Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Can the Center Hold?

Bernard Girard considers Gérard Grunberg's thesis that France's future relations with Europe depends on compromise between the center-right and center-left, since both the left and the right are now irrevocably fractured over the question of further European integration. I have been saying this for some time, and Hollande's reversal on the TSCG, which he now makes the sine qua non of sound economic policy after having opposed it during his campaign, seems to me proof that such an "historic compromise" has already been effected in fact if not in theory. The problem is that I am not at all sure that it is a compromise that enjoys majority support, and what support it does enjoy is likely to diminish over the months ahead, as the consequences of austerity become increasingly apparent. This is an alarming state of affairs.


Mitch Guthman said...

It may be a foolish conceit but I have always thought of myself as a man of the center-left who has drifted perhaps a tiny bit leftward after having been radicalized by the GW Bush presidency. If I have correctly located myself in the political spectrum, I can tell you that the center-left isn’t in the least bit more enthused by Merkozy when it is proposed by Hollande. Renegotiating the Merkozy pact was the only concrete promise Hollande made during the election and for him to go back on it without even a single word of explanation strike me as an epic betrayal.

I think the real question is whether Hollande is going to split the PS with a few of the more nationalist elements perhaps splitting off and making a front with the Gaullists on nationalist grounds (at one time I would have thought the MoDems the natural landing place for both Gaullists and disaffected PS nationalists but I can’t see it without Bayrou to hold such disparate elements together).

As to whether the left has someplace to go, I would make two points:

First, Mélenchon and the Left Party all spit from the PS so there is a precedent. Moreover, there isn’t that much to lose by leaving if Hollande is going to morph into Sarkozy without the “bling bling.” I think everyone understands that the stakes here are huge and that the policy of imposing austerity in the mist of a recession has been disastrous. Every day we see new evidence of the devastation austerity and internal devaluation is inflicting on Greece and Spain. Italy will be next and probably France very soon.

If the most likely candidate to run against Hollande is Sarkozy (whom Hollande is trying to emulate), why shouldn’t the left just say home? What is to be gained by supporting Hollande? What would be lost by a Sarkozy victory in the next election? Why should the left take Sarkozy failed policies as their own?

Second, implicit in the approaches of Merkel, Draghi and now Hollande is the notion of some kind of federalist European nation (lead, presumably, by a group of unelected Platonic guardians). This seems to be the generally accepted price for saving the euro but while the elites may be willing to toss Europe, democracy and their own national identities overboard to save the euro, I don’t that this will have much appeal to most people.

Consequently, I see both Mélenchon and Le Pen shifting their appeal to one of French pride and nationalism and I see both parties as a landing place for increasingly disaffected PS voters.

FrédéricLN said...

Well, putting the public budgets in order is the very opposite of Sarkozy's policy, which brought deficits to almost never known summits (in peace times), up to 6% GDP in one year for primary deficit, not taking into account debt interests to be paid (2 or 3% GDP, that was 2009).

If somebody tried a keynesian stimulus, Sarkozy is that person. We are now eating the fruits of that policy.

So, Hollande's policy is clearly different from Sarkozy's. For sure, not in a way he made clear during the campaign.