Friday, April 28, 2017

The Second-Round Campaign

Dear Readers,
You may find me surprisingly silent, just as everyone else has become vociferous. I confess that I'm tired. I've been traveling around the country giving lectures on the election. I spoke for two hours last night to interested Harvard students and will spend another two hours at Boston College today. Then it's off to Columbia in New York and from there on to Houston. So I'm talked out.

I'm also surprised. I had thought that the first round would lead to a clarification of the case for "steady as she goes." Instead, it has turned into a sort of zombie war, in which the undead hulks of the losing candidates stalk about feeding on poor Emmanuel Macron. For die-hard Mélenchoniens he has become the dread symbol of all they detest, the hypercapitalist neoliberal Euro/technocrat indifferent to the fate of the workers of the world, the very face of greed, the fattest of fat cats, the two-faced banker, nay, the two-faced investment banker, or better yet, the lying Rothschild banker who pretends to be neither right nor left, or both right and left, or both socialist and not-socialist--in short, a monster. For die-hard Hamonistes he is the usurper, the traitor to the party who stole its birthright, displaced its president, rejected its primary, and yet in the end a raflé la mise. And for die-hard Fillonistes, he is nothing but a Bolshevik in a suit.

Forgotten in all this bitterness over the victory of the wrong man is the real enemy, the Le Pen clan, which is eagerly wooing the Macron-rejectionists of all stripes by painting Marine as the fulfillment of their every fantasy and wish. Macron will close your plants; Marine will join you at the factory gate for a selfie party, and if snapshots of your unemployed self with the aggressively smiling blonde don't put food on the table, she'll promise to nationalize your industry, just as the left used to do back when there were real socialists running the show rather than forts en thème who married their French teachers. Macron will sell you out by governing with the likes of Xavier Bertrand; Marine will defend the working class by elevating fine, upstanding citizens like Jean-François Jalkh. Macron will besmirch the purity of La Grande Nation by permitting discussion of the darker aspects of the French past in public schools; Marine will scour away all the tarnish. Macron will surrender to the Germans and dissolve France in the acid of Europe; Marine will preserve la bonne vieille France in aspic, serve only le jambon de Bayonne in every school cafeteria of France and Navarre, and thereby drive out the foreigners who don't deserve to be called French merely by grace of le droit du sol.

The campaign itself has degenerated into a war of televised set-pieces. Macron meets with union reps; Marine outflanks him among the rank-and-file; Macron counters with his own jaw-jutting confrontation in the parking lot, reminiscent of Sarkozy's famous colloquy with the worker mounted on a crane: "Tu veux me parler, déscends de là si t'es un homme." Marine goes to sea with les marins-pêcheurs and plays with un poulpe. Macron meanwhile plays soccer in Sarcelles with la jeunesse des banlieues. 

Eventually there will be a debate. Macron will defend globalization with arguments; Marine will tear it down with anecdotes. And then France will vote. Macron will be elected by a landslide. Make no mistake. Do not be distracted by the endless men in the street assiduously uncovered by the TV journalists, who naturally have no difficulty finding vendors in open-air markets or housewives on streetcorners prepared to declare, for the edification of all, "Ben, oui, je vote Front National pour la première fois, et pourquoi pas, on a tout essayé et la France va toujours mal." He will win nevertheless. And then the troubles will begin all over again. For those who see this election as a choice between continuity and change are in one sense right: France is traversing a storm, but those who think that the way out is to steer the ship onto the rocks (Change!) are wrong, while those who think that a safe harbor can still be reached if the necessary course corrections are undertaken in time (More of the same!) are right.


Unknown said...

nice blog

Anonymous said...

Strictly speaking the Hamonistes are the only ones who are clear on the subject : Hamon clearly called on voting for Macron and the people who voted for him will do so in the most overwhelming support of 'republican values " : 81% will vote for Macron, about 1?%MLP and only 18% will abstain or vote a blank ballot.
In the Fillon camp, the current numbers are 45% Macron, 25%MLP.

Of course Macron will win. I have no doubt about it.

But even if the FN has not changed since, the context has.
The FN has pounced on that.
Recognizing this is really essential if one wants to fight the FN.
The link provided in a comment, about how in workers' disputes the FN *never* helped the labor side will be more useful.

