Monday, October 10, 2011

Was the Montebourg Vote Personal or Ideological?

I, along with many other analysts, have interpreted the Montebourg vote as a sign of ideological discontent, a protest from the left wing of the Socialist Party. But is this correct? Some observers, including François Hollande, suggest that the Montebourg vote was primarily an endorsement of Montebourg's personality, his good debate performance, his polished rhetoric, etc. This may be. I didn't see enough of the debates to assess how strong his performance was, but the press was certainly favorable. No doubt the truth is a mixture of both interpretations.

Funny. I met Montebourg a couple of years ago, even had dinner with him. I found him quite charming, a good conversationalist, but not terribly well-versed in economic policy issues. Indeed, having spent some time with Ségolène Royal as well, I thought that, despite her reputation as a relative lightweight, she had actually spent more time thinking about economic policy than Montebourg, or at least had been better briefed. A colleague and I left the Montebourg dinner together. As we walked out into the cold Beacon Hill air, we turned to each other and said simultaneously, "Awfully nice guy, but needs work if he's going to run for president." Just goes to show you what informed opinion is worth. Democratic politics is full of imponderables.


bernard said...

You should look at the geographical performance. Montebourg did very well in the greater Marseilles area eg provence, I suppose for Guerini reasons, in the northern Alps and at home. His vote doesn't look national to me, regional rather, which may be a clue. Still, he sure was a surprise.

Unknown said...

Where did you find the regional breakdown? I looked on the Le Monde site a few minutes ago and didn't see it.

Anonymous said...

Ongoing results by 'département'

Dionyssis G. Dimitrakopoulos said...

If Hollande really believes that Montebourg's support is a matter of personality (which in my view is wrong) rather than substance/platform, he is more likely to offer him a job instead of substantively amending his own policy agenda.

gregory brown said...

Bernard's comment on regional performance strikes on a point I have been thinking about since reading the results last night. The US presidential primary system is much derided for not being a "national" primary and catering to particular regional concerns and to activists who tend to be much more ideological than the political nation as a whole.

The French two-round system was intended, of course, to avoid just those problems and to generate a consensus behind the eventual winner.

But with the introduction of party primaries, it seems to me, the parties (specifically the PS) have followed the wrong model in replicating the two-stage national vote of the presidential election. Because after all, only a small fraction of the electorate participates and so regional concerns (as Bernard points out) or ideological purity (as Art points out) will loom much larger anyway, and in no way will the eventual winner claim any sort of mandate for the party (as Art suggested yesterday) or the political family of the left, even though he or she will get >50% of the vote.

In a way, to conclude, the idea of a series of regional primaries in succession -- in which retail politics, political organization and party identification/ mobilization are paramount -- would not better serve a party like the PS which has never really made clear if its leaders are there due to personal appeal / personal networks or ideological support from its militants?