Thursday, April 27, 2017

Le Non-Consigne de Mélenchon, The Virtue of Xavier Bertrand

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has announced that he will give no consigne de vote for the second round and will not say how he will vote personally. He has "consulted democratically" with the 450,000 adherents of La France Insoumise, offering them 3 choices: 1) abstain, 2) cast a blank ballot, 3) vote Macron (voting Le Pen is not an option, although polls show that around 18% of his supporters intend to do just that:

Mélenchon's "democratic" discretion contrasts sharply with his attitude in 2002, when he called unambiguously and unreservedly on the "peuple de gauche" to vote for Chirac in the second round against J.-M. Le Pen. What has changed? The Front National? I think not (see previous post). "Neoliberalism?" Really? Is Macron a greater threat to Mélenchon's values and principles than Chirac was?

No. What has changed is Mélenchon. His common sense has been vanquished by his ego. Even "ni-ni" Sarkozy has announced that he will vote for Macron. Mélenchon thus replaces him as the most insufferable prima donna in French politics. Compare his dishonorable intransigence with Xavier Bertrand's admirable statement on France2 last night: "I am not 'throwing myself in the arms of Macron,'" he said, contrasting his position with the words of Georges Fenech. "I disagree with Macron about many things, but when it comes to opposing Le Pen, I cannot remain indifferent."

This has been a dispiriting campaign, but the last few days have cast a revealing light on any number of political personalities.


bernard said...

and some on this blog who know nothing of the history of "le mouvement ouvrier" are incensed that I labelled Melenchon a paleo-trotskyst and, more recently, a hitlero-trotskyst. On this subject I am one hundred per cent with the "staliniens" and note that Melenchon,the former OCI thug, Poutou, the current NPA useful idiot, and Arthaud, leader of the third sect, can keep each other company in the special hell reserved for "vipères lubriques". Thse three are a good illustration of the second principle of thermodynamics, compared to their political ancestors.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Bernard for his excellent vituperation. On May 7, may "la belle France" discover a greater capacity for "rassemblement", if only in "faire barrage a Le Pen".

Farouk said...

I find some trouble with this post in particular, considering a lot has changed about le FN since 2002. Whether you like it or not (as I know you have some sort of deep-set grudge against Mélenchon) her economic plan is nothing like that of the old FN. Whereas stuck between Chirac and Le Pen, both weren't too far on economics, one was just an insane anti-Semite and racist, it would've been an easier choice.

Here however, Macron represents the economics he hates, but the social views he admires. Le Pen is the inverse of that. This is certainly not as clear cut a situation as it had been previously and your admission of that fact discredits the rationality of your hatred even more so.

Anonymous said...

I am not terribly bothered by JLM's position, although I do not share it. It isn't as though anybody thinks Marine Le Pen stands a chance of winning this election, after all. The FN are dangerous, and the resurgent European far-right is potentially very dangerous: however, France is not Germany in 1932 and there is nothing to be gained by pretending that it is.

The technocratic center is what has power in France and Europe: Le Pen winning even 45% of the vote would not change that. (Even, per impossible, her election to the presidency would not really change it: that would be a catastrophe but not one on the institution destroying level of 1933. This is not an argument for complacency, just one against reaching for the too-easy Hitler comparison.) Mélenchon thinks that the center is in power is as dangerous as an extreme right that is still relatively far from power. He does not want to give it his assent. There is nothing dishonorable about this position: it is if anything more consistent than the one he took in 2002. The center can win without Mélenchon, and if it can govern, Mélenchon will fade into irrelevance. If it cannot govern it is not Mélenchon I will blame.

Anonymous said...

Bertrand Knows that without the left committing political suicide on his behalf in 2014, the FN would have won in his region.
Yesterday Bertrand showed he is an honorable man.

As for Melenchon, while I wish he had said it clearly, the whole concept of 'France insoumise ' prevents that 'consigne ' from being possible. So they did the next best thing, wording their consultation to show voting for MLP was unconscionable.

