Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Hot Take on the Election



Passerby said...

Just a quick reaction to your introduction paragraph.

While Macron's win over the 2 major parties, is quite a feat. I would tend to think that the first was Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (Chaban-Delmas being in my mind the representative of the traditional right).

I'm not trying to be picky, just curious about your reasoning.

Art Goldhammer said...

Yes, technically you're correct, but Giscard won only because Chirac aided him. It was an intraparty maneuver. One might argue that Macron was similarly aided by defecting Socialists, but the PS has grown so weak, and the Hollande regime so unpopular, that that wasn't quite the same as a boost from Chirac, the leader of an anti-Chaban faction in the dominant Gaullist party.

Passerby said...

I see your point. Thanks for the clarification.

I just realized that VGE was also, at the time, the youngest president. He did pretty well in the office (at least in the first years) Let's hope this is good omen for the future...

Lapinot said...

An excellent piece. To my mind, though, Macron more closely resembles a male member of Blondie:

Lapinot said...

On a more pertinent note, it's been annoying, but not unexpected, to see comments (on Twitter or beneath articles) refusing to vote for Macron because (paraphrasing)

'I'm of the right and could never vote for someone of the left.'
'I'm of the left and could never vote for someone who wasn't.'
'I won't vote for him because he destroyed the PS.'
'I refuse to choose as an act of pacifist resistance.'

I know that's just a minority but any doubts about Macron tend to fade away (temporarily) before that sort of petulance.

atomymous said...

Lots of commentators make much of Melanchon's anti-EU position, arguing that almost half of the French voted for an anti-EU candidate in the first tour. It is perhaps interesting to note that some CEVIPOF polling data from November 2015 shows those intending to vote JLM to be about as euro-sceptic as those intending to vote FF (i.e. not much) and this is before JLM started to gather much of the left-PS vote who wanted to 'voter utile' and avoided BH for this reason. I would like to see more research on this, but I would be very surprised if it showed many JLM voters voted for him because of, rather than in spite of, his foreign policy positions generally, including the EU question.

FrédéricLN said...

I agree that Macron should win with at least 55% of votes, but disagree, at least a bit, on "the French looked into the abyss and recoiled. They heard promises from both the far left and far right to lead them out of the European Union and decided they did not want to go.", or on "Adding Le Pen’s 21 percent to Mélenchon’s 19, you have 40 percent of the French radically opposed to “the system” of which Macron is both a product and a symbol."

Well, you can add the 10% of "small candidates", and a large part, maybe one third, of Macron's own 23%.

I think that many of Macron's supporters just considered him as the most valuable anti-system candidate (as funny as it may look like); they picked the "#3 in the list" (shooting down PS+EELV and LR+UDI) just as the voters in the two primary elections picked the #3s, firing down Sarkozy, Juppé, Valls and Montebourg.

They may well keep pushing.

Giscard suffered from the same ambiguity with served him in the two first years. He was elected as fresh air who might push old Gaullistes and Socialists out of the place, and he thought he was "un Président à la France".

Macron may know better than Giscard that "l'Histoire est tragique", and avoid falling in the trap of mirrors. That is the best I can wish him.

Mitch Guthman said...


I do not see any logical reason why your doubts about Macron should fade when you hears others express dissatisfaction with him. From my reading of Art's latest piece on the election, he seems to be quite enthusiastic about Macon's agenda—I think he's wrong but at least he has reasons. I think that's quite a bit different from suppressing one's own doubts about Macon because you don't like it that others allow their doubt to prevent them from blindly supporting him, even without making an assessment of what would be the likely quite disastrous consequences of his becoming president.

I would suggest, however, that there's a way of reaching out to voters of the left who are unimpressed with Macron that might be somewhat more effective than just sneering at them. I am assuming that pretty much everyone will eventually fall into line and vote for Macron. What I think is important at this moment is for the PS to rid itself of Hollande and the rogue elephants and reform itself along the lines of a party of the center-left; hopefully with the support of Mèlenchon and the PdG, which would be supportive of the center-left. In any case, a party of the center-left would naturally be in opposition to Macron’s agenda.

To my mind, that presents a delicate problem as a, hopefully, reforming PS confronts the upcoming presidential and legislative elections. On the one hand, clearly the PS and its base of members must vote for against Le Pen. But, on the other hand, it would be a mistake to abandon its center-left ideology and embrace Hollande’s transformation of the PS into a centrist to center right party.

