Monday, January 23, 2017

Hamon Carries First Round

Benoît Hamon, who has been coming on strong in recent weeks, handily won the first round of the Belle Alliance primary. His victory wasn't a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, as he had become the talk of the town. Still, it is being compared to Fillon's upset on the right. He is now in a good position to knock Valls out of the race. I read the victory as a definitive rejection of the Hollande regime rather than a triumph for Hamon's novel eco-socialism formula. Hollande took himself out of the race and then took Valls down with him. But is it really a victory for Hamon, whose program is both innovative and radical?

The candidate's proposed basic minimum income will cost 600 billion euros a year in its current form (30% of GDP). All social protection in France (welfare, med insurance, pensions, unemployment) currently costs 715 billion. When asked how he is going to pay for everything in the no-growth eco-friendly future he envisions, Hamon says he will "tax the robots." Catchy, that. With this program he got 36% of the 1.2 million people who turned out for round 1 of the Socialist primary. In the general there will be some 35 million voters. The primary of the right had over 4 million voters.

And like Fillon, Hamon is already backtracking on the more radical aspects of his signature issue. The 750 per month minimum income figure has disappeared from his Web site, as has the promise that the minimum will be "universal," since every talk radio show (my favorite being Les Grandes Gueules, The Loudmouths) is asking whether he's really going to give 750 a month to Mme Bettencourt and M. Dassault.

I've been talking to a lot of people here over the past ten days. Most people like Hamon, especially the young. Socialists like him because he's neither Valls ("the Sarkozy of the left," one shopkeeper said to me) nor Montebourg (a lawyer who comes across as slippery). But few really imagine him becoming president.

His victory opens up a large space in the center, which Macron is eager to fill. Hamon's victory is Macron's dream come true. It puts both of his opponents on the left, Mélenchon and Hamon, pretty far out on the spectrum and will drive many in the PS camp to choose Macron as un pis-aller. But what I've noticed most since arriving here is how volatile people's opinions are. No candidate has really caught their fancy. They hop from candidate to candidate, party to party, and right to left. "I would have voted for Juppé, but now I'm for Hamon." There isn't much logical sense to this fickleness, but politics, as we have seen repeatedly of late, is not logical.


Cincinna said...

As I was watching the results live Sunday afternoon on TV5 Monde In NY, I was hoping you would post about it.
There seems to be something in the ether; a move away from 20th century media and analysis. With people able to research on their own, and listen to speeches and debates, and comment and get in their own 2 cents, people have perhaps started thinking differently, and traditional cleavages and party allegiances have fallen by the wayside.
At the very same moment your friends in Paris were playing musical chairs with the Primaire de Gauche, two news stories in a similar vein, relating to our American election came across my Twitter feed.
This from Dennis Kucinich, former long term Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio,and former US congressman, a leftist progressive Democrat, who tweeted:
The Trump Inaugural Address. A Progressive Review by Dennis Kucinich
In an interview later on he asked "When has anyone else even talked about the inner cities."

Jesse Jackson echoed Kucinich.

Jesse Jackson: Trump's inauguration speech was 'full of hope and inclusion' | WPXI

The world is a strange place, and the old canard "politics makes strange bedfellows" remains true.

A Canadian Reader said...

Cincinna, here is the correct link to the Kucinich article: I'm just about to read it.

"Strange bedfellows" is definitely one way of putting the current insanity.

bernard said...

Good piece on the primary. When Fillon won the PR primary, my thought was that the conservative electorate had shown it wanted a true conservative rather than a centrist, and that it would make sense if the left also wanted a true left candidate. So I thought Montebourg was going to win this (even though I personally have always thought him shallow and grossly self-important...he looked left). Obviously I did not recon on Hamon, who is an even better incarnation of "the left is left" (his "program" is totally irrelevant, the issue here is to dream). Both Fillon and Hamon of course open a huge space for Macron as you mention, but where I disagree with you is that I suspect that Macron saw this coming quite a while ago. That man is smarter than we all think.

Now obviously, the electorate has yet to solidify its choices, as always at this time of the year, so let's watch developments. But I personally am ruling out nothing: Macron's dynamics can amplify or he can stay at his present, insufficient level, Fillon's support can erode, or not. Too early to tell really. We must wait for the aftermath of the primary, in 3 to 4 weeks.

Unknown said...

Yes, I'm told that Macron laid out this whole scenario to a group of advisors 2 years ago. I believe he did see it coming, and I think he may win the presidency because he got it right.

FrédéricLN said...

Well, support for Fillon did actually erode; his polls were around 30% after nomination, 28% in December, 25% now, that is maybe high, but not higher than Sarkozy's own figures in Jan 2007 (31%) or Jan 2012 (25%).'élection_présidentielle_française_de_2017#2017Élection_présidentielle_française_de_2007#Sondages_pour_le_premier_tour'élection_présidentielle_française_de_2012#Sondages_du_premier_tour

You write (Art) "There isn't much logical sense to this fickleness" but, well, that is true only under the hypothesis that "belonging to" the left or to the right makes logical sense in the present state of French society (or at global level).