Factory workers screwed by globalization (see m'y comment on a previous post based on nearby situation) see both candidates as equal dangers (at best). They were struck by the image of Macron meeting people at the chamber of commerce vs. MLP on the picketing line. Only the correction (Macron meets with the union representatives while MLP takes selfies on the parking lot) saved the day. For people who just got laid off here (for 100 years the plant and it's huge 'tower' had structured the economy in several towns and villages and it's still profitable, yet it's being outsourced to Eastern Europe)... it was a close call.
So... Yesterday it almost went south, for real.

Check schneiderman 's article in arret sur images I think it captures the day and it's dangers well. And there are many more days.

Anonymous said...

Fillon voters 45/25
Melenchon voters 45/18
Hamon voters 81/1-2

brent said...

At the risk of being branded a Nazi, a thug, and consigned to hellfire, I would offer the following:
--My personal choice would be to vote for Macron, but I refuse to see abstention as categorically dishonorable .
--While LePen is disgraceful and dangerous (and JLM strongly urged his followers not to vote for her), I suspect the fear of her is hysterically exaggerated: her chance of winning is negligible, and I can hardly imagine her finding the majorities she would need in the Assembly or the electorate at large to carry out her program.
--Macron and his ilk (what we used to call 'neoliberals' and are waiting for a better term) have done real and substantial harm to armies of displaced workers while raking in their outsized profits, and as President he intends to carry on in a similar direction. As even Art has suggested, he seems to show no real sympathy for social 'losers,' and one suspects that his is a Republic reserved for high scorers and smartest-in-the-room techies.
--Given the support of the entirety of vested interests--political, corporate, financial--chanting in coercive unison behind him, Macron may well, as some suggest, be the more dangerous choice, at least for those on the outside of the global marketplace.
--Does this logic justify a vote for the morally repugnant LePen? No. Might it encourage some reflection before joining the stampede for Macron? I would hope so. Reflexive disgust at the FN is one thing, but France and the rest of the West need more considered thought about how to resolve some serious social contradictions. Shouting down and insulting efforts to engage in that reflection is inviting worse trouble down the road.

Nathaniel said...

Art, I think you are so wrong here. Your personal antipathy to JLM is understandable, but it is leading you to a gravely naive reading of the current situation.

You cannot honestly think that nothing has changed between the FN of 2002 and that of 2017. Certainly it's been superficial (i.e. Jalkh, etc.), but in terms of how the media treats Le Pen, how she's seen by voters, it's a completely different party.

I just watched the Envoyé Special on the Whirlpool factory closing, featuring interviews with a handful of workers who are all voting Le Pen for the first time. The FN's absorption of the working-class vote is not new, but there's no sign of it abating. One of the interviewees explained, "Tout le monde dit de voter Marine." Now, although I wasn't paying much attention to French politics back then, I don't recall hearing a factory worker in 2002 say "Tout le monde dit de voter Jean-Marie."

JLM, with la France insoumise, is attempting to establish a viable left-populist political force to combat the far right. It was here on your blog, Art, that I read about Piketty calling for precisely that (this was during the time that Sanders was trying to do the same in the US). I would argue that, with his 19%, JLM has not been completely unsuccessful in his efforts. (And can you consider the possibility that MLP's relatively low results were due in part to JLM convincing working-class voters that they have a hero on the left?) It's a fallacy to think that MLP's electorate--like Trump's--is simply racist and xenophobic. There are certainly those (deplorable?) elements, but there are also the laid-off workers who are sick of feeling ignored by the political elite and see only Le Pen as addressing their personal pain.

JLM has attempted to draw some of these voters away from the FN. My question for you, Art, is this: how do you expect Mélenchon to succeed in establishing a viable left-populist movement (à la Piketty), and winning the working-class vote back from the far-right, if he calls unconditionally to vote for a technocrat who represents wholeheartedly the liberal economics that caused the factory closures and (before two days ago) had not shown the slightest concern for the Whirlpool workers, against the protectionist candidate who was (as one of the Whirlpool employees said) the only candidate to address their plight? You surely can't not see how this would alienate the working-class vote (even those voters who balk at MLP's racism) from his movement.