I think the correct position for the left is to campaign strongly and unambiguously against Le Pen but equally strongly and unambiguously against Macron in the legislative elections. This would allow the left to block both Le Pen and Macron and rebuild its base throughout France at the local and legislative levels. I personally think this is the best that can be hoped for at the moment. It is what I would do if I were French and it is how I would urge voters of the left to act during the upcoming elections.

Laura Parker said...

An interesting article i found in the net, 1 vs 1 who will finally win ? :D

Lapinot said...


I have no doubt that I'd vote for him in the second round if I could. I mean that any doubts I have (which in any case I'd have about almost any mathematically possible candidate) FEEL unimportant when confronted not with dissatisfaction but with fatuous dissatisfaction. I'm not suppressing anything. If they can't see that he's better than that bigot then sod 'em.

Alexandra Marshall said...

Mitch how can you look at the last day's events and think Melenchon will work with a center-left coalition?

Alexandra Marshall said...

Meanwhile, do we think anyone will buy this move of MLP to go on "congé" from the FN now?

Does this not reek of a transparent marketing move? I find this very confusing. Can someone who has been observing France for longer than I have (ie, almost all of you) please explain the logic of this?

Mitch Guthman said...


My assumption is that Melenchon will now see the necessity of having the PS as a strong party of the center-left that he's capable of influencing positivity. JLM may have cackled gleefully as Hollande and his gang gutted the PS but the reality is that it was the crucial base of support that provided the political infrastructure (in departments and in cities) and muscle and manpower for the entire left in France. Without his, Melenchon is nothing but a television performer—hopefully, though, he will see that a revitalized PS is necessary for accomplishing anything productive in the future.

As I said earlier, I don't see anything strange about his wanting time to consult with his membership and formulate an intelligent response to MLP and Macron. I think he doesn't want to get steamrolled into backing Macron. I see very little possibility of his working with a Macron government but I could easily see him supporting a future Hamon government.

I'm at least as confused as you are about MLP's supposed abandonment of the FN or whatever it is that she just did. My first thought was that she's seen early polls and just conceded the presidential race and was trying to save the FN from a wipeout in the legislative election because she's the most unpopular person in France today. I just don't see how this helps her at all and, indeed, I think her only hope of winning is to keep all of the attention on Macron, all of the time. Her whole point is nationalism combined with the preservation of the social welfare state against the depredations of the neoliberal Macron and his friends who regularly pleasure themselves at Davos.

My assessment of the second round is that whoever spends the most time in the spotlight answering questions about their plans and friends is going to lose. Every minute spent on the Le Pen campaign as a reality tv show is a minute that doesn't feature Macron being attacked for being a eurocrat who's planning on destroying France. I think this was a huge mistake. If it gets played big by the media in the next few days, it could hopefully put her campaign into a death spiral.

bert said...

Mitch, it wouldn't hurt to dial it back a bit. Your guy lost. His numbers are flattered and the scale of his loss is obscured by the far larger and more consequential loss that hit the PS. If Mélenchon has a role in the future, it'll be to ensure that the landscape to the left of Macron remains partitioned into pro- and anti-Europe camps.

On the inner workings of the mind of MLP, her botched comments on the Vel d'Hiv were an attempt to grab some of the mantle of de Gaulle, weren't they. The pretence in this case may be to present herself as rising above politics, the embodiment of the nation.
De Gaulle was a far classier act and carried the part off much more convincingly - it hardly needs saying she doesn't have anything approaching his range or his background.

Mitch Guthman said...


As a man of the center-left, if I would join a political party in France, it would be the Le Parti socialiste. If I have a dog in this particular fight it is Hamon, not Mélanchon. Yes, I actually would like the left to be reinvigorated and united but since I’m not remotely as enamored of Macron as are many here, I would like the left to be united in opposition to Macron and his agenda. I see no reason for JLM or or Hamon or anyone else on the left to support Macron’s agenda. It should be sufficient to urge a vote against Le Pen in the presidential election and a vote against Macron in the legislative election.

Macron and the Davos gang may well be installed in the Élysée palace soon but, as a man without a party, he won’t have the legislative muscle to do very much. My hope is that Hamon will lead a united party in vigorous opposition a hopefully short-lived Macron government. Obviously that will require both removing Hollande and certain of the elephants from power and rallying the left around a new socialism of the possible. I hope that Hamon and the militants of the PS have the vision and commitment to get started on ridding the party of Hollande immediately.