The Whirlpool situation is not just a 'televised set piece '. Sure it was a stunt by MLP but it spoke to something that matters, as Alexandra or Nathaniel or an 'anonymous' pointed out.
I realize you're talked out and you sound angry about all this so you may not want to but.. if you can find the strength and have a minute, watch the Whirlpool Envoye special from yesterday. The 'whirlpool circus ' is unrelated, the f2 crew spent months there and the 'circus ' intruded on their filming actually. It's pretty telling all journalists were barred from entering past the gates, except the Envoye special people.

In the C dans l'air from 4/26 one of the workers' name was Salah by the way - working class can mean French from immigrant origins.

One can also find images of the FN rally in Nice, chanting with glee or ferociousness 'Macron on t'encule'. Social networks can also be useful like that.

Passerby said...

"(...) the two-faced banker, nay, the two-faced investment banker, or better yet, the lying Rothschild banker (...)"

Even worse: the two-faced lying Rothscild invesment banker.

For that he should be sent straight to Hell, but luckily for him extreme left doesn't believe in it! I guess Das Kapital always win...

brent said...

Readers of this blog don't need to be reminded why the (highly improbable) election of MLP would be catastrophic (and American readers in particular can anticipate how that would feel). And those of us on the left don't need to be impugned with a silly caricatural understanding of Macron: though his record is slight and his positions evasive, we have seen how policies like his have played out, for better or worse, over several decades in the various western democracies, not least in France.

For some of us then (and for me for sure) the question is how to be assured of Macron's election while at the same time building a strong alternative vision to both him and Le Pen, a left opposition that would replace or renew the collapsed PS. This balancing act may be harder than it looks. For those who vote in France it involves choosing very carefully between abstention and Macron--and precludes blind, fanatic adherence to his cause as the last bastion against the Anti-Christ. It instead relativizes support for him on May 7, and prepares to defeat his candidates in the legislatives. This is not traitorous, Nazi-enabling, foolish, or insane--it's just intelligent politics. And as Nathaniel has articulated so clearly in previous comments on this blog, it may be the only effective way to ward off the eventual capture of the French government by a Le Pen or worse.

Alexandra Marshall said...

Oh, Art, you have served us well. You deserve a break. Save your fire for those who pay you til after the election and we can have a virtual toast together.

Anonymous said...

It used to be said that la droite française était la plus bête du monde. I think we now give that honor to the French left. Mélenchon and his supporters, those who think that there is no difference between voting for Macron and Le Pen---because one is a fascist and the other is a former banker---are almost as stupid as those Americans and Britions who voted for Sanders (or Jill Stein) and Corbyn, but I digress....

Lapinot said...

I don't think I'd agree about Sanders although I must admit I didn't pay too close attention to the US elections but I agree about Macron and Le Pen. I think Bertrand Delanoë put it well:

"Le fascisme, ce n'est pas pareil que le capitalisme. Le fascisme c'est la domination d'un peuple par une idéologie d'exclusion, de division et de fracturation. Le capitalisme, c'est un mode de fonctionnement économique qui n'est pas la référence principale d'Emmanuel Macron. Il y a un conflit entre extrême droite et démocratie. Il faut choisir la démocratie."

I genuinely don't see the 'ni-ni' attitude as a useful way of promoting another path. By all means campaign against Macron once he's in, and by all means say that you're voting for him with reluctance, but defeat Le Pen as heavily as possible to avoid giving her party any more credibility in future elections. Because the larger her percentage the more a vote for her might begin to appear normal in the eyes of other voters.

Anonymous said...

Well I admire your optimism about Macron's program and I'll try to persuade myself to share it. I am convinced that he will win, and half-convinced that he will win big. I admit that your absolute confidence that Macron will win a landslide makes me wince: not because I disagree with you, but because I have a sort of superstitious fear of expressing confidence on this subject. It will be a relief to have MLP out of the headlines for a bit, or at least for her to loom less large.

If there is a "zombie war" going on now, surely it is Macron's fault for not making a better case for "steady as she goes," or whatever it is he stands for. It is his job to generate enthusiasm and clarify the case for himself. Can you blame the French if they have trouble swallowing a "steady as she goes" candidate after the past five years? I do not think that investment bankers are the scum of the earth: some of my best friends are investment bankers, they are a smart bunch. I do think that we see too many of them in European politics: if that makes me a trot so be it.

