to be more targeted than male officers). I've known that my whole life - walk-you-back patrols on campus, in town, etc and I never questioned it. It seemed normal to me that, when teams are finished with their shift and leave the precinct, there's an escort back by one officer who's the closest to the vicinity, be it to her car, her bus stop, or her home if she's on foot. I think it's done all over Canada (and based on my experience, at least SOME American cities). It's not that difficult to include when scheduling team shifts.

Remember, I live in a rural area where a majority of people never went to college (and a large plurality stopped in 8th or 9th grade or with a vocational diploma). People like them make up 60% French people currently, especially among older-skewing départements.
They liked Montebourg and Royal best - even though Royal started by reading her paper (something that I found odd as she's been doing this kind of interviews/debates for ever.) But they liked that she was dressed "serious", spoke "clearly" (as in "she was easy to understand" "she's basically the only one who made sense") and that she tackled the banks, in general, and specifically the 50€ overdraft balance thingy she apparently mentioned and which I hadn't even picked up upon. They also commented (a lot) on her advocating for condemned politicians to be ineligible for life and immediately kicked off their electoral positions. Two points that hardly registered on Parisian pundits' radar.
Montebourg won accolades for being elegant and eloquent + for being serious about hitting the banks too. Those who want to "upturn the tables" liked his way of speaking. He also won kudos for saying DSK should apologize to French people since they're as important as the IMF. There were fewer specific ideas that they remembered, except a general feeling he'll crack the whip on banks and the DSK apology demand.
Hollande they found "very confusing", "speaking without a point", "going left and right" , "brouyon" (I don't know how to translate that word it may be local dialect?). Essentially they couldn't follow him. They didn't like the way he spoke to the journalists, as if he were already elected and he was their better. And finally, nobody I talked to believes there's enough money to put 60,000 teachers back into the national education system, they think it's an example of "tomorrow, free shave" (in French: demain on rase gratis.) the joke being that when you come back for the free shave, the sign still says "tomorrow, free shave".

Anonymous said...

Aubry they liked for being clear, "carrée", not giving an inch. However they pointed out she was "speaking like Ségolène". Someone asked whether she was angling for the Prime Minister position. Also, the "emploi jeunes" drew mixed feelings - there's a sense that while 1997-2002 was a good time, it's in the past... and that good time led to le vingt et un avril, when Jospin was beat by Le Pen. But overall it was positive for Aubry in that particular population segment.
I must mention that Hollande drew sharp criticism for naming Jospin, especially among people who are in the workforce. There's a raw feeling of betrayal against Jospin, that "Jospin c'est le vingt et un avril" or "he made us vote for Chirac" or from some a quote "mon projet n'est pas socialiste".
Baylet was found funny; they liked that he was the only one who'd not "smoothed out" his accent; but weed isn't a big issue out here. "He's just happy he's on tv!"
Valls, who wowed so many journalists, got booed here. They think he's a sarkozyst, etc. (This is a "red" area and it's been for 200 years or so. The primaries aren't that big a deal, as they look like other elections... it isn't unusual to have elections with only leftist candidates: PC, LO, NPA, PS, PRG. PS candidates thus appear "on the right" to some. :p There's a LCR building AND a PC building, with the party engraved on the frontispice in case you'd get it wrong, next to the school where one of my kids goes, and it's a town under 10,000 people.) Essentially, I can bet Baylet will score higher than Valls in my area.
So, okay, this is just one day "surveying" people informally, but watching the news where pundits and random luminaries found Hollande brilliant - oh, listen to Séguéla rhapsody - makes me feel like there are two countries and I don't live in the same one as the people who speak on TV.

I found the "Nielsens" (?audience numbers ?) astounding. The format wasn't very exciting, politicians talking isn"t the most interesting program even in the best circumstances, and yet this program beat the Masterchef finale program by TF1! FIVE million people actually watched the debate!
I think the Primaries are only just starting and anything's possible. Could Montebourg win? Could Hollande be out of the running?
Well, I don"t think so, but who knows?