As for JLM's role: My hope is that the total collapse of the left is a sufficiently sobering experience for Mélanchon that he will see the importance helping to rebuild the PS as a revitalized party of the center-left and will be prepared to set aside his differences in order to achieve that goal. I would also note that a number of other commenters here have made the point that JLM is not against the EU but rather against a union that promotes neoliberalism and globalization at the expense of ordinary Frenchmen.

As to MLP’s departure from the FN, my first thought when I saw the notification on my iPhone was that she’d just conceded the election. Evidently that isn’t the case but I have no idea what she was thinking. In any case, it doesn’t change who she is or the Le Pen family’s multigenerational involvement with the trolls and assorted monsters who are the real FN—remember, the Identity Bloc (BI) is practically an offshoot of the FN that left not out of disagreement with MLP but as part of her de-demonization program so as to give her political cover. Whether or not she’s leading the party, nothing will change how a Le Pen victory would empower the most reactionary and violent elements of French society.

But to return to my point about the necessity of opposing Macron’s legislative agenda after the election: I have in the past argued that the FN’s rise (and Macron’s, too) is a destructive side effect of exactly the sort of neoliberalism and unrestrained globalization advocated by people like Hollande and Macron under the guise of “reforms”. I believe this is what we’re seeing played out in this election. A Macron victory combined with intense “reforms” that ultimately will create uncertainty about the social welfare state and perhaps dismantle it piece by piece has been happening in the UK, makes a victory by some member of the Le Pen family an inevitable disaster as long as these so-called centrists hold sway.

bert said...

I had you wrongly confused with a Mélenchon fan? Sorry about that. It's on the strength of your recent posts here and at Arun's place. Apologies for reaching the wrong conclusion.

Party leadership and presidential candidate are different jobs. From memory, Giscard and Mitterrand kept tight control; by contrast last time round both Sarkozy and Hollande outsourced the party job.
Hamon is a failed candidate, nothing more. He's even more finished than Mélenchon. If he has a future it's not an immediate one. Far from it.
MLP is giving up her party title as a symbolic move - my reading of the symbolism is in my earlier post.

Lots to discuss in the coming days :)

Mitch Guthman said...


I think your mistake was perfectly understandable. It’s certainly no secret that I have a much higher opinion of Mélenchon than nearly everyone who regularly visits this blog or Arun’s and I have defended him a number of times in both places. But his politics are not mine and I find his warm feelings for people like Hugo Chavez and the Assad family to be reprehensible.

I’ve made no secret over the past several years of my extreme dislike for Macron. I think he’s nothing but a chancer. I think many of his friends are despicable vultures waiting to gorge themselves on privatizations of France’s patrimoine that will damage the quality of life and leave future generations incalculably poorer. I think he wants to destroy the social welfare state in favor of a free market economy where the poor are left to fend for themselves and the workers and middle class are the only ones who pay the price of globalization.

If JLM wants to go after President Macron and make his life miserable and his presidency as short as possible—I wish him good hunting.

I also think you’re wrong about Hamon. This could be his moment. I think Hamon and the base of the party are finally going to get up enough nerve to dump Hollande. The damage Hollande’s done to the party’s infrastructure is immense—there’s almost nothing left—but the PS can be rebuilt as a party of the center-left and I think Hamon’s the man who can do it

Anonymous said...

Re: Art Goldhammer's original take; I agree with most of it but I am skeptical that the Germans will give Macron much rope.

Macron's reforms are what the political class in France has wanted to impose since the late 80s: I am not keen on them, but the alternatives the political class leaves us are liberal reformism, passive decline led by politicians who believe in something like Macron-ism but are frit, or chienlit (FN/FDG). I don't believe that the liberal reforms on offer will do much for France, but if Hamon's no-growth eco socialism is the most innovative alternative to liberal reform, then let's try reform again and hope that it works this time. (In the dual sense of "is passed" and "improves the situation.") Jospin was the last French politician who at least tried to confront the contemporary world economy as it is without either retreating into a nostalgic fantasy or succumbing to the anti-welfarist politics of Thatcher/Schröder/Blair. And Jospin was a failure, although if you compare him to Royal, DSK, Hollande and even nice Benoît Hamon he grows a bit in stature.

I am not impressed that Macron charmed Varoufakis. George Osborne (Macron's British doppelgänger?) did the same. Varoufakis knows that French politicians of almost all stripes must share some of his exasperation towards Germany's currency policy: even the British Tories do! (Only, of course, because thanks to the Pound the UK never had any responsibility for Eurozone debts.)

