Tuesday, November 15, 2016

En marche, mais où?

Emmanuel Macron will announce his candidacy tomorrow. Why choose this moment? Perhaps it was planned this way all along, but I think we can discern a possible Trump effect. Macron has concluded from Brexit and Trump that this is the year of the anti-system vote. In terms of policy, he represents a fairly standard Third Way, neoliberal, "structural reform," "supply side" agenda, but in terms of optics he is the new guy on the block, the broom that promises to sweep clean, toss out the scoundrels, and start politics anew. So this is the moment to strike, with the world still reeling from the Trump shock.

It also puts Macron's hat in the ring ahead of Manuel Valls, who is no doubt itching to get in as François Hollande's approval rating drops toward zero. And it steals a little of Alain Juppé's thunder, planting a flag in the center of the spectrum ahead of Juppé's likely win in the impending Republican primary.

Will Macron's high poll ratings stand up now that he is in? I have been skeptical until now, but this has been a year of shocks. The media have loved Macron until now, but they may turn on him. Young ambition is always vulnerable, no matter how good the story line of the bright, ambitious young subaltern turning on his mentor along with the other conspirators: Et tu, Brute?

With Macron now in the ring, will Juppé seem less inevitable? Will fewer left-wing voters cross over to vote in the Republican primary? Will this be enough for Sarkozy to squeak by? What will Bayrou do, and will it matter?

A very complicated presidential contest just got even more difficult to handicap. Macron moved now precisely in order to maximize the confusion, which he hopes will work to his advantage. He may be right.


Alexandra Marshall said...

I went to the AJ meeting the other night, as I was curious to see who his activists were, what the speeches were like, what the messages were. It was not encouraging, let's just say. Auto-satisfaction, a whole lot of "je," Valérie Pécresse congratulating AJ for supporting her, now she's here to do the same. Absolutely no story being told about France. Absolutely zero discussed around THE number one topic in France and the world, i.e., the haves and have nots. If this is our hope against Le Pen, I am now quite convinced she will win.

Macron appeals to me personally a lot more. As an American who grew up under Reagan, "supply side economics" sets my hair on fire. But France does absolutely need some supply side reform. Not sure that the bulk of EM's program is really simply supply sideist anyway. I think his idea to remove professional silos and make benefits universal and portable could be really attractive. His discourse around Uber--that it's good to get people out of the house, that it's a good source of work for especially N. African men shut out of the system due to racism, that portable benefits will help them too--is unsexy for a country that uses "ubérisation" as a bad word. Decentralizing the schools could be a great idea, but we've seen what happens when you try to change even a comma in the national program here. He needs to do much more to speak to youth outside of big cities. Uber isn't going to save la France profonde where no one is actually in need of it. (It's not going to save anyone actually.) So hm. He offers precious little to the protectionist/racist FN voter, and that is a worry. But I went from being very skeptical of Macron at first to thinking there could be something there.

I'll be interested to hear your thoughts, Art, after he puts out his program, and we see how the media is handling him, where his endorsements come from and how the caricature of the Macron voter takes shape. Bobos like me who have done well in the knowledge economy who are eager to cut red tape are not exactly in a majority in the country. Even worse: I can't vote (yet).

French Spanish Online said...
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Anonymous said...

Alexandra Marshall mistakenly calls Macron’s proposals instances of “supply-side” economics. Actually that is known as “anti-trust” economics or “encouraging competition among economic agents” by reducing barriers hampering occupational mobility. By contrast the track record of supply-side economics – introduced in the 1980s by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher -- is characterized by DIScouraging competition rather than encouraging it, and thus easing the establishment of monopolies.

FrédéricLN said...

I agree on the point that Emmanuel Macron is in a very good position to take advantage of the mess, as there is presently no other candidate with a chance of being popular on either the left or the center (nobody but Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a serious competitor, but with slightly old ideas, and not looking like the positive minded guy who can make the whole thing work).

Jean Lassalle considered Macron as his most serious competitor — he said that in April (http://www.sudouest.fr/2016/04/22/jean-lassalle-et-2017-macron-sera-mon-adversaire-le-plus-difficile-2338864-4344.php) at a time when I thought Macron would not be in a position to run. So, so far, he was right and me wrong.

Macron may hope to win a "Giscard-1974-like" victory, squeezing his own side and seducing part of the other one. That worked in a very short lapse of time (after Pompidou's death). I wonder whether the Macron campaign can manage its internal contradictions (say, an "anti-system" campaign fueled by banksters) as long as six months, and would forecast some pressure and suction pulses as early as January.

Alexandra Marshall said...

@Anonymous If I am reading correctly it was Art who called them supply side, I am saying, it doesn't read that way to me.

Art Goldhammer said...

Anonymous, You're a bit naive if you think that Reagan and Thatcher discouraged competition in the labor market. They did everything possible to break the "monopoly" of trade unions, which encouraged competition, to be sure, but to the detriment of workers. Not all labor-market reform is misdirected, and some of Macron's achievements and proposals have been worthwhile, but I remain wary of his intentions particularly on the labor side of the market.