If you truly think it's only JLM's ego that's at play here, I can only say that that's very shortsighted. Macron has not shown that, for workers like those being laid-off by Whirlpool, anything will change for them from the previous catastrophic quinquennats. JLM realizes that, if nothing is done to challenge the FN's hold on this turf, MLP's popularity will only grow, ballooning in the next five years into a Trump-size national tragedy. Throwing his support behind Macron will do nothing to stop that. Staying true to the causes of the French working class just might.

bert said...

Nach Hitler, uns.

Mitch Guthman said...

Unlike some others, I have no interest in engaging in personalities and name-calling. Beyond doubt, I believe Mélenchon is wrong. But I’m not so quick to condemn him because I don’t think the choice is nearly as easy as Art suggests. Macron certainly isn’t Chirac or Juppé, whom I’m sure Mélenchon would have quickly endorsed.

I fear Macron more than any of the other candidates who ran in the first round, except, perhaps, MLP. To me, Macron is a danger to the France that I know. Macron is a Thatcherite and they have destroyed the United Kingdom, the country where I was educated. I’m not just talking about globalization, or the decline of the social welfare state or even how Thatcher, Blair and May have destroyed the quality of life.

The United Kingdom, quite literally, may not survive Thatcherism in much the same way as the Soviet Union didn’t survive Stalin. There’s talk now about another referendum in Scotland. There is talk in Wales and Northern Ireland, too. I judge there to be a high likely of Scottish secession soon. And Wales and Northern Ireland could leave within the decade. So the example of the UK should temper any enthusiasm for Macron. I suggest that the consequences of a President Macron and his Thatcherism may be far more profound than Art acknowledges.

Marine isn’t necessarily her father but, on balance, I’m much more certain about her. It doesn’t matter what she says. It doesn’t matter what she promises. We know who these people in the Front National and the Identity Bloc are—monsters, trolls and Nazis. The worst kind of scum. The FN is a cesspool. I do not think it is possible to spend one’s entire life in a cesspool and not stink.

If I were French, I would vote for Macron. But I would also be mindful of the damage the Thatcherite scum has done everywhere they’ve come to power. My hope would be that the parties of the left will expel Hollande and company and then join with the UMP to bring about a new presidential election as quickly as possible.

Art Goldhammer said...

"Macron is a Thatcherite." "Mélenchon would have endorsed Juppé or Chirac." "I fear Macron more than any other candidate." "If I were French, I would vote for Macron." Mitch, with all due respect, I think you're confused.

Anonymous said...

Four more things that have changed: (1) the consultation message says JLM made a commitment a year ago not to endorse anybody in the second round; (2) he may have made that commitment because in 2012 MLP accused him -- not unreasonably -- of being a stalking horse for the PS whose only purpose was to keep her out of the second round; (3) JLM now represents La France Insoumise, not the PS, and whether you believe them or not, FI claims to be more of a grass roots movement of the kind that is less likely to take orders from above; and (4) Macron and JLM may be jostling for position in the June legislative elections, in which Macron wants JLM to disappear and JLM may want to position himself as the only bulwark of the people against the extreme Right and extreme Finance.

Anonymous said...

The (excellent) historian David Bell echoed the Le Pen / Hitler comparison on twitter today. It reminds me of the old neoconservative / Blairite argument in favor of humanitarian intervention: Milosevic, Hussein & Gaddafi are the moral equivalent of Hitler; not to support their overthrow is appeasement.

Now we are told that Le Pen is Hitler and that if we do not support Macron we are like those German communists who "hated capitalism too much and Nazism too little."

I would be interested, Art, in hearing from you exactly what kind of a threat you think the National Front poses to the Republic. Not "what's wrong with the FN," which is an easy question to answer. Rather: why are they so strong, and what does this mean for France and Europe.

They normalize antisemitism and negationism and this alone should be enough to render them unacceptable. However, it is an act of historical amnesia or hysteria to equate the real threat which the FN pose to French Jews to the threat posed to them by the extremists of the 30s. It is to muslims that the FN is most dangerous: it impedes both their willingness to adapt to French society and France's willingness to accept them. I am horrified by ease with which the blind, racist chauvinism of the FN leaks into other parties, not only on the right. Macron is good on this issue, although I don't know if he can speak about it convincingly to the French. This is why he has my vote.