I will miss your commentary if you take a break, although the real drama of this election is over. I appreciate this website as an opportunity to mouth off in English on the French elections. I'm not kidding when I say that I admire your confidence in Macron. I know that it is your sober, well-informed judgment & it may be that I am an alarmist or a catastrophist about the state of Europe. If the two-faced Rothschild investment banker fat cat does in fact steer France to a safe harbor, I hope that I have the good judgment to cheer.

Nathaniel said...

@ Anonymous (1:12) (and Bernard, and other commenters saying similar things),

Are you soft in the head? Or just reading fake news? When has JLM (or anyone else from the left) ever said that there's no difference between voting Macron and Le Pen? Not throwing one's support 100% behind Macron does not mean equating him with Le Pen. Nor, for that matter, does voting blanc. Democracy allows for nuances: that's it's thing.

Art said that the fallout of the first round has been revealing as to certain political personalities. He meant JLM; I think it applies to centrists as well, who have digressed into red-baiting, left-punching, and generally throwing temper tantrums at the thought of anyone not turning wholehearted Macronite from one day to the next. Imagine the sorry debacle of non-consignes if it had been Le Pen and JLM in the second round. You think Anonymous (above), Bernard, Bert, et al would be passionately waving the flag of France Insoumise? I really doubt it.

Lapinot said...

No-one expects Melenchon to turn into a wholehearted Macronite, anymore than anyone thought him a wholehearted Chiracian when he was open about voting for him against the previous Le Pen.

He doesn't equate Macron with Le Pen but others do, and I think some people's worry is that his attitude might have made it easier for them to come to that opinion.

Mitch Guthman said...

I never thought I'd say this but Andrew Sullivan makes some observations about France political situation that I fear may be quite prescient:

"The Clinton counterfactual also makes me worry about Emmanuel Macron and France. He’ll almost certainly win — but his victory could well be pyrrhic. Why? Because his persona, background, and agenda are almost designed to polarize France still further, and thereby empower the reactionary right still further. He is not a centrist candidate on the core issues — the EU, immigration, Islamist terror, and national identity. He actually wants to accelerate European integration, he has attacked the notion that mass Muslim immigration is a problem for France, he embraces Angela Merkel’s impulsive invitation to more than a million Syrian refugees to come and live in the EU, he has called Islamist terrorism something to be lived with (even as France remains in a state of emergency), and he favors more Western involvement in tackling the chaos in the Middle East.
He is also a walking stereotype of the very globalist elites that many French have come to see as the enemy. A cute, cosmopolitan former banker who favors continuing many of President Hollande’s policies (but with more emphasis on the free market), he cannot help but be seen as the globalist candidate par excellence in a France increasingly drawn to nationalism. Forty-six percent of the vote in the first round went to candidates who were skeptical of free-market economics and the EU.
So we must fervently hope that Macron is able to have a successful presidency. Because if he fails — and he has no party in the assembly to lean on — Le Pen is waiting again in five years’ time. If the white regional working poor in France see no improvement in their lives, if the idea of traditional France continues to evaporate, and if the economic and social divide between the cognitive elite and the working poor deepens further, then what we are seeing now may be a pale version of the backlash ahead. Maybe I’ve read too much Michel Houellebecq, or maybe I’m too persuaded by the analysis of Christopher Caldwell, but I worry about the growing barometric political pressure in France. A Macron victory may not prevent, but merely postpone the deluge."

Kicking the can down the road has a natural limit. Eventually you run out of road. And the further down the road you go, the worse will be the final reckoning. The pretender to the Le Pen throne, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, makes her aunt look like Bernie Sanders.

Alexandra Marshall said...

Mitch, I was a happy subscriber to Sullivan's blog and really valued his NY Mag long read before the election on the shakiness of liberal democracy. I've been able to disagree with him on lots of things (for one, I'm not a conservative), but one or two columns previous to the one you cite, he went full Charles Murray on us (it was a column about racism and it was the finest of sophistry) and I'm personally disqualifying him from my list of acceptable pundits. American racism is not the same thing as the French election. I actually mostly agree with the point you cite. Just have to register my extreme discontent at his recent return to idiocy on other matters. In my backyard, Sullivan no pasará.