Merkel is made of sterner stuff than Varoufakis. I will believe that she - or Schulz, or Schäuble, or Gabriel - are willing to make substantial concessions to Macron when I read about it in the paper. An endorsement of Macron or a vague offer of goodwill signifies little.

Alexandra Marshall said...

I don't know, Mitch. JLM has shown at every recent turn he's not a coalition builder. I think it's wishful thinking that he'd have anything to do with the PS ever again. This election showed he doesn't need to. He's spent his recent career excoriating the party. I'd see Bernie Sanders become a democrat way way faster than see JLM make nice with the PS. His program felt like branding for the permanent opposition. You gain prominence in a role like that by doing precisely the opposite of what you're hoping he will. Time will tell, obviously. One of us will be proven right soon enough. As to the endorsement, he's surely had the time to check in with his followers by now. If he couldn't then La France insoumise's digital infrastructure alone should disqualify him from modern politics forever. (I already thought the hologram should, though, so I'm biased.) If he could find the time to get word from his party, but he's stalling, then honestly, fuck him.

bert said...

”you’re wrong about Hamon. This could be his moment.”
Bless you, Mitch.

bert said...

Passerby pointed this up in the other thread [epilepsy warning: PS flashing on and off].

On the final two, Steve Bell has this.
(Not quite his finest, maybe, but getting back there. I think the Corbyn factionalism's been an unhappy experience ... Get ready for a map of Britain next month showing the Labour vote.)

Lapinot said...

This article in the Spectator summarises articles in other right wing UK papers – it's remarkable how they see everything in terms of their preoccupations. We all do, I suppose, but not all quite so stridently.

They decide to see a problem in the fact Macron's victory is quite popular in Brussels. They focus on Brexit, which for them means Macron is doing so, which by some distorted logic means he must be criticised for not focusing on the economy.

Lapinot said...

BTW I'm 'wiggle' in the comments.

bert said...

You comment at the Spectator? Yikes.
You shower afterwards I imagine.

(Nice choice of profile picture, by the way ... be aware that at the Spectator they actually will keep all your dead hair for making up underwear.)

Lapinot said...

Haha. No, I was just led to the article by NewsNow and foolishly read it.

Mitch Guthman said...


I’m painfully aware of JLM’s limitations as a political strategist and as a human being. It is my hope that he will be able to understand the nature of the crisis and respond by rising above his petty vendettas and do what is necessary to rebuild the PS as a party of the center-left with the kind of infrastructure that will allow it win elections and implement a new socialism of the possible. Which JLM may be able to nudge in a more leftward direction, just as he did during the 2012 election.

My hopes for Mélenchon are high but my expectations are low.

Anonymous said...

Melenchon does not want a party of the center left. His ideal configuration is Macron and him.
As for not calling his 'insurgent France' to cote for macron, just lol at the name : these are sympathizers who pride themselves on disobedience... Of course he has to 'consult them'so that it doesn't sound like an order but like following a consensus after debate. I invite you to Haverford (or swarthmore) any time you wish to test the opposition between resolution after consultation vs. Order.
Cambadelis and a bunch of socialist bigwigs were operating under the illusion Macron wanted to preserve the 'reasonable' party against the 'Utopians and extremists' and they could thus add their PS label to his Enmarche movement. Macron said only one thing last night on France2, and that is, if you're a PS official and you hope to be chosen for Enmarche in the legislative elections, you must leave the PS first. So this morning. Cambadelis was screaming bloody murder against Macron, saying he assumes he's won already, etc., and therefore should make nice with his allies. Except that frankly Hollande is still pretty disliked (even if unfairly) and strictly speaking, even he doesn't negotiate with the PS (as the PS thought he would), he HAS won. So, no incentive to encumber himself with old guys unless they bring something he wants. (exit Cambadelis).
As for Hamon, he brought interesting ideas. For instance, it's not so much that he thinks therell be no growth no in, but rather that 60's-like growth isn't what we need, since frenetic consumption has ecological consequences. And guaranteeing working class and middle class people who work a certain level of disposable income, since salaries have not grown, while forcing French business to wean themselves off their near free interns (as those will no longer have an incentive to take a job for €564a month unless it truly is an internship and lot a job,ie., something that helps them find a job. So, no more shoes entirely staffed by interns.)
I don't think Hamon deserves to be decapitated. I do hope the PS is going to rebuild on new ideas and new directions than those I'd the pot few years.

Anonymous said...

*shops, not shoes
* those of the past few years