As to Europe- the FN's agenda would blow up the EU. The FN, however, does not have a majority to withdraw from the Euro: it would not have one even if some fluke like an MLP / Fillon put it within reach of the Élysée. Their pro-Russian foreign policy, alas, hardly stands out as unusual these days.

I see the FN as a disease in the French body politic: it has become as virulent as it has because of sickness at the core. The sickness at the core is the main problem. (I know that people wrongly said the same thing about Hitler, but present circumstances are different: the horrid as they are FN are in no position to form a totalitarian state or start a world war or perpetrate genocide.) I hope against hope that Macron can address the underlying problems of France and that we are not destined to re-live the nausiating experience of this election in five years time or sooner.

Anonymous said...

apologies for all of the grammatical errors of (in?) the previous comment: I looked it over but I suppose I will never know English as well as Art Goldhammer knows French... I hope it is understood that I am not trying to "normalize" the FN, which I abhor, but to understand the threat precisely. I get the sense that imprecise hyperbole from the left may have aided Trump in America on several occasions.

Alexandra Marshall said...

I'll take a stab at one reason why they're so strong. In an age where politics are visual, brought to you mostly by television (and now social media, which moves even faster and often offers less in terms of analysis or going below the surface), being a good actor and playing a good part count for a lot more. MLP has put on working class drag in that she speaks like a truck driver and doesn't shock at coarseness in others (rather, she encourages it), and people buy it. It's the Trump factor again, that a multi-millionaire could convince the lumpens he's one of them because he's so damned inappropriate and coarse.

Meanwhile thought the FN's policies and track record haven't actually been terribly protectionist (see: she has no problem lying her ass off, something other pols who have higher expectations of actually wielding power, are less ready to do. (Honest Fillon excepted.)

Also, revolutionary technology + globalism + refugee crisis + ramped up terrorism has people terrified and their lizard brains take over. Rational thought is less important than feelings and MLP is very good at playing on resentment, one of the most operational feelings post-crise.

Alexandra Marshall said...

The FN is also more successful than before because it represents the totally real and growing tension between center vs periphery, which is the most important in a knowledge-based economy, and whose contradictions are getting sharper and sharper. Despite growing up in a mansion in a chic suburb of Paris, Le Pen exploits those contradictions very well. Very easy to paint Macron as the front row kid who embodies the winners of globalism, as many have done (present company included), because it's true, he is. And because people who look and talk like him and have fancy resumés haven't reversed deindustrialization, well, screw them all, goes the thinking of someone exasperated, tired and scared. (And lots of other things, I can't read minds.)

Art Goldhammer said...

Thanks to all for the vigorous comments. I wish I could engage with each of you individually, but I already spend far too much time writing this blog than I should. I encourage you to debate with one another, and I may take up some of the points you all raise in future posts if the spirit moves me. Meanwhile, apologies for not having the time to engage more deeply.

bert said...

Anonymous at 1:46, the comparison isn't with appeasement.
And it's not with really with Hitler - we all know Godwin's law.
It's with Ernst Thälmann, who came to regret the end of the republic.
No historical parallel is perfect of course, and ones involving Hitler need handling with care, but Nathaniel (whose line has the support of Moscow) does ask for it.

A separate question, and possibly an unhelpful red herring, has Muslim support for the FN disappeared? Does Dieudonne draw a crowd? How does Nicholas Anelka celebrate his goals these days?

Nathaniel said...


You've got the timing is wrong. JLM is trying to say "Bevor Hitler, uns!"

JLM's left-populist movement wants to prevent the fascist turn of the French working class. All these Whirlpool workers: they may not be 100% committed to the principle of ethnic and religious diversity, but they are not all racist xenophobes. At least, not yet. Like many Trump voters, they are attracted to Le Pen for her economic populism, as she is the only candidate to speak directly to them and tell them she will save their livelihoods, which are directly threatened by social dumping. Workers are seduced by this, and then, by dint of supporting the FN, begin to march in step with her xenophobic discourse.

Since the Socialists and the Macronites have done little to reassure this electorate that their cries are being heard, JLM is trying to offer a valid leftist alternative to the FN. This is not collaboration; it is a direct attack on the FN's creeping sphere of influence.

