Monday, March 4, 2013

Hollande Will "Explain Himself"

The president has noticed the vertiginous drop in his approval rating, which fell even more rapidly over his first year in office than did Sarkozy's. What does he plan to do about it? The usual. He will criss-cross France in a series of major trips designed to allow him overnight face time with local notables and politicians. He will prepare a major media event of some sort in order to explain his policies to the French and propose reasons to hope for better in the months ahead than already experienced in the months behind.

Thus described, the salvage program seems rather anemic. It might make sense as a temporizing scheme, if the president felt that basically his policies were on the right track and only needed more time to succeed. Does he believe that? If so, he doesn't have much company, so he has set himself a tall order in proposing to explain his reasoning to the majority of doubters. Perhaps he will surprise us, but in all honesty, not much about Hollande's presidency has been surprising. And in the end, that failure to surprise, a consequence of the president's fundamental cautiousness and of the very insistence on a "return to normalcy" that won him the office in the first place, may prove to have been his greatest weakness.

Will he not even dare the standard remedy of presidents unsure of which way to turn, namely, a cabinet shake-up? Rumors of Ayrault's demise have been circulating for some time. Some see Valls as the successor, others Moscovici. Either would likely be a less tranquil force than the soporific Ayrault has proven to be. But what would be the policy significance of such a change of personnel? It's hard to say. Neither man is associated with any sort of bold alternative to the status quo. A shake-up would simply advertise more of the same but under new management. The electorate is likely to remain underwhelmed.