Sunday, April 28, 2013

Du rififi chez le PS

As regular readers know, the PS erupted last week in a mini-rebellion against the official economic policy of Troika-approved austerity. Yesterday, Jean-Marc Ayrault tried to cool tempers, especially insofar as the attacks were directed personally at Angela Merkel. Now we have a full-blown counterattack by two ministers, Michel Sapin (labor) and Manuel Valls (interior), who denounce the attacks on Merkel and austerity as "demagogic," "irresponsible," and "insulting."

Should we now expect other ministers--Moscovici and Fabius foremost among them--to take sides in this rather embarrassing fratricidal bloodletting? Or will the president attempt to put the lid on intraparty dissent? The blowup only contributes to the widespread perception of Hollande as a weak president. Of course, he may, as I suggested the other day, be using the open dissension as a means of freeing up a bit more room for maneuver in his discussions with German and EU officials. If so, it's a risky game: Machiavellian in its way, but the author of The Prince would be the first to remind him that every leader needs to be feared, and at the moment nobody in the PS seems very much afraid of Hollande's wrath.

Will "Zombie Catholicism" Do In the Socialist Party?

The term is not mine. "Zombie Catholicism" is an invention of the indefatigable demographers Hervé Le Bras and Emmanuel Todd:
Hervé Le Bras : Dans notre livre, nous avons pointé ce qu’on a appelé « le catholicisme zombie » : malgré la disparition quasi complète de la pratique religieuse, qui ne concerne plus que 6% des Français, et 1% des 18-24 ans, il reste une manière de vivre, nous disons une « anthropologie » façonnée au cours des siècle par l’Eglise catholique.
Their analysis is that the progress made by the left in the 2012 election came about because the Right had moved to far toward the extreme, putting off these "nonpracticing Catholic" voters, whose natural political valence was in the center-right, the Christian Democrat vote, if you will:
Si le PS avait bien analysé sa progression en 2012, comme nous l’avons fait dans notre livre, il aurait vu qu’elle est due à une maladresse de la droite, qui s’est déportée trop à droite. L’UMP a oublié la composante démocrate-chrétienne de son électorat.
But the gay marriage law has alienated these same voters, according to Le Bras, and this will cost the PS in the next election:
Avec le « mariage pour tous », le PS vient à mon avis de s’aliéner ce qui a été à la base de son succès lors des dernières élections. C’est une erreur électorale énorme. Il ne pouvait peut-être pas le prévoir.
This is such a controversial interpretation, however, that even Le Bras's co-author does not agree with him:
Cela dit, Emmanuel [Todd, ndlr] n’a pas la même interprétation que moi. Son idée, c’est que le « catholicisme zombie » est un peu une façade, dans ces manifestations. Selon lui, c’est en réalité la droite dure qui a pris argument du « mariage pour tous » pour passer à l’offensive. Il a ainsi remarqué que les députés qui étaient les plus en pointe dans les manifestations provenaient plutôt de régions laïques – Mariton, Copé, etc. – pas forcément de régions catholiques.
I haven't studied this question, but my instincts incline me to agree with Todd. Nevertheless, I thought that this analysis was worth signaling to readers, who may have additional points to add to the discussion.