I find it hard to believe that I'm the only one who sees it this way. Anyone? (And please, spare us the red-baiting.)

Nathaniel said...

(And I second Bert in wondering about the FN's Dieudonnian faction... Were the Vel d'Hiv comments and Jalkh a way of throwing a bone to her traditional anti-semitic support wing? Like Macron, tossing bones to the left and right, Le Pen caught in a pickle between her islamophobic and anti-semitic electorate?)

Jorge Kahwagi said...

nice blog

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel , I totally agree. I posted something to that account on a previous post (I think below the 'this about sums it up' joke but am on phone and can't see) and when I saw the Whirlpool investigation* I immediately thought of the workers from our plant that's closing despite being profitable.
The workers there initially thought of voting for MLP *despite* her racism because they felt betrayed by Hollande (fairly or unfairly that's the most common judgement on Hollande) and Fillon was so clearly a clone of the 'Master' from the big house their grandparents tried to escape. Melenchon suddenly became a viable alternative and they switched enmasse, especially in the west and southwest. (The Melenchon vote in big cities reflects a different vote.)

* must-see. Many months in Amiens with Whirlpool workers. Should be available on lepluzz.
Add 'C ds l'air' 4/26, and 4/27 Schneiderman chronicle about 'eviter La debacle '.

But now the choice is between a person who says stuff like 'I can't save your factory', 'I won't promise anything', 'I'm not coming here to announce a happy future '. EM clearly says this thinking it virtuous, but it flashes as a danger sign for many factory workers.
I can tell you that right now, for the workers who come to work, Macron represents a clear, immediate danger - 'saving the republic' or 'preventing xenophobic policies' is more abstract and depending on whether they have hopes for something better being possible, or nor, they'll abstain or vote FN. Not many want to vote for EM. He's seen as the symbol of why their factory closed.

In 2002 according to people there was a sense voting for Chirac would not bring about wished for policies but it didn't
mean actively shooting yourself in the foot, arm, and face, and reducing your kids to poverty. It was a moral reaction. right now, workers feel it's between two bad choices, one that means violence for some of their colleagues and friends but perhaps will save them, and something that will protect France but will sink them.

To me, voting for EM is the only possible choice, it's unconscionable to support MLP in any way, but what I get is that Melenchon allowed people to channel their anger and fear toward a leader that wasn't xenophobic - and we ought to hear them.

I was struck in the Whirlpool film when the mother had to ask her 16-year old daughter and kid's boyfriend for ways to create a cv on a computer. So, the adult was reduced to the advice of two 9th graders - what it means for her status in the family, what it means in the likely outcome of such an enterprise, what it means in terms of nor knowing what you don't know. To their credit the kids were serious and offered good advice but imagine your future resting on two 16-year olds'sense of the business world.

Art, I really think you ought to go and spend some time in a small Southwestern town, even if you know small towns, so I invite you if you have some free time in the upcoming year. :)

Anonymous said...

And, yes, Jalkh was a bone thrown to the traditional base. MLP may have stepped down ONLY to create that small space, five days of dog whistles to let that base know 'even if I don't sound like it right now, I'm still with you'.
He's gone now, Steeve Briois his replacement.

bert said...

”JLM is trying to offer a valid leftist alternative to the FN”
JLM is trying to rally leftist opposition to the tepid reformism of the status quo.

A while ago JLM ran away to join the circus, since when he's specialised in riding several horses at once.

The important questions, on which I think we differ:
1) which takes precedence?
2) cui bono?

Nathaniel said...


You are seeing double--this is one and the same horse: only by challenging the tepid reformism of the status quo can the left offer a valid alternative to the FN that can succeed in drawing away (and holding) the disenfranchised working-class electorate.

And to connect onto your earlier riff: If Mélenchon is Thälmann, does that mean Macron is von Hindenburg? And how well did unilateral support of him work out?

bert said...

You answer question 1 by not answering it.
You don't attempt an answer to question 2.

Let's try a third question: do you support JLM as the head of an alternative government or as an anti-FN spoiler?

Anonymous said...

I don't support him at all but I recognize he's done a good job turning working class votes away from the FN. I also don't think he'll ever come to power.

Nathaniel said...

