Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Cautious Candidate

François Hollande is the frontrunner, and conventional wisdom has it that frontrunners play it safe. François Hollande is playing it safe. The UMP wants to portray him as a profligate spender, so he will minutely calibrate every proposal. To finance the return to a legal retirement age of 60 for those who begin work early enough to have accumulated the necessary number of quarters by then, he will raise the CSG by 0.1 percentage points in each year of his quinquennat. He has baked in a growth estimate of only 0.5% in the first year. He will inscribe laïcité in the Constitution, but only within the terms of the existing 1905 law and without altering the existing exceptions of Alsace and Lorraine.

It's a program to make an accountant smile, but it isn't going to get anyone's pulse racing. And that's just the way Hollande wants it. Pulses are already racing, he figures, at the prospect of dumping Sarkozy, and that will be all it takes. He may be right, but such a program will make for the dullest of campaigns, and it will be hard to pivot to anything more exciting should his poll numbers begin to fall. But the pressure of a campaign strips candidates to their innate character, and caution seems to be the essence of François Hollande. There are worse qualities for a president, I suppose, at least in many historical circumstances. I wonder about the present circumstances, though, and I wonder about Hollande.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seriously, given the state of the economy, the level of public debt, and the simple fact that the state is broke, what could Hollande credibly propose that would rally the masses? The only thing for him to do is advance proposals - however small bore they may be - that are not demagogic or pie in the sky, show his mastery of policy, be modest but draw clear differences between him and Sarkozy, speak well and impose his persona, and run a good campaign. So far, so good. He has a tricky balancing act given Bayrou's surge and Mélenchon's enthusiastic rallies of late. He has to play to both the left and center. One should cut him some slack on his proposals.