Nathaniel. you can't change the math. Any vote that does not go to Macron helps Le Pen. There is no way around that. Melenchon's public position is yet another classic move of the permanent opposition. Put your faith behind someone who's serious about sharing power, which is what happens in democracies (as you know). He's a demagogue and a totally unworthy spokesperson for ideas that deserve a better and fairer hearing in the town square. And Melenchon's supporters are the fire behind #sansmoile7mai and other abstentionist groups. Europe is now the strongest representative of liberal democracy going, despite its myriad flaws (and I am not underplaying those, I believe the EU needs a gut renovation on its policies to do the job I want it to, though I am pretty sure it won't get that). Europe does not deserve to fall because of a bunch of Jill Stein babies who can't see past their own feelings for the good of the country. There is not enough scorn to heap on this movement. Presidential elections are not the time to expect your every nuance to be represented. This is immaturity and foolishness. It's a western disease and France is clearly not immune.

Anon 1:12, it's unfair to paint Sanders voters with the same brush. Sanders wasn't standing for the general election. There were no Sanders voters in the general, there were Stein and Johnson voters. Sanders took far too long to come around to supporting HRC (there are gendered reasons for this but it's too early in the morning for me to make that digression) but he was unequivocal by the time the election rolled around.

And Lapinot, I think you and Delanoë say it best. Push Macron but the false equivalencies have to stop.

Anonymous said...

Macron for the win no doubt but he will have the same problem if elected as MLP . Is parliament going to back him ?
Most of the other parties will shun him and his programme I suspect leaving France rudderless but since we have effectively had that for the past 4 years plus its not much change :-)

David in Anjou

Anonymous said...

@Alexandra and Mitch

I agree with both of you.

It is probably conventional wisdom by now among "hauts fonctionnaires" and the élites that an unsuccessful Macron presidency would be a disaster and pave the way for further inroads of the FN, which is all the more reason for the Mélenchonite left to rally round Macron. If they can't understand that, they shouldn't be involved in politics. Fortunately, 98% of them are only involved in politics on election days....

To the poster who suggested I am "soft in the head" for thinking that Mélenchon and his supporters think there is no difference between voting for Macron and voting for Le Pen, I quote the man himself:

"We can’t really call this a choice. The nature of the two candidates makes it impossible to come out of this with stability. One because he’s the extreme of finance, the other because she’s the extreme right,”

That is an absurd statement on its face. First of all because there is no "extreme" of finance and second because it is based on nothing Macron has actually said. It is purely ad hominem (former Rothschild banker= extreme finance). There is, however, an extreme right in France, and everyone knows what it stands for. It is amusing to see Mélenchon predicting instability. there is instability, it will be largely because of the "extreme" left represented by him and his followers who have wrecked the Socialist Party.

Bernard said...

Laurent and the PCF are clearheaded. I would vote for them in a heartbeat - in fact have done so and much more in the past, in fact you have no idea where I come from - if it meant blocking the fascists. I will never vote for Melenchon who is turning out to be an enabler of the fascists and will do my bit to prevent him from having a single member of parliament. I would recommend that the PCF line up their own candidates.

Massilian said...

May I submit a maybe different point of view about dealing with the F.N.?
Why is it so hard to convince MLP voters that they are wrong to vote for her ? Because their vote is a vote of hanger and despair. They vote for MLP because they believe nobody cares about their hardships and she is the one who really kicks the system in the balls.
They don't care being called names by the educated elite.
They don't even think much of her proposals. They don't mind the blunders, they don't mind if she changes her mind from one day to the other.
They pay some attention to what she says because she cultivates nostalgia and the illusion of returning to a fantasy of "golden years".
But most probably they don't even really believe she can truly solve their problems. Mostly by supporting her, they can express their global rejection of the "system" and scare the caste that goes with it. And that feels good.
So, the best way indeed to deal with the F.N. and MLP is not to keep pretending (disingenuously) that the F.N. is not a party like the others (which others ?), that it is not truly "républicain" etc.
This is a mistake because it maintains the F.N. as an appealing outcast, a magnetic haven for all radical dissent (a stronger one than Poutou's NPA, Arthaud's Lutte Ouvrière and Meluche's Les-Insoumis-the-live-on-youtube-show. And everybody can understand what she says, while with Meluche you need at least the bac.
I believe (as Mitterand rightly thought) that we must give the F.N. the kiss of death. We must allow and absorb F.N. representatives in all our institutions, assemblée nationale, sénat, conseil d'état, conseil économique et social, you name it, etc. We must swallow them into the system. We must let them participate and make proposals, because once we have taken away from them their attractive and scary national rebels flag, we can address them and their proposals as any other political party and we can explain why it doesn't work and defeat their ideas and most importantly be heard by their electorate. In not so many words : defuse the F.N. hand grenade.

brent said...

