Friday, April 7, 2017

The Mélenchonian Moment

Everything comes to him who waits. Jean-Luc Mélenchon has not exactly been waiting patiently, but he has persevered in his mode à la Passionaria for quite some time now, and he has finally had his breakthrough. Oddly for this contemner of the media, his moment came thanks to his gift for the televised debate. He roughed up Marine Le Pen on the question of crèches, entangling her in a contradiction between her defense à outrance of laïcité as the supreme republican (and anti-Muslim) value and her equally tenacious defense of France's Christian roots. This has apparently seduced a part of le peuple de gauche away from Hamon's robot tax and universal basic income and 32-hour week. Nothing mobilizes the left like a good religious war, or war on religion, compared to which all this folderol about an end to work seems a trifle unreal.

Of course, extirpating baby Jesus from his manger in the mairie is not going to put steelworkers back to work at Florange, but an 11-way debate is not likely to turn into a seminar in economics. It's more like a joust in a bumper car concession at the amusement park, and Mélenchon's thrust visibly unseated Le Pen and left him master of the stage, free to zip about in his bumper car smacking up against what Donald Trump might call his "low-energy" rivals. Hamon seems to have been the principle victim, as the polls show Mélenchon jumping up toward Fillon territory and Hamon slipping another notch or two toward oblivion.

Although JLM remains some distance from his dreamed-of match-up with MLP in the final, he just might pull off the exploit of surpassing Fillon and relegating both mainstream parties to the rear of le peloton. Et alors? as Fillon might say. But while Mélenchon nurses his dream, I briefly envision the nightmare of a Mélenchon-Le Pen face-off and say, By God, could France possibly come to this? I think not. Meanwhile, Macron revealed the names of some of En Marche!'s candidates for the legislatives, including Jean-Michel Fauvergue, the supercop former boss of the RAID, which made the assault on Coulibaly holed up in the Hyper Cacher. This very young candidate certainly has a way of enticing older, more seasoned men into his orbit from all walks of life, from high finance to high police. Another kind of talent, less visible on TV than Mélenchon's but essential if Macron wishes to celebrate his 40th birthday in the Elysée.


Bernard said...

I strongly suggest that you have a close look at the bios of the 14 candidates unveiled including their names. You might have an epiphany moment on the subject of high this, high that which you enjoy a bit too much compared to reality. Rarely if at all have more diverse candidates been selected. I would have to go back to 1981 to find something even vaguely approaching.

Anonymous said...

Watch France 2 interview with Laurent Delahousse. Impressive even if I disagree with him on key points. He's changed a lot in ten years.

Jean said...

A second turn with Mélenchon and Le Pen is absolutely, completely possible. Here is my reasoning:

- Surprisingly, Fillon is pretty much stable. He was given dead by everyone after the start of his "affairs", and yet he hasn't dropped by one point in the polls since March 1st: that's a sign that his electorate is solid and won't easily swing to Macron or Le Pen, the nearest contenders.

- It is hard to envision poor Hamon going any lower than his current level: 9% in the polls. I don't believe him going up either (even if had novel ideas at this point he seems pretty much inaudible).

- Macron might score much lower than his current level. Macron's electorate is thought to be very volatile/undecided, so one should not take the polls predictions literally.

- Mélenchon is the only one who has been enjoying strong upward dynamics in his favor in the last month, and it doesn't show any sign of slowing.

If Mélenchon was to continue on this trend, he would have to "steal" votes from Le Pen and Macron. And the question is: which one of Macron and Le Pen would bleed the most?

(of course, a rather sci-fi scenario for Mélenchon's win would be Hamon resigning)

Anonymous said...

All that it would take for things to get really dire in France is a scandal or a major gaffe from Marcon, or even for Macron to gradually deflate. He is so new and such an unknown quality that there is every reason to suspect he will underperform. Fillon's implosion came from out of the blue. It would hardly be shocking to discover that there are some skeletons in Macron's closet.

FrédéricLN said...

@Jean "If Mélenchon was to continue on this trend, he would have to "steal" votes from Le Pen and Macron."

I don't think there is much overlap between Macron's and Mélenchon's bases. But I do think many people support Le Pen just as she is the front runner of "anti-système" candidates, and Mélenchon also has some credentials for the role. His track record as PS member of the government is quite old, and already then, his colleagues considered him as a maverick, or maybe they thought he had "la grosse tête".

While Ms Le Pen speaks more and more in the tone of a classic conservative leader. And benefits from the "system", as Poutou did put it during the debate.

So a second turn Mélenchon - Macron appears to me as as likely as a Mélenchon - Le Pen.

BTW, I still think everything is possible, including a come back of Jean Lassalle from the back of the pack :-)

brent said...

@ Jean: Your sci-fi scenario has set me to dreaming. Of course if JLM is polling way ahead of Hamon it would make sense for the younger man to back off--but they would need to plan a Prime Minister deal, a new left legislative list, and some programmatic compromises, all very quickly.

Would JLM beat MLP in a second round? The cranky Leftist vs. the facho, a replay of Vichy vs. the Resistance--and a majority would choose Vichy? I wonder ...

As for the EU, JLM has often been wrongly grouped with LePen as a go-it-aloner. Actually he is an internationalist who calls for France to stay in a reformed EU--much closer to Hamon than to MLP, and a not inconceivable partner to Martin Shulz if it comes to that.

I'm afraid, Jean, that the odds are against us--but it would be awfully interesting!

Jean said...

Interesting arguments all around.

This election keeps being more and more like a jack-in-the-box, from which a French president will magically pop out! :)

Lapinot said...

A new poll puts Le Pen and Macron both on 23% and Fillon and Melenchon both on 19%.

Speaking of Fillon, apparently he now sees himself as Vercingetorix. I'm not sure that was the best comparison. I mean, I can't stand the man but strangling him in Rome seems excessive.

Anonymous said...

Vercingetorix, really ? Is he aware he lost ??
Horse race news, Melenchon and Fillon neck and neck.
I don't believe it (Fillon's base is strong at this point and Melenchon tends to score lower in the actual elections).
Today 's news interviewed people in Marseilles. There were people from the right or those who'd specifically voted for Sarkozy and like Melenchon because Both 'bang their fist on the table' . Many seeemed attracted by the potential disruption. One and only one was from the left, said he had never voted for Melenchon because in the past he had no chance 'and now he does '. Everyone else apparently was either low information non voter or republican right who like tough talking men. Melenchon now plans seven simultaneous meetings with six holograms.