JLM spoils the FN's working-class power grab by heading opposition to the liberal centrists from the left.

Cui bono? Certainly not Le Pen.

bert said...

”Cui bono? Certainly not Le Pen.”
We're talking about the second round here. You might want to rethink that.
Or maybe we're talking about 2022, following an attritional parliamentary and extra-parliamentary campaign against the liberal centrists from the left. Again, room for a rethink.

By the way, Myos, if you look at JLM's rhetoric over the last few years, how comfortable are you about his use of a judicious bit of xenophobia? For him, the Other eats pickled cabbage. You don't need to go too​ far back in history for that to be the big noise in French rabble-rousing. Arguably the Germans can look after themselves, but one reason for the crossover you're seeing between the far left and the far right is the populist mixing of socialism and nationalism on both extremes.

bernard said...

Melenchon does not even have the courage to reveal for whom he will vote. And this guy wanted to be president. He will be remembered as a sad joke. And if the SozNat MLP gets elected, he will be remembered as the scoundrel who allowed her to appeal to his electors - as she did today - and can request a resting place alongside Doriot.

People who want to look for honour, not dishonour, on the left can look at Laurent and the PCF who will vote Macron even though it is clear from the outset that this is not a support of his policies. They at least remain principled and clearheaded and can see the difference between a fascist and a social-liberal in the manner of the SPD.

I for one know precisely what French fascists can do and have done so for 5 decades. Hint: they are the reason I speak English.

Mitch Guthman said...


I am confused. Also despondent. I feel like I’m on the sidelines watching the forces of darkness battling it out for power. No matter who wins between the plutocrats and the fascists, everyone else loses.

I appreciate that you see Macron as a benign centrist technocrat who will tweak things a bit in the German mold and everything will be fine. But that's not the impression I get when I read what he and his supporters say about globalization and "reform". Macron sounds to me like a man who is very much enamored of Thatcherism. Once he gets going, there will be Whirlpools aplenty in France. And in Macron's world, the losers will be on their own.

It really is too bad that Alain Juppé felt it was beneath him to actually campaign for the presidency.

Art Goldhammer said...

Dial it down a bit. Thatcherite? Why? Is Macron threatening to smash unions? Apply monetarist economics? Allow people to work indefinite hours? Trust blindly in the market? He's a FRENCH STATIST TECHNOCRAT, not a Hayekian or Friedmanite. Words have meaning.

And Juppé did campaign for the presidency. He lost. He did not think he could come back from that loss. And what makes you think that Juppé would have been superior to Macron if he did come back? He promised larger cuts in state employment and similar market liberalizations. If you could live with Juppé, why do you find Macron so objectionable?

I'd actually like to understand your thinking. I find this Macron rejectionism quite baffling. He doesn't walk on water, but that doesn't make him the Antichrist. Your words typify a reaction to Macron that I simply do not understand. I'm under no illusion as to what he will do, and I'm aware it may fail. But you seem to take failure as a certainty.

Alexandra Marshall said...

Art, I can only apply what I see out there on the message boards and Twitter and the like. And Mitch, I am absolutely not lumping you in with what I'm about to say. But a lot of Macron rejectionism, which feels like the same thing HRC underwent, has to do with the fact that he is too thirsty (as the kids say) and feels too packaged and inauthentic. How ridiculous to decide the direction of a country on such things over policy but I honestly believe that our 24-7 meme culture of vapid rapid response and entertainment uber alles has gotten us to the point that perceived coolness and an inch-deep notion of what authenticity means can actually decide our collective fates. To the Bernie people who could just not compute that HRC's platform was the most progressive America has seen in generations because it came from a member of the uncool establishment: I'm looking at you.

Those who are legitimately more desperate have good reasons for striving for more radical solutions. I don't blame any of them even if I hope they will not abstain en masse and give MLP anything like a shot. But among the lefty cool bobo cadre whom I see on open social media, and some in Paris whom I know very well, Macron rejectionism is not about that. It's about, "Ugh, that guy? He reminds me of everyone I see on the metro whom I hate," which then leads one to believe what one reads about the candidate rather than investigate their platform directly. It leads to dismissal rather than engagement. Anyone who can't support a candidate based on real engagement is at least acting with integrity. But most of the people I personally know who can't stand the guy have never even read his platform. I tell them they should and know they won't.

