Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mélenchon's the Man

No doubt about it: Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the phenomenon of the 2012 presidential campaign. So many people are turning out to hear his speeches that the Front de Gauche is having to take out unanticipated loans to cope with the crowds.

A few months ago, all the talk was about Marine Le Pen. Would she keep Sarkozy out of round 2? How much of the working-class vote would she attract? Mélenchon has created a new dynamic, however, ex nihilo. It's a phenomenon that bears analysis, but so far there are few data to go on.

I know of no good sociological breakdown of the Mélenchon electorate. How many of the folks in these crowds are workers? How many ex-NPA or ex-LO? How many disaffected Socialists? How many curiosity-seekers turned off by Hollande's hunkered-down say-nothing make-no-waves campaign? How many aficionados of le verbe politique, dazzled by Mélenchon's rhetoric? How many nostalgics for the good old days when France had parties that believed in "revolution?" How many would-be buveurs de sang et bouffeurs de curé aroused by Laurence Parisot's denunciation of Mélenchon as a "terrorist?" How many anti-EU, anti-globalization, 2005 non voters, Sixth Republic fans, or disappointed Montebourgeois? How many anti-Sarkozystes primaires who simply want the most vociferous of the president's detractors? And how many, finally, voters sincerely convinced that Mélenchon has hit upon the right combination of policies to lead France out of the crisis, restore growth, reduce unemployment, and put state finances back on an even keel?

And what if some enterprising TV host arranged for a debate between Mélenchon and Cohn-Bendit? Amateurs of les grandes gueules politiques would be sure to tune in in large numbers. How about it, Ruquier or Ardisson?


Anonymous said...

It's interesting, because Mélenchon is almost the exact same type of person as Marine Le Pen. They are both obnoxious loudmouths, using populst demagogery to attract voters. (Obviously, they are each at different ends of the political spectrum, but lately, in France, it seems that this spectrum is a circle, and the extremes are not that far apart.)

My guess is that people who will vote for Mélenchon are doing so beacuse the other far-left candidates are essentially invisible. It's a question of not wanting to vote for the "establishment" candidate, but not wanting to vote for someone who is as vapid is the other three or four on the left.

Anonymous said...

The vituperative remarks of Anonymous don't really deserve a rebuttal, but since many in the mainstream are tempted to draw the equation between MLP and JLM I want to recall a few distinguishing features of Mélenchon: 1) though not an énarque, his considerable talent caused Mitterand to draw him into his inner circle at an early age (Cf. MLP's rise through her father's party); 2) Mélenchon made a steady career for some 25 years in the PS, serving as minister, senator, founding a left current, mastering any number of dossiers (Cf. MLP's shallow sloganeering); 3) as the Bastille rally showed, Mélenchon routinely situates his politics in a long and honorable tradition fully informed by references to classical historiography (Cf. MLP's eagerness to forget her movement's roots in the Vichy regime); 4) a copious writer, Mélenchon pours his thoughts into a disarmingly frank though rather literary blog, alongside his numerous books (Cf. MLP's literary productions ...?). I could go on, but for reasons of space I rest my case: this attempt to amalgamate the personae, much less the programs, of the two Frontist leaders is a total sham, a lazy diatribe informed by nothing but spleen.