@ massilian
I am struck that the first part of your post, describing the appeal of the FN, is about as good an account as I have seen of why people voted for Trump, and why about 97% of them think he is doing a great job, despite all the evidence to the contrary. If only our system had kept them in the minority (as their actual numbers would indicate) instead of allowing them to gain rather absolute power ....

But the point is, yes, this large body of alienated, perhaps superfluous workers is a fact, bigger than France, the US, or the UK alone, and political systems need to accommodate it somehow, as you suggest. Re-diabolization of either Le Pen or Trump will not do it, and neither will further development of the liberalized global economy. An alternative social democratic vision might.

Lapinot said...

“From my first meeting with him, I regretted dearly that it was [Mr] Sapin who represented France in the Eurogroup and not [Mr] Macron,” writes Mr Varoufakis, “Had they swapped roles, things might have ended up differently.”

An interesting point of view, both with respect to what Macron can negotiate with Germany and to his supposed position on the extremes of finance, whatever those might be.

Anonymous said...

The insoumis and there pcf obey different logics: the pcf members obeys their leaders. Insoumis want to deliberate and argue and most importantly DISAGREE. The more you say 'you must vote macron' the more they balk. Whatever Melenchon 's motives, telling Insoumis who to vote for is unlikely to result in their following through. They will be more likely to do it if they're told many things pointing to a decision but at the same time telling them 'you can choose '.
If you've met an Insoumis you know what I'm saying is true, as unappealing as it may sound to you.

Anonymous said...

'he has called Islamist terrorism something to live with' 'Merkel 's impulsive invitation to refugees '... That paragraph is a mix of racism and extreme right spin.

Anonymous said...

Articles that show the FN's contradictions, images juxtaposing older images of MLP on her Montretout castle with her saying 'candidate of the little people', articles like 'the FN never on the workers ' side' ... will work best. They wanted to be de-demonized? Let's treat them like other parties and attack their absurd policies (today's: people will use the franc in their daily life but international businesses will trade in euros.)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting indeed, because Varoufakis has street cred on the left.

bernard said...

The main difference between the PCF and Melenchon is that the PCF is a responsible organisation and Melenchon is a sheer demagogue who cares nothing about his country.

And did Melenchon consult the base when he decided that he would be leading the legislative campaign?

I take good note that all the polling institutes are reporting that the "reports de voix from Melenchon to Macron" have been worsening through the week. Totally unrelated to the way Melenchon is behaving of course.

And is Varoufakis a traitor?

I have known all the tricks of so-called insoumis or gauchistes leaders for several decades, and Melenchon is one of the worst. We must make sure that he gets zero members of parliament in the coming legislative elections.

Anonymous said...

I cannot pretend to know the French political life as you do since I've only been here for ten years. Melenchon seemed benign to me and not deciding for others seems in line with the whole 'insoumis' concept. I do hate his apparent fascination for dictators but I don't think he's a dictator himself. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Around me, many people who wanted to vote Macron to block MLP were incensed at the guilt trips. "Who are they who would tell me how to vote!?" They started to tune out anyone who started that pitch. Remember that this year voters do not want to 'follow the script' and the past few months have shown that media unanimity leads to results opposite those wished for. In addition, some Melenchon voters genuinely worry that EM will endanger their livelihood and I can't judge them since I don't risk slipping into poverty - Melenchon can speak to that but I don't know how. I'm hoping they'll come around. Anyway, being all judgey with voters hasn't led to success so far, right? Finally, there is the 'Chirac betrayal ' that people bring up often.
I think EM was very good when he said explicitly he would not be Chirac and he would not forget the people who voted for him nor would he take these votes for granted. It's a small gesture and it may mean nothing but it shows he's listening.

As for deciding how others should vote vs. What he himself should do, the comparison 's flawed.
I think that saying "I will cote Macron, you take your responsibilities" is more respectful of personal conviction.
Yes I worry that we may have a Trump redo, but first I trust the French electoral system more than the electoral college and second all these people telling others that coming Trump is an abomination had the result we all know.
Everything should be done to help people understand the danger and stupidity of voting MLP so that they can come to the conclusion themselves but I don't think telling people what to do when it comes to voting is effective or respectful.