"We don't want more of the same!" "More of the same" refers to policies and outcomes, of course. But it also refers to more of the same national politician teflon polish, which people in an age that is entirely packaged and plastic and viewed through a camera, are really sick of. I think it's a displacement of our revulsion for our own selves, and how we volunteer to dehumanize ourselves by putting our intimate lives through the same cruel machine, but it's shoved at the foot of politicians. They are not controlling the social and broadcast media despite what most of the young and somewhat stupid seem to think. They have to play its game too. But since they have actual power and claim to speak for us (and constantly speak to us), it's easy to deflect our own murky shit into them. They even volunteer for the job, which is why I will always believe that anyone who strives to hold national office has a deep personality defect. How normal to want to reject all of this and just not vote. And how stupid.

(continuing this on a second post)

Alexandra Marshall said...

Remember when people liked Macron? It was when En Marche (<--why does it have to be his initials and in his handwriting???) was seen as a chancy long shot. They were curious. The kid seemed to have guts, wow. And now he has a real legit shot. Cue all the hatred for the try-hard who doesn't want to upend the order of things and obviously likes himself A LOT when we're supposed to be either wryly self-deprecating or "authentically" crusty and cranky (JLM, Bernie) nowadays. This comes from a lot of people who don't really want to upend the order of things themselves except they're bored or think their individual whims should rule the country because they play too many video games. When you spend most of your life strapped to a machine and communicating in memes and broadcasting your blather with no filter, it's easy to think yours is the only opinion that matters or that none of this actually matters at all.

Some time ago I posted a link about 4chan nihilism and Trump. I'd do so again here because I think in the age we're in now, understanding this ironic politics is crucially important, but blogger's comments protocol isn't letting me. The piece is on Medium, the author's name is Dale Beran, and I would urge everyone to look it up.

We live in the age of irony. Earnest striving is way less attractive than critical distance. It's cool to stand back and point out flaws, and propose solutions that might be right in an abstract way but have no chance of succeeding. Or to root for it all to come tumbling down because it's fun and shocking and maybe you're a white man watching your real estate in the world shrink a bit. And if the brown shirts aren't banging at the door, and for the moment you're not out in the street or starving, it's hard to let go of being cool and get behind a try-hard dork like Macron, even if the alternative is actual brown shirts at the door. Every time I express support for him or did for HRC, it comes with ten sentences of qualification. This is partly because I have legitimate qualms with the programs and partly because I'm not immune to what I describe above. Uncool! Ouch!

Too many of us now see things through the vector of "is this person, who I am constantly watching in 1:45 clips on youtube, someone I will not seem uncool for supporting?" Americans know this dynamic intimately already but it's come to everyone else now. Sorry!

Alexandra Marshall said...

Lastly, the only people I know who support Macron other than some of you all are Parisians in their 40s and older who have entered the striving class. Ie, they're getting more common-sense (even a bit conservative), looking after self and not wanting to blow it all to smithereens. What shocks me is that I have become one of them. UNCOOL.

bert said...

Link mystery solved. Or circumvented at least :)

Anonymous said...

I suppose you refer to Melenchon 's screed. It didn't bother me at the time because it was stupidly inconsequential, clearly nothing came of it, no violence towards Germans in France nor any policy inspired by it (compare to screeds by Onfray or Zemmour). It was an easy way to make money off the French resentment against what was seen as German-imposed austerity. Is it honorable and deep? Nope. Purely contextual and money making, and I don't think it even sold well.
I see it differently than the many screeds against Muslims it immigrants and such a book in terms of nefarious impact :). Does it bother me? Yes it does, and lots of things bother me about Melenchon, but I do not think he's similar to the FN or its supporters like Zemmour.
I wish Melenchon had clearly called foe a Macron vote but I understand his supporters and members, being 'insoumis', would balk and so the opposite. The pile-on against anyone not coring Macron has already had a contrary effect along the lines of 'you won't guilt me into voting Macron'. People of the left are tired to be voting against their convictions 'to save the republic' whereas people of the right never have to. I realized this in 2014 when there was much grumbling about the supukku committed by the left in the North and the South. We may think it unconscionable, but no matter how unconscionable it seems to us, we have to face the facts and act upon them as they are, not as we wish they were. It'll be easier to fight the FN if we look at the situation on the ground rather than what we wish people did.

