Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Droites Innombrables

René Rémond saw three main currents of right-wing political culture in France. To judge by the results of the UMP elections, there are now at least twice that many. Looked at more closely, however, the many currents reduce to two: one that wants to make race and national identity a key tenet of the Right, and one that does not, that regards such a move as unwise "both politically and morally" (as François Fillon said in his statement following Copé victory in the leadership contest; my italics).  For all the creative nomenclature (Droite forte, Droite humaniste, Droite gaulliste, Droite sociale, Droite populaire, Droite anti-division), the key tactical question is, How do we beat the Front National? And the respectable Right has two answers: go after their voters where they live, or else continue to reject the FN program and leadership as beyond the pale of reasonable discourse.

Beyond the issue of identity, there is nevertheless a spectrum of views on how to counter the FN's program of protectionism and support of the working class. Here, the nuances among the various currents of the UMP (and of Borloo's neocentrist movement) become slightly more interesting. A number of deputies expressed fear that the victorious Copé would try to lock down the party, suppress dissenting voices on these issues, and press forward with his own version of Sarkozy's droite décomplexée. If he does, they threaten to leave the party--and the threat is not idle. Copé's narrow victory lends substance to Borloo's contention that there is no longer any justification for a single party to claim a monopoly of the right-wing electorate. We can look back to the good old days of the UDF-RPR rivalry.

As for those who believe that Copé is merely a stalking horse for a Sarkozy comeback in 2017, I say this: while it is true that Sarkozy retains substantial support among UMP militants, I have my doubts about a future candidacy. He goes before the judges tomorrow. Even if he survives the several investigations into shady campaign financing allegations, he is likely to succumb to his own desire to earn large amounts of money by capitalizing on his political connections. He stated this as his ambition post-politique. I suspect that he will not be too scrupulous about how he earns that money, and that his choices will make it impossible for him to resume a political career.

As for Copé, I think the UMP has just made a fatal choice. The close vote reveals a deeply divided party, and Copé is far less popular among the broader electorate than Fillon, despite years of exposure at the national level and continuous cultivation of the press. Although Copé "magnanimously" offered Fillon the meaningless position of "vice-president of the UMP," Fillon, who emerged from the contest stronger than he entered it, indicated no particular desire to associate himself with the Copéisé UMP. He now stands equal to his rival as the standard-bearer of the Right and has numerous options to consider in a reconfigured right party lineup. I think we are in for an interesting period of realignment. Copé's victory will be short-lived. One sign of this was the remarkably strong rejection of Copé today by François Baroin, who normally plays his cards closer to the vest.


FrédéricLN said...

I agree with the analysis, and especially with the concluding remark about Mr Baroin's surprising move.

I would nevertheless not bet on Mr Copé remaining less popular than Mr Sarkozy or Mr Fillon.

He proved very effective on that level in Meaux; the stages where he appeared in national politics (the Parliament, the Secretariat General of the party) left him in the shadow behind the Greats — with that constant suspicion he might be bearing a knife and waiting for an opportunity to strike.

He's on the front line now, he can drop the knife (if any). He's not such an empathic guy, for sure, and I don't see a charismatic leadership in his case; but some additional pains au chocolat will do the trick quite easily. He just has to set himself up in his township of Beauval, fighting against the Crime, the Illicit Traficking, the Communautarism (an advantage Neuilly mayor Sarkozy didn't have) and he will easily be adopted as the role model for all voters fighting l'Antifrance.

Dirty play, maybe; under-Berlusconi, for sure; still not played by Copé so far; but would probably work very well at the 2014 elections, Copé standing as the sheriff and your local UMP mayor/candidate as his empathic but rigorous friend, the judge.

I think the only way for PS to succeed in 2014, and beyond, is to succeed as soon as 2013 in economic and social recovery. I think it's possible, and Hollande did half of the way (took the issue as serious, increased taxes to prevent bankruptcy). But half is not enough, as Moody's just tells us. Making the state-run and locally run services become fast and sharply (more) effective, would be the second step.

FrédéricLN said...

A short ;-) addition: Sarkozy got 46% of votes at the second turn in Meaux in May ( http://www.lexpress.fr/resultats-elections/presidentielle-2012-meaux-77100_107402.html ) ; Copé 60% at the second turn of the "législative" in June ( http://www.francetvinfo.fr/elections/meaux_77100 ). This +14 bonus mustn't be far from a national highest score. (While the average difference between UMP incumbents scores at the second turns of both elections, at the national level, must have been around 0).

bernard said...

Baroin, surely a decent fellow, is about the same age as Copé and they are, almost by definition rivals. Sure, Baroin is a bit of a dilettante, but you never know, he might grow up some day. And let us not forget what French politics are about: who's doing what to whom, nothing else.

Elsewhere, while I can understand that those who are out of office spend most of their time thinking about how to get back in at some later date, the date right now is 2012 and the business is governing. I doubt that the present goovernment is obsessed right now with the next election, that will come in due time in, say, three years. Right now, the present government is obsessed with governing successfully.

Anonymous said...

Not sure whether you heard:
The cocoe or whoever was in charge at UMP, beside doing the shoddiest job organizing the election, FORGOT TO COUNT VOTES from overseas territories. Apparently Fillon's "really" the winner but Copé refuses to count the "overseas" votes. If he refuses, Député Tardy threatens to leave, and 134 députés asked for Jupé to be Interim Head of UMP until the matter is solved.

Anonymous said...

Art, you are correct about Sarkozy. There is no chance that he will be make a comeback in 2017. However the UMP crisis plays out - which I doubt will result in the party splitting - Copé will definitely be a candidate in '17 and will not cede to Sarkozy. Copé is as determined on this as Sarko was on 2007 already in '03, when he said that he thought about it not only while shaving in the morning. Sarko and Copé - who cannot stand one another - also had a deal on this. Also, if Sarkozy wants the job back he will have to run in a crowded primary and which will likely be open to all voters on the right and center. And then there are his current legal problems. Sarkozy's national political career is over.