Sunday, October 30, 2016

La force tranquille

Alain Juppé appears to hold a commanding lead over Nicolas Sarkozy as the primary of the right draws near. He has run a quiet campaign, preferring to allow Sarkozy to self-destruct by veering hard right. The Sarkozystes have been reduced to whining about the unfairness of the primary rules, which allow voters of the center and left to cross over to vote for Juppé or, more accurately, to block Sarkozy.

Bizarrely, Sarkozy has been lashing out against centrist François Bayrou. Perhaps he thinks this will enhance his credibility with the right wing of his party. Now Bayrou has fired back, and Juppé has come to his defense. Bayrou's statement is worth reading in full. I was particularly struck by one passage in which Bayrou sets forth his conception of le peuple. In this populist moment, with all sorts of politicians claiming to speak for the one and only true people, Bayrou takes care to indicate that the People are never one, they are many. Unity emerges from the blending of the many--e pluribus unum, as the American motto reads--that is, from the reconciliation of numerous divergent points of view, not from the negation of the opposition:

J’affirme au contraire que ce peuple que Sarkozy n’a jamais approché, au milieu duquel il n’a jamais vécu, avec lequel il n’a jamais passé ni une semaine, ni un jour sans caméras, ni en une ferme, ni en un quartier ouvrier, ni en une famille d’enseignants, ni chez des artisans, le peuple chez nous, qui y sommes nés, qui y avons grandi et travaillé, le peuple n’est pas ce qu’il veut en faire. Le peuple, contrairement à ce qu’il croit, n’est pas une masse qu’il convient de fouetter de passions et de prendre par le bas, par les instincts, par les mots qu’on jette avec un rictus, par l’excitation contre les boucs émissaires que l’on livre l’un après l’autre en pâture. C’est le contraire.
It's a salutary reminder in the Age of Trump et cie.

Juppé has thus far taken a line well to the right of center. No doubt he felt he had to in order to win the primary. I hope he makes a course correction before the general, but nothing could be less certain. A lot depends on how the left primary goes. If Juppé finds himself running against a centrist (Valls, Macron, or, who knows? even Hollande, though the president's star has sunk even further in recent weeks), he will probably stay well to the right. If it's Mélenchon or Montebourg, though, he may reconsider. If he's nominated, he will be the odds-on favorite to win, and then we'll see how he chooses to govern.

My compliments to my blogging confrère Arun Kapil, who not only drew my attention to Bayrou's statement but also insisted confidently throughout the campaign that Sarkozy would not succeed in his comeback attempt. I wasn't as sure as Arun, but his confidence now seems to have been justified.


Massilian said...

Thank you for the Bayrou quote, indeed, it is the best part of his statement.
I shared from the start with Arun the conviction that Sarko his history.

I also have strange recurrent dreams ( somehow similar to the feeling expressed a few days ago on tv by Frederic Mitterand, of all people !) : I keep thinking despite all polls, despite the analysts predictions, despite the experts, editorialists etc. that Marine Lepen might not appear for the second round of the presidential election.
I mean I refuse to take it for granted. I hope I am right with this intuition, I can't bet on it, but I like the idea of keeping the coming election and the people judgement open to the unexpected and the "unforeseable". As the saying goes : "Le pire est probable, mais pas toujours certain!"

Mitch Guthman said...

I don’t know if there’s a French expression for “don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched” but there should be. Yes, in the abstract, everybody in France outside of the extreme right prefers Alain Juppé but “there's many a slip twixt cup and lip” (similar expression warning someone not to be too confident about the result of a plan, because many things can go wrong before it is completed).

As I understand the data in Le Figaro, there are projections about the number of voters and their preferences but there doesn’t seem to be a good screen for those Juppé voters who are likely to actually show up and cast a ballot. That seems particularly significant to me because if Juppé is to win this party primary he will probably need an American style “get out the vote” effort to make sure that his supporters from various factions (and from the left) get to the polling places and are able to cast ballots.

One thing that seems clear is that while Sarkozy’s support within his party is numerically smaller than that of Juppé, it seems to consist of activists all of whom are certain to do whatever is necessary to cast a ballot for their champion. And since, as far as I’m aware, Sarkozy still controls the UMP’s internal functioning and the primary’s rules are not set in concrete, it seems quite possible that casting a ballot in the party primary may require overcoming some fairly substantial hurdles that the Sarko faction can put in the way of Juppé supporters, and most particularly those who are not already UMP members.