Anonymous said...

Macron is no Thatcherite. If you want a comparison, he's a younger, more progressive Chiraquien. He'd fit right in with most American Democrats.

Anonymous said...

I found your post very interesting because the few 'Bobos' I know all voted for Macron. I guess it means something different in a departement where the biggest city has 40,000 people and a big town 9,000. I had never realized such a superficial rejection, such an affection, existed.
The people I know who are honestly grappling with voting for Macron feel that his policies would likely imperil their jobs.
(Try to imagine how 'retraining' sounds to someone who's failed the 6th,7th,8th, and 9th grade.)
I see that education and retraining are going to be key in the new economy but what they see is failure and poverty. So they worry, if I vote for him will the business I work for declare me irrelevant?
That's why the visit to Chatellerault, to Husseau, etc., is so important (yesterday and today) but it's being overtaken by DuPont Aignan's decision.
Hopefully the 'equal airtime ' rule will fix this by this evening.

It hadn't occurred to me that people who have everything going for them or at least the tools to understand the overall situation wirhout being directly threatened in their sense of self, could think with such shallow affectation.

Alexandra Marshall said...

Myos, there are bobos who are more bourgeois, and those who are more bohemian. And I realize my anecdotes are, well, anecdotal. Among the Parisian professionals of a certain age who like their organic vegetables but also their trendy designer clothes, it's all Macron. Among the interméttants de spectacle and academics who make up my in-laws' network--Montreuil-dwelling, completely hippie, much more firmly on the left--it's all Mélenchon. I was relieved to hear tonight that my brother and sister in law, both firmly JLM voters in the first round, are voting Macron in the second. Holding their noses but doing it. They are parents of almost grown children and aren't nihilistic. But let's say not a lot of time was spent digesting the finer points of

We are all tribal, but I think we're becoming much more superficially so now. The signifiers are taking over the asylum.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Alexandra for these really interesting posts.

Mitch Guthman said...


Point taken. It would be the mother of all understatements to say that I have a visceral dislike for Macron which was formed during the Hollande years and perhaps that has clouded my perceptions of both his statements and his “ni-ni” persona. Nevertheless, it also seems to me that there’s a very good case for describing Macron as a Thatcherite.

Macron’s unabashed embrace of globalization is an implicit rejection of the welfare state and an implicit acceptance of the notion that market dictated outcomes should not be disturbed because they are naturally and morally correct. I think this is the unmistakable meaning of the ArcelorMital deal. Maybe the losers of globalization can survive in the new gig economy as fast food workers or Uber drivers but basically they're on their own. Macron is unconcerned with the fate of globalizations losers.

He also seem to be following in Tony Blair’s “New Labour” footsteps with his strong emphasis of free markets, deregulation and privatization. Eventually all of the institutions of the post-war consensus are incompatible with Macron’s worldview because they all require extensive governmental interventions in the free markets on behalf of the public good. I see disagree with you that Macron is a statist technocrat would would be happy tinkering around the edges of the post-war consensus.

Unions will be destroyed because they cannot be preserved in a neoliberal, globalized system in which state power is deployed to aid in driving down employers wage bills and continuing to protect capital that relocates production to extremely low wage countries even though there are significant risks presented by corruption and political instability in those countries.

My view on Juppé is that he would be very unlikely to be more than a caretaker president elected out of revulsion with the FN and therefore lacking a mandate. More importantly, I think the left and the center would have a much easier time rallying to block his programs because he isn’t nominally one of them. I have been very much disturbed by the capture of the large parties of the center-left by militant centrists who I view as thinly disguised Thatcherites who have used their leadership positions to create a lot of confusion and disunity. This was the very much the political dynamic of both Blair and Hollande.

I think it will be very difficult for the leadership of the left to go from singing Macron’s praises on Sunday to campaigning against him in the legislatives and then actually organizing to block him once he is in office. This is why I see Macron as by far the greater threat.