Anonymous said...

I live in a blue collar town that suffers from deindustrialization. Most adults don't have a bac and struggle. Even kids who've succeeded academically end up stuckn - they've even invted fake "classes" you can register to so that you can be "hired" for an "internship" where you effectively hold a job and are paid €564 a month, including with a Master's degree. Many feel that they're screaming in the desert. The loi Travail is resented, as is Hollande. Macron does not seriously register as "anti system" but as its incarnation, poster boy for the elite that's sure of itself and thinks it's brilliant whereas it undermines the very little people can hold on to. Sure, he looks good on the Paris Match cover but his bankster days as well as his "pro-executive" policies drag him way down. Mostly I've heard him speak of wolf in sheep's clothing, traitor, spoiled brat, etc. The left is silent and Mélenchon appeals to teachers and civil servants as well as old people who remember June 68 (Grenelle, the strikes) or even the May 68 walk outs for co-ed schools even if they never participated themselves.
If Macron manages to shed the golden boy image, he may have a chance due to the PS vaccuum.
However, going to an apprenticeship center in Bobigny (good for communication + good move) ... and evacuating any apprentice, student, or teacher there so that the shop floor is clean and free of working class people... yeah, not the best first step.

Anonymous said...

* I've heard of him spoken of as .... (not I've heard him speak of!)
Essentially, he's got some work to do if he wants to appeal to desperate working class people.

Alexandra Marshall said...

@Anonymous, this is exactly what keeps me up at night. The fact that he's young might maybe sort of appeal to some young people, but he seems so London-Paris that I fear exactly what you're saying about his chances in the countryside. If it's Macron/Le Pen, I basically assume she will get everywhere that isn't a city. The Trump election was a primer on how Identity politics and miming blue collar/vieille France values works, not that St. Cloud-dwelling Le Pen cartel needed any tips on how to pull of that act of theater. What are the actual voter demographics in the French countryside? I don't know what the country-city spread is here.

brent said...

@Fréd re JLM's "old ideas": He brings a rather old-fashioned, strictly laic republicanism, but also a rather new emphasis on ecology, energy, and climate, in a framework of 'planification' that is decentralized, not at all 'old left.' Might this appeal to the young (as I think it would and did with Sanders here)? And will young, outsider, and other renegade voters overlook his distinctly harsh personality in a 'lock [them] up' year?

Here's my math (French experts please correct)):
EM + AJ (+ Bayrou/other centrists?)=40%
JLM + PS (Valls?) + EELV et al.=30%

Predictable outcome: Juppé or Macron beats out Valls and JLM (both around 15%), and then narrowly defeats MLP (unless she scores a Trump-like anti-establishment surge--discount at your peril)

OR Valls joins forces with JLM (as presumptive PM), unites left at around 30% to reach 2nd round. Then pulls in centrists and republicans, appeals to certain populists (the JLM=Sanders factor), and thus has stronger chance than either EM or AJ of beating MLP.

I'm dreaming, right?

Art Goldhammer said...

Brent, In my opinion you're dreaming. You underestimate the degree to which JLM frightens voters of the center-right, you overestimate the possibility of his coming to terms with Valls (neither man is willing to accommodate the other), and you are too confident that the left retains strength approaching the 30 percent level. The disgust with the left is overdone, just as disgust with Sarkozy was overdone in 2012, but it is a fact. That is why Macron has chosen to run, however implausibly, as an outsider. People will feel comfortable voting for Juppé (or even Fillon) as an alternative to Le Pen, but not for Valls-Mélenchon. Those comforted by the one would be repelled by the other.

FrédéricLN said...

@Brent : I really consider J.-L. Mélenchon. I follow his campaign a bit distantly — one of my best friends initiated one of his supporting groups. I understand that he really worked hard to prepare the presidential election, as he did in 2011-2012. I'm not totally confident about his green turn, but let us leave him "le bénéfice du doute".

Nevertheless, I can't see or hear the central line of his policy as a President, beyond attacking Ms Merkel and Germany an absurd way. To me, he is a valuable option for those who want to say "no" to everything else than the good old values of the left (which is ok) but that means 20% at a very maximum. The same personal commitment that he embodies, plus track record in getting things done, plus a vision of the future for our nation, would look like a winning bet I guess.

I'm very sure of one thing (which I already supposed beforehand, and I was wrong, but this time I'm very sure :-) ): the support of large "appareils politiques" (party machines) will not be an advantage this time, but a drawback, the coat of Nessus.

Under this regard, Emmanuel Macron is very right in building his very own political start-up company. And the more traditional leaders will despise and criticize the new movements, the faster they will earn support. That is what should be really common to France 2017 and USA 2016. The only question is: which of these alternative movements will really get the snowball effect? Front National, En Marche, France Insoumise, primaire.org, "faiseux", Résistons, NDA's party, or newer new ones?