I think there is considerable potential for mischief on behalf of Sarkozy (who is running energetically, if haphazardly). By contrast, Juppé seems to be running a campaign that seems to combine a maximum of hubris with a minimum of energetic and focused campaigning that makes Ben Carson looks like a dynamo. by comparison. I would not count on Sarko going gently into that good night.

Mitch Guthman said...


I don’t see how Le Pen can fail to make the second round, given what I expect to be the alignment of the candidates and parties. My assumption is that Valls will be the PS’s candidate, Juppé or maybe Sarkozy for the “LR” party, and Bayrou for the MoDems. That makes essentially three parties of the center or center-right competing for the same slice of the electorate. By contrast, MLP, is certain to hold all of the extreme-right, plus commanding at least some support from the center-right and the left who are attracted by her nationalistic or probably insincere pro-growth economic proposals.

I don’t see there being enough centrists or center-right voters to go around. The other three part will split that vote and Le Pen will have a strong enough extreme right vote to gain the second round and, if she can also draw a reasonable number from the center-right and the disgruntled left, perhaps she will actually finish first in the first round(especially if enough disgusted PS voters stay home for the first round).

If it is Mélenchon for the left versus either Juppé or Sarkozy for the right, then I think all bets are off. Mélenchon could rally the left and his own nationalistic emphasis might let him capture a big chunk of the Gaullists and his genuine pro-growth economic proposals might be extremely appealing to a fearful and struggling middle class.

For some reason that I haven’t been able to understand, there are a number of centrists or center-right figures in the PS (most prominently, Valls) who are surprisingly popular with the party’s base even as the “socialism of the possible” social and economic ideas (opposed by people like Valls) seem to be be more popular than ever. I am very confused by the polling and consequently I have been reticent about commenting on French politics until I can understand this better. Today’s post by Art was simply impossible to resist , however.

FrédéricLN said...

@Art, Massilian, Mitch Guthman: if Bayrou is actually one of the most trusted politicians in France, he is loathed by right-wing militants, who might probably tolerate Juppé. So, Sarkozy is very happy to get an opportunity to write "vote Juppé, you will get Bayrou".

So, as much as I approve Bayrou's statement, I find sad that such great democratic values be claimed only to support one right-wing (say Republican) candidate against another Republican candidate.

@Mitch Guthman, by the way, Bayrou will certainly not run if Juppé is selected. After having endorsed Juppé for one year, he would obviously have no way to run a competing campaign.

At this point (and as a militant of the Democratic center, but not any more a member of MoDem), I support the campaign of Jean Lassalle (probably even less known in the US than Jill Stein is in France). His announcement video got quite a good success on Facebook, but that is a very small step compared to the road still ahead. With advertising mode on, here are the links to the video and a quick summary of his campaign book "Un berger à l'Élysée" (he was born in a family of shepherds) on his website : ; . Advertising mode off!

FrédéricLN said...

@Mitch Guthman : “don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched” -> "il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l'ours avant de l'avoir tué"
(litt. do not sell the skin of the bear before killing him)

Less frequently, if it is not about "your" own chicken and you are rather an observer of the situation, there may be expressions referring to the end of a day, for example "C'est à la fin de la foire qu'on compte les bouses !" (in Vendée, google tells me; when the fair comes to its end, the time comes to count dung).

bert said...

Interesting discussion. I've been struck by the clarity of the consensus among French friends: 1, MLP will be in the final round, and 2, she will lose to an anti-Le Pen cross-party vote, just as her father did.

Massilian, with a prophetic dream, questions the first bit.
I wonder how solid the second bit is.
Mitch's discussion of intensity and turnout is a hot topic in the US right now. Whether that helps or hurts the FN in the final round, who knows? - I can see arguments both ways. An equally important question in both elections is whether the white working class will turn out en masse for a populist, nationalist, racially-charged message. In 2002, people chose an escroc instead of a facho. This year, Sarkozy offered both at once, and failed. You would think, in offering neither, Juppé would have an advantage. But that assumes that the working class base can be rallied in support of a right-wing candidate representing the establishment, the elite and the status quo. It's not the most promising environment for that, to put it mildly.

brent said...

