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.