Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hamon Joins Montebourg in "Near-Fronde"

"Arnaud et moi ne sommes pas loin des frondeurs." So reads the headline in Le Monde. Hollande, as is his wont, is trying to minimize the difference between him and his ministers: everybody wants growth, he says in essence, and the entire government is trying to convince our European partners of its importance. Well, of course, if you put it that way ...

The disagreement, of course, is over how to get that desired growth, how much of existing policy dogma can be jettisoned to achieve it, and exactly what screws can be put to Germany to make it happen. Hollande may be right that there's not really much difference between him and the dynamic duo when it comes to actually taking risks rather than flapping their jaws. Montebourg and Hamon, the two most likely présidentiables of what remains of the Socialist Party's left wing, are doing what anyone would expect them to do to stake out their positions in advanced of 2017. The problem is that 2017 remains--if my clock is accurate--still some time in the future, and meanwhile the country has to be governed.

There is somewhere in Tocqueville a remark to the effect that every presidential election plunges a democratic polity into such a frenzy that one must take care to ensure that elections don't happen too often, lest the country fall into the grip of a permanent madness. It may be that the reduction of the presidential term from 7 to 5 years was too much for France, since the electoral frenzy seems to have become more or less permanent. Hollande's weakness exacerbates the phenomenon. It would be worse if he hadn't himself moved to the right since the 2011 primaries, when Valls was the candidate of the party's right wing and Hollande appeared to his left. But now you couldn't slip a cigarette paper between Hollande and Valls, to judge by their public statements.

Is there anything of substance beneath this public positioning, however? Hamon and Montebourg converge on the "left" rhetorical holding position, while Valls and Hollande converge on the symmetrical "right" message. In both instances, however, there is more verbiage than analysis. Does either camp offer a plausible strategy for building either domestic or foreign support for its position?

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