@ bert (also Massilian, Mitch) As far as it goes, a rational analysis based on class is instructive here in the US (and how well that applies to France is an interesting corollary). I.e., turnout among Trump's working class base, now fired up again by visions of 'lock her up,' will matter--a lot. But notice how many other ways the electorate skews. Women, working class or otherwise, are much less enthusiastic about electing a serial sex offender as President (though some worry about a First Gentleman predator). Young voters--not especially working class but marginalized by the 'gig' economy, etc., skewed left (to Sanders) in huge numbers--how many will reluctantly drift back to Clinton? A glance at the red/blue map shows the geographical skew: an almost perfect split between the 3 coasts (east, west, and north) and the heartland/south (where guns and Bibles, gays and abortions, race and origin outrank economics by a lot). Conservative ideologues (and financial oligarchs) seem mostly skewing to Clinton, but the conservative base not so much. In short the American electorate is fractured in so many ways that it hardly fits into our 2-party, winner-take-all system at all (with a large majority on both sides voting for someone they don't like). The new French tri-polar system seems neat by comparison--though I still wonder if a true-left 4th pole will make a substantive appearance, next year or soon.

bert said...

You're closer to it than I am, but from across the Atlantic it looks like the single biggest story this year is a vicious split in the GOP.

An MLP-Juppé final round would be the equivalent of a fight between the Trump faction and the Jeb/Kasich conservative establishment. The question is what happens to the votes of everyone else? A lot has changed since 2002. Most importantly, the financial crisis. Also, the connected issues of a landscape-altering series of terrorist attacks and the migrant crisis.

Remember that the Socialist Party split in 2005 (its party-manager President rewarded the leader of the anti-globalist No camp with the Quai d'Orsay). I wouldn't rate the ability of the current leadership to give a coherent sense of direction, or to get a respectful hearing after being eliminated in the first round.

And remember also that an important chunk of the Brexit vote came from ineffectually-led Labour voters in that party's beleaguered heartlands. Trump talks about Brexit a lot. I imagine, next year, MLP will do the same.

Massilian said...

IMO, the PS is dead as a dodo. There will be no candidate or worse there will be a self sacrificed candidate (or Valls thinking of 2022...). Segolene said it clearly. So the PS won't even make the podium. Melenchon is a joke.
Macron will run. The question is can Macron do better than MLP ? My anwer is that however unlikely, he might.
He might attract apolitical younger voters, that wouldn't vote otherwise. He might attract pissed off voters from the PS who don't want to vote Juppé... And more.
MLP is a great troublemaker but not a good presidential candidate.
I do think that come the day to cast the bulletin in the urn, it will become more difficult for many FN voters to vote MLP.
1) Her economic program is total baloney and people don't seriously want a Franxit,
2) She will be defeated anyway.
If Juppé swerves to the right in due time, as he most likely will after the first round of the primary, the older FN voters will align, he's law and order. He is a man. He is mature. He will play it Gaullien... He can be a decent spokesman for France.
Besides, the "left" is in shambles, there won't be any massive "social class vote". It's a free for all election.

FrédéricLN said...

@Massilian: Unusually/une fois n'est pas coutume, I feel in full disagreement with your comment above. The arguments you give for a failure of Marine Le Pen to win the election appear to me as self-contradictory: didn't the British seriously vote for Brexit? Didn't the French vote "no" at 55% in 2005, arguing against the present state of Europe (free-trade and the like) rather than against innovations in the treaty (mainly in the field of foreign policy and fundamental rights)? And if Ms Le Pen's polls go up by several points (remember that she is already >50% in the hypothesis of a second round against Hollande), what would remain of argument 2? Cannot Marine Le Pen look like as authoritative (even if she is not a man, as Ms May or Ms Clinton are not), as mature and as Gaullien, as Alain Juppé? Yes the "left" is in shambles, but I wonder who will take advantage from it / "tirer les marrons de ce feu".

bert said...

2 tweets and a youtube:

"Après Brexit et cette élection, tout est désormais possible.
Un monde s'effondre devant nos yeux. Un vertige."

”Leur monde s'effondre. Le nôtre se construit.”

bert said...

Link buggered by Blogger, sorry.