Monday, January 23, 2012

The Times' Take

Steven Erlanger of the NY Times describes Hollande's speech of yesterday thus:
Mr. Hollande tried on Sunday to answer his critics with an impassioned if wandering speech about his conception of the presidency, shouting himself hoarse as he talked about resuscitating “the French dream” of a better life built on equality, justice and secularism.
“The French dream is confidence in the future, in democracy,” he said. He emphasized better education, and said that if he were to be judged on one thing, he would want it to be whether the lives of French youth were better in 2017, at the end of the next presidential term.
I have now watched enough of Hollande's presentation to agree by and large with Erlanger's account:  the speech was a valiant if meandering effort, the candidate shouted himself hoarse, all the Socialist elephants were lined up in support, and the crowd was more than enthusiastic. For a rather different take, self-avowedly "subjective," by an Hollande supporter, see Romain Pigenel's blog:

Un meeting réussi, c’est quand le bruit de la foule – les hourras, les cris, les « François Président », les « tous ensemble », toute cette liturgie de meeting – finit par devenir tellement continu, et tellement fort, qu’il couvre des passages entiers du discours du candidat, et que finalement personne ne s’en plaint, et qu’un sourire béat, un peu bête, illumine tous les visages, saisis par l’émotion magnétique du moment.
The reaction of the French press, meanwhile, seems generally positive, along the lines of Gérard Courtois's column:
Trois défis attendaient M. Hollande au Bourget : séduire, rassembler, convaincre. Autant le dire simplement : il les a relevés. Evidemment, un tel rassemblement militant – 20 000 personnes autour de leur champion – est, presque par définition, enthousiaste et fervent. Donc aisément trompeur.

It is tempting to provide a phenomenological commentary on the self-willed transformation  of what Sartre would have called "the serio-practical inert" into "the group-in-fusion," but I will resist the temptation. I have on occasion been caught up in this kind of collective enthusiasm. It's a heady feeling while it lasts, but it frequently ends in disappointment. In this case disappointment may come either before or after the election, but the apparent elation of yesterday's crowd will soon have to face the reality of campaigning and perhaps governing in a worsening economic climate with few ideas of how to reverse the decline evident among any of the candidates. including Hollande.

Two more positive reactions, from the left and the right. And a negative from the right. And more from the left. And still more. This last post suggests that Hollande appealed successfully to those to the left of him by making his "real enemy" the "world of finance." This sort of rhetoric leaves me cold, but evidently it's not without effect.


Anonymous said...

"governing in a worsening economic climate with few ideas of how to reverse the decline" and that problem faces every other EU leader at this unprecedented time of banker-provoked economic upheaval. It is however fertile ground for ultra conservative parties in France and elsewhere in the EU. Democracy may be in danger of being sacrificed on the altar of euro-salvation.

Anonymous said...

What I found most interesting was the UMP's reaction. Well; lack thereof. They seemed speechless. I'm not sure why because it's not as if the speech was the greatest thing since Charles de Gaulle. Ther WERE a lot of people but generally pary members are enthusiastic when it's their party leader (apparently the 2002 campaign is an exception - few people, little enthusiasm.)
The first UMP representative I heard started with "it was a good speech, even if it was an empty speech" (paraphrasing). Of course at first I thought, wait, UMP thinks that Hollande was good???
Then there were a few UMP people who claimed Hollande had spent his time attacking Sarkozy (well, what did they expect? ... and Sarkozy himself was not named I think, unless I missed it.) Overall it was as if they'd expected stories based on another speech and ended up unprepared.
Today Copé and co had gotten their tongue back and claimed Hollande was harking back to the 70s, which "makes us all 30 years younger but won't cut it in the 21st century". This response is so ill-conceived that I don't know how to start. That "banque de dépôt" thing is copied on the US and has been quoted in every media as an invention that helped save the US after "la crise de vingt neuf", and revived by Obama in 2009, to such success that even David Cameron decided to copy him. The million people with "livret A" probably don't care what decade a rate improvement comes from; life in the 70s now appears rosy to many people - no unemployment, crazy kids who weren't dangerous, funky fashion, music everybody knows, extension of voting rights, women's rights, etc. (The 70s seem to have been in France what the 60s were in the US - their weathermen started in the late 70s early 80s and of course they weren't involved in Vietnam.) Finally, only someone who's quite old or not quite there would think the 70s were 30 years ago - how time flies etc. :p
Tonight Yves Calvi has Manuel Valls and JeanFrançois Copé to discuss that meeting, perhaps there'll be some arguing :p.
Also: I'm surprised to hear how overwhelmingly positive the media were. I was there in 2007 and there wasn't a thing Royal could do right whereas Sarkozy walked on water. Today, it's the opposite. (Yesterday, iTélé, first 10mn: 8mn for Hollande 2mn for Sarkozy in a canoe in Guyana.)

Anonymous said...
another recap of yesterday's meeting and its aftermath.
Tonight (mots croisés), Copé tried to say that Hollande spoke of a "dream" when in fact he was going to be really careful with public funds but the dig didn't take. He also tried calling Hollande Santa Claus but it didn't work better. I heard on C dans l'air "un expert de la finance" say that Hollande's idea to separate investment banking from savings&loans made sens to most people in finance, that French banks had already reorganized after 2008 and wouldn't have trouble following this mandate... while the host looked on, amazed.

Anonymous said...

Cohen has the stupidest article ever (okay, I exagerate, but not by much): extolling Sarkozy on the day the topic of discussion is that Sarkozy's toast. It was the topic of Domenach's column for C+, there's an article in Médiapart, etc, etc.
Now Arun with a view recaps the situation and presents two articles in full: