Monday, May 8, 2017

The Morning After

The speeches are over, the television studios are dark, and it is a holiday in France, VE day, an occasion for somber joy--joy because the fascists did not win the war, somber because so many died in seeing to it that they did not.

For some of us, yesterday was also a day of somber joy. For others it was not. My friend Nico B., who shares none of my satisfaction with Macron's victory for reasons I perfectly well understand, reminds me that among registered voters (not just "expressed votes"), Macron scored 44%, Le Pen 22%, and neither of the above (abstentions plus spoiled/blank ballots) 34%. And of Macron's 44%, who knows how many were strategic voters, casting a ballot for Macron only to block Le Pen?

These figures are a stark reminder of the challenge Macron faces. He will propose major reforms, including what will surely be a controversial overhaul of the labor code (which he has said he will do by executive order, a move that will surely spark cries of "Tyranny!" and put demonstrators in the streets). Whatever he does in this regard is unlikely to produce immediate results. Any improvement in the investment climate due to the victory of a business-friendly candidate will be quickly offset by the negative images stemming from what the French like to call un troisième tour social. Scowling Mélenchon will see vindication in whatever turmoil ensues. And Le Pen will continue to claim that she alone represents la vraie France.

Against this simmering rebellion what weapons does Macron have? On May 15, Richard Ferrand said this morning, the new president will name his prime minister. The choice will be important. It will be the moment to establish a dynamic, if that is possible. It will set the tone for the legislative campaign. En Marche!'s campaign strategy remains murky. It will run its own candidates but also seek alliances. The Socialists seem receptive, while LR does not. But of course the Socialists need alliances, because they are in even worse shape than LR. And any alliance with the Socialists will only further diminish Macron's luster in the eyes of those who chose him only as un pis-aller.

I wrote in my Nation piece that Macron at times seemed to aspire to walk on water. On the day after his election it almost seems as if he will have to if he wishes to stay afloat. He needs miracles--not just a miracle but a series of them. Thus far he's been extraordinarily lucky, but will his luck last?


Vincent Baby said...

However, this 44% of registered voters is as good, if not better, than practically every other president of the Fifth Republic

Arne Homynous said...

Yes we can keep computing percentages and read the future in statistics. On the other hand, the new guy is young. He is fresh. He still has a lot of energy. He sure has ambition. He has a vision. He is way smart. He is not at all scared. Not corrupt yet. These are major assets. I am more interested in his assets rather than the odds against him at the moment.
Europe is expecting a lot from him. He might obtain more from Europe and bring more to Europe than any of his recent predecessors.
Maybe he will be able to implement quickly a few significant reforms.
Maybe we are tired of Martinez's threats, maybe we are tired of bombastic Melenchon, maybe we are tired of the Republicains permanent internal war, maybe we can do a while without Marine. Maybe we do not even raise an eyebrow at NKM's openings, Rama Yade's conditions, etc. Maybe we just want to move on.

David Harrison said...

If one needs miracles, then it's probably good to be named "Emmanuel".

Alexandra Marshall said...

Arne (nice way to distinguish your anon-ness) I am going to join you in your optimism. Let's just let ourselves have a moment of that after the utterly brutal political year we've all had.

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to be cautiously optimistic. He gets credit from me for speaking to the Whirlpool workers and to Mediapart journalists, for speaking in Chatellerault (FN territory that had voted left for a long time), for using the correct time 'centre-bourg'and not 'centre ville', for the gutsy live of using Ode to Joy for his entrance yesterday, for the careful planning and staging of his victory speeches - the somber, responsible, presidential one then the Louvre hopeful one with his recomposee family, for saying 'they said it was impossible yet they didn't know france' rather than the more egotistical 'yet I did it', for his promise that those who are angry and afraid and voted for extremes won't have to in 2022. To me, that means he's not afraid of his opposition, that he can dialogue to a certain extent, that's he's not trying to go toward what's easy, that he means what he said about Europe, that he understands things need to be done for/with rural and deindustrialised areas.
So, I did not campaign for him, but I wish him well and hope he will not disappoint. I had no such hopes for Hollande, who was just 'not-sarkozy'.
I disagree with some of his ideas, like leaving 'negotiating ' to each business, because in high unemployment situation employees or would-be employees have zero leverage. Same thing for limiting financial compensation to workers who have been judged by an Ombudsman 's court to have been treated illegally under labor laws (especially since French compensation is already very low compared to what civil trials judge in the us).

Mitch Guthman said...

Vincent Baby,

We really don’t know how many people voted for Macron because they wanted him to be president and his centrist “reforms” to be implemented and how many people cast ballots for him simply because they thought the FN was beyond the pale. Did a wave of warm feelings for centrists wash over France or was Macron the necessary lesser evil to be pragmatically tolerated but not enthusiastically embraced?

I think the first test is how his new prime minister is received. The second, and more important test, is how well his new party does in the upcoming legislatives. Even though he may be able to take advantage of the disarray in the two main parties, this will be a better test of his popularity and the willingness of French voters to give Macron a free hand.

Anonymous said...

My deindustrialised town voted Macron 77+% yet there were no happy noises out in the street yesterday. Cautiously optimistic is the best you get outside of 'EnMarche' movement members.

Mitch Guthman said...

Arne Homynous,

Okay, I understand you want to move on. Where do you want to go?

TexExile said...

Vincent beat me to it. I read this 44% figure all over the place as though it meant something. Elections are decided by those who vote.

Sarko was elected with 42.7% of the electorate voting for him and Hollande with just 39.1%. In both cases, many of those votes will likewise have been chiefly directed against the opponent rather than for the winner.