Saturday, December 5, 2015

Tomorrow's Elections

I suppose I should have known better than to think any good could come of the terror attacks of Nov. 13. The polls that initially showed a rise in Hollande's approval ratings (as after the January attacks) have now been supplanted by new polls showing a significant "differential mobilization" favoring the Front National. Marine Le Pen's party is leading in 6 (!) of 13 regions. The prospect of a "republican front" to block the FN's progress seems more remote than ever. In short, tomorrow's election promises to be a disaster.

I have already committed myself to writing about the elections for several publications, and it's always better to wait for actual numbers than to pretend that polling has now supplanted voting as the authentic measure of public opinion, even as polls have proven to be increasingly inaccurate, especially in non-presidential elections.

But I must say that the prospects going forward look very bleak indeed. My pre-mortem assessment is this: as the appeal of the FN mounted, French elites did nothing. The Socialist Party has been in the hands of technocrats for so long that they have forgotten about the emotional currents that roil electorates and shift large blocs of voters. Obsessed primarily with abstract measurements of economic progress, or the lack thereof--the growth rate, the unemployment rate, the exchange rate, the every elusive "competitiveness" of French products--they failed to perceive the increasing anxiety and alienation of voters. The right, in closer touch with the mood of the country, could think of no way to win back the allegiance of voters other than to emulate the Frontistes. Nonna Mayer's analysis of the role of anti-Muslim sentiment in all this is excellent.


Mitch Guthman said...


I agree with you completely. I also thank you for the link to the article by Nonna Mayer (which I would never have found otherwise) and I agree that her analysis is excellent.

Nevertheless, I would just point out that on the question of a “republican front” it isn’t simply that there’s no appetite for it but rather than the UMP has made it very clear that, for them, a republican front means that all of the other parties must commit in advance to support UMP candidates in the second round but not the other way round.

Sarkozy and others in the UMP have said that they would not commit in advance to a “republican front” while Bayrou and many in the PS have said that they would welcome such a “republican” understanding if one were offered by the UMP. Apart from that minor quibble, we are, for once, in complete agreement.


Anonymous said...

Seriously, in the article of Nonna Mayer, is "believing that some immigrants mostly come for social aids" really a sign of intolerance to the Other (what is the Other, d'ailleurs ?). That's completely rational on an economic point of view to go in the country that will provide you financial and medical aids, and France has been known to offer them for a long time.

I'm not trying to hide the dark aspects of parts of FN voters, but those amalgalms between what is really intolerance and pragmatism from French citizens completely ruins the credibility of such studies.

FrédéricLN said...

I fully agree with the post (haven't read Nonna Mayer's yet).

But your judgment may bee too indulgent. If PS really had cared about --the growth rate, the unemployment rate, the exchange rate, the every elusive "competitiveness" of French products-- … ok, that might had missed many popular feelings, but also might had improved the situation, and gained votes after 3-4 years. That's what happened in the UK in favor or Tories. That's what Ms Merkel succeeded in, in Germany. But people at PS deeply believe they also can't help as far as growth, unemployment, competitiveness is concerned, because the necessary changes would be too deep to be accepted — so their agenda is about air-guitar playing or shadow-boxing economics.

When one chooses shadow-boxing, he might prefer combatting monsters of imagination (such as exist in popular feelings) rather than being judged on unemployment figures.

But that are my 2 cents only — my main feeling today is an anxiety of having just become irrelevant and an alien in politics, with my democratic ideas, orange colors and my geo-localization "in the center" — center of what, just now?

FrédéricLN said...

Added reading of Nona Mayer's paper -> excellent actually!

@ Anonymous: you pinpoint the very item that Nonna Mayer herself identifies as less typical of racism / intolerance. So you certainly agree with her on the whole topic ;-)