Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sarko décomplexé

It's becoming harder and harder to remember that Nicolas Sarkozy was once a Balladurien--a neoliberal centrist. Then he was Sarko l'Américain--a muscularly compassionate conservative in the style of George W. Bush. In 2012, with the help of Patrick Buisson, he became a sort of Le Pen Lite. And now, all on his own, he is bidding fair to become Le Pen Heavy. Take a look at the list of positions he embraces in his new book: end family reunification, suspend the droit du sol (jus soli), end economic migration, ban the veil in the university, create an exceptional tribunal to try terrorist crimes, draconian sentences for recidivists, assign sentence determination to prosecutors rather than judges, etc. The old Sarko reappears in some relatively mild economic proposals, such as raising the legal age of retirement to 64 and eliminating payroll taxes on overtime wages. But he also wants to eliminate the wealth tax and the 35-hr week altogether.

This is a "no-enemies-to-my-right" platform. And it might just work. Juppé's rocket has been a bit of a dud thus far. Retail campaigning isn't really his thing, and mushy centrists seem to be drawn to the new kid on the block, Macron, whose fan dance at least keeps them guessing, whereas Juppé is just the same old same old (as well as old, literally). Of course Sarko faces the handicaps of strong negatives and various affairs under investigation (but so does Hillary Clinton, and she's winning).

Sarko has been more or less forced into cette surenchère sécuritaire by the fact that terrorism has everybody in France more or less unhinged. The moderate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet was on the radio this morning calling for an outright ban on Salafism in France, and Valls is not far behind. With such tough competition, Sarko has little choice but to go for the gold: Tuez-les tous, le bon Dieu reconnaîtra les siens. I used to think my fellow Americans were champions at losing their sang-froid, but I now see that the French have overtaken us.


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bernard said...

Art, you were incensed when I mentioned a year or two ago that as far as MLP and Sarko were concerned, it was "bonnet blanc, blanc bonnet" (Duclos, '69 election) and I for one would draw the consequence - as opposed to Juppe of course. Full time, unprincipled opportunism, is as is usual eading both to the same ugly place. Are you perhaps changing your mind?

Art Goldhammer said...

Incensed by you, Bernard? Never. I always appreciate your forthrightness. I suppose that my assessment of Sarko has changed a bit, but at bottom I still regard him as a shameless but astute opportunist who will follow any scent that promises to lead him to his quarry. His public utterances have become more outrageous than Le Pen's, indeed, but his very insincerity is comforting in that it suggests he would forget about them in office. But who would want to count on a politician's insincerity as the only protection against his sliding off the rails?

bernard said...

Well, let's hope the French's assessment of Sarko doesn't change too much in coming months....LOL

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FrédéricLN said...

@Art about Sarkozy "a shameless but astute opportunist who will follow any scent that promises to lead him to his quarry"

Yes, with two limitations. First, he is not so shameless. He plays astutely with tone and attitude to make some words sounding like more provocative that they basically are. He shares a sense of decency and what we call "sens de l'État". (Compare to Trump…).

And he will not follow any road; there is a strongly fixed point in all his agendas: protect the wealth of the wealthiest; consider wealth as the most legitimate goal in life, and align policies accordingly.

(In a recent, very favorable TV "reportage" following him, he criticized a medical doctor for saying he worked extra hours because of the number of patients, not for the money — Sarkozy did not criticize the bad organisation of the care system or of the doctor himself, or anything related to health care, but the fact he said "not for the money").

"Gesticulations" about immigration, religion and the like (or other topics depending on the prevailing winds) are, in this mindset, the necessary "broken eggs" for this omelette.

FrédéricLN said...

Wow. reading about his first campaign meeting (http://www.lemonde.fr/election-presidentielle-2017/article/2016/08/25/sarkozy-lance-sa-campagne-en-declinant-son-projet-a-droite-toute_4988175_4854003.html) — the comparison I made with Mr Netanyahu's comeback looks like more relevant than I thought then.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the analysis in the latest post: Sarkozy believes he has to tack to the right of Marine Le Pen is he's going to have any shot at her voters. In his campaign kick-off earlier this week, he said he'd introduce a law banning the "burkini" throughout France. Many French voters have an uncomfortable sense that the wheels are coming off the truck and that the country is going in the wrong direction. Notwithstanding the personal distaste many French feel for Sarkozy, he hopes to make hay of the French perception that French identity and French values are under threat . For that reason, although Manuel Valls is, with the decision of the Conseil d'Etat nullifying the burkini ban, on the outs for having said he supported the mayors who banned the burkini; most analysts in France believe that he is playing the long game, and that the position he took will be to his advantage.

Interestingly, after the Conseil's decision, Alain Juppe issued a statement that positioned him above the fray, a statesman on the "burkini" question. It remains to be seen as the months go on, whether such a mandarin position translates into more votes for Juppe, the most detested man in France during his prime ministership. .Do the French want an "homme providentiel" or will they repeat 2012 and vote Socialist in solidarity with Jacobin ideals despite the "chiffe molle" at the top of the ticket? (And that could be Arnaud (de) Montbourg or Benoit Hamon, incidentally.)

French schools open next week, locked down, as the government has spent a record sum installing security systems to protect students, teachers and administrators from jihadists. What no one ever says is that "communautarisme" is not just about tolerance extended by a majority to a minority, it can also be a "fifth column". This is what very many French see when they see "burkinis" on the beach, advocacy for adoption of the Muslim calendar alongside the Christian, and many other demonstrations by Muslims in France that Islam is in France to stay.

Without the terrorist attacks of the past two years, the political debates around issues like the burqa, the "burkini", headscarves, separate hours for Muslim girls at public pools, would be just political pandering. In light of the attacks, they contribute to a sense that maybe Muslims in France are not loyal to the Republic and its values. No one wants to raise the issue publicly, but privately many people do.

It's going to be a volcanic election season in France starting now. Who the last man --or woman-- standing is anyone's guess.

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