I do know that it still makes sense for maybe 15% of people on each side, and I do meet some of them, as a political militant. But since years, even Socialist MPs got prepared to vote Juppé (well, they won't), and most politicians from the right assumed to call to vote for PS if opposed to FN — while FN is a more reasonable party than Trumpism may be. (Well, I know FN was founded by "collaborateurs" of the IIst WW, but now that I've learned Donald Trump's father was at KKK…).

I think 70% of people still are waiting for somebody who can "do the job" whatever the party (even far left or far right). The issue is the following (I write that as the coordinator of the agenda within a presidential campaign!): nobody knows, at this point, what "do the job" means. One year ago, this was clear : "to carbonize every possible terrorist". Now people have a sounder understanding of what terrorism may be.

In my humble understanding, the expectation is a mixture of:
* fighting the "system", the crooks or hypocrites in charge (e.g. Fillon is valued for having said France was in bankruptcy when he was Prime Minister, while President Sarkozy wanted to borrow more at large scale,… what Sarkozy and Fillon actually did). Represent people (somehow the way MCs use the word "represent").
* keeping things as they are. Do not raise taxes, do not raise prices, do not cut allowances, do not suppress "régimes spéciaux", don't cause sparks to form.
* don't leave things go the way they go. Get France out of danger, out of "everything going wrong".
* don't lie. Don't announce things you won't do, *or, don't announce them seriously*.

The point with "revenu universel" is that everybody know Hamon won't do it, and just introduces it for future developments of the economy and society. So, not so many people worry.

Dear Art, I would really be happy to get your hints about popular expectations :-)

I sign with a link to my own understanding of yesterday's results.

bernard said...

" most politicians from the right assumed to call to vote for PS if opposed to FN". Easy to say. Hardly any has ever done it when the case arose in the past at local level. The "reverse" of course has been demonstrated correct at the local and national level. Please do not confuse the responsible attitude of Socialist politicians and the attitude of politicians on the right. When they do it, I'll believe it, not a second before.

FrédéricLN said...

@bernard : yes they do. You may have in mind the last "régionales" when the situation did not happen.

See Fillon (2015) , "départementales" elections in Alsace , Lorraine , Gard , …

For sure, other UMP/LR leaders say or suggest they would not vote at all, but only very marginal ones supported FN in such situations.

And it's too easy to compare with PS politicians, who supporters are hardly prone to support FN agenda (as opposed to many UMP/FN supporters).

FrédéricLN said...

@Art and readers: I should add in favor of Hamon, that "tax the robots" is the (imho stupid, but…) broadcasted motto for a more classic strategy, consisting in taxing the value of products whatever their composition in terms of labour vs. capital. Not SO far from the sales taxes that you know in most states of the US.

I would consider Hamon as a seasoned politician, which very good track record as Minister (pro-consumers laws, against State-related big businesses of telecoms and insurance; which is quite unusual coming from the left in France), and an voting base in the traditional Mitterrandist "première gauche", i.e. nowadays civil servants and non-profit sector, to which he talks with antique keywords.

The issue (to me) is: how deep is he influenced by these old keywords? A 2009 post about Hamon

bert said...

France has very strong labour productivity numbers.
Better than Germany. And look at the crappy number for Britain.

Why? Because labour is relatively expensive in France.
(And, for similar reasons, unemployment in the UK is currently at historical lows.)

So, ”tax the robots” can be understood in this context.
The problem is that it assumes there'll be an incentive to use people rather than robots, but not that there'll be an incentive to use robots in Slovenia instead.

bernard said...

ok for these few local examples of decent individuals who refused against the the wishes of their parties national and local executives. My point was not that there are no decent individuals in parties I oppose politically, of course there are they are more likely to be UDI than UMP ...), my point is that no executive of a right party has done so concretely as all your examples demonstrate. As for your last sentence in your reply, it says it all unfortunately in terms of the deep moral confusion so often prevalent in the conservative electorate. And like I said, I'll believe Fillon on acts, not statements when he is not actually faced by the choice. Words are words, acts are acts.

As for myself, the way I explained my decision after I saw first round results in 2002 was to say: there is this guy, I don't like him and I hate his policies, but if I tell him to go in five years, he will bow away gracefully, and then there is this guy, I am not quite sure he would actually bow away.

You see, the moral choice is so easy that I cannot ever understand how it cannot be as easy for anyone normally wired. It's not about politics, it's about democracy. Now, don't take this for yourself or your newest friend, I'm not worried there. BTW, even De Gaulle eventually found a use for Papon, unfortunately.

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