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.