Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Facing the Music

François Hollande is to go on France2 tomorrow night to "face the nation" in a "citizen dialogue" that is supposed to be his last chance to inject life into his dying presidency. For Malek Boutih, however, that presidency is already dead:
François Hollande est d’une génération qui a appris par cœur la différence entre les sovkhozes et les kolkhozes, il reste sur de vieux schémas. Pour lui le monde des réseaux sociaux, d’Internet et de la mondialisation, c’est de l’hébreu.
That may be the cruelest thing ever said about Hollande, about whom many cruel things have been said. What's more, it's inaccurate. Hollande came too late to have bought into the Soviet dream or even its Euromarxist version. He never even shared Mitterrand's Voltairean version of Marxism (like religion, a fine palliative for the peasants). The only illusion that had any future in his system of beliefs was the technocratic one: with the right policy mix, any political difficulty can be finessed. That is the dream that has foundered on the reef of populism.

Hollande is deluding himself if he thinks he can rescue that dulled dream via a televised communion with his flock. He has never had a gift for le petit écran. Every time he has engaged in an exercise of this sort, it has been an abject failure. He must know this, so one can only conclude that he has no other options left, or else, as an unnamed former minister told Le Monde, he has utterly lost touch, as other presidents have done before him:

C’est très mal embarqué. Hollande a dilapidé tout son crédit acquis après les attentats. La dernière séquence, révision constitutionnelle et “loi travail”, est une catastrophe qui l’a déjà achevé. Hollande sentait le peuple, aujourd’hui il est comme Sarkozy ou Chirac avant lui à l’Elysée, il ne sent plus rien.
So speculation is reduced to wondering whether the president will "reassert his authority" by putting Macron back in his place, as Chirac tried to do with Sarkozy with his famous "je décide, il exécute." And we know what that amounted to. Indeed, the only way Hollande can galvanize the country tomorrow night is to do what Lyndon Johnson did in 1968, to announce that he will not be a candidate to succeed himself in order to devote his full attention to unmaking the mess that he has created. I hope he does. Otherwise France is doomed to remain mired in the gloom of his ebbing presidency until it draws its last breath.


FrédéricLN said...

Hello Art, I wish, like you do, another President than our present and our former ones.

May I add my two cents on the content of the post — I'm a bit younger than President Hollande and my generation actually learned "par coeur", at school, the difference between "sovkhozes" and "kolkhozes". We also learnt that none of the worked well — but "kolkhozes" worked worse, because the were based on cooperation, within a socialist system where cooperation brought nothing (but risks) to the cooperation-prone person. So, I would not understand Mr Boutih's point as suggesting Hollande was educated in a Marxist perspective :-) … only that he (or myself) was educated in a pre-digital-world perspective. And that — contrary to you or me — he never had to change his perspective, just because the State system, the two-parties system, the elections system in France, remained pre-digital-world.

I concur to believing Hollande may have had the technocratic illusion — maybe. An illusion that had vanished when my generation has been educated, say, in the 70s. Values were striking back. But those leaders who grew with the technocratic illusion, stated from ~1988 on that it did not work. That the results of policy mixes became unpredictable. So, they found safety in the conservative illusion: as any action may be dangerous, it's better not to do anything, and only mimic action — not to delude yourself (between friends, you openly laugh about it) but to delude the crowd, the party, the media who are still asking "what are you doing".

And at the end, when you need to "reassert your authority", you just fire somebody from the same system where you are. Send him or her off the tent pissing in.

bert said...

The problem with Hollande is not that he is a technocrat, but that he is a party manager. It was his great strength, and was the basis on which he became the consensus choice to fill the DSK-shaped hole at the top of the party. Those bland habits of trimming and balancing, of using gesture to square factions, have defined his presidency.
He seems to be a proud man. If he does do an LBJ, it will be because every other path clearly involves subjecting himself to a painful beating.

Anonymous said...

What bert said looks right to me.