Monday, December 11, 2017

The French Right Goes Wrong

My take on Wauquiez's victory here.


Anonymous said...

An excellent, insightful article. It leaves me wondering: how good a politician is Wauquiez? I am not impressed by him. I find him less charismatic than Sarkozy or Chirac (on the one hand) or either Le Pen (on the other.)

Wauquiez would like to join the Fillion and Sarkozy bits of LR with the FN, leaving the Juppé folks to Macron. A Sarkozy/Fillion/Le Pen Frankenstein monster would indeed be formidable, but I think that we are at least one presidential election from facing a united right.

Still, who knows?

Mitch Guthman said...


Thank you for this excellent and insightful article. It filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge and provided some food for thought. But there was one thing that went unmentioned: Why exactly is Macron, along with his allies on the right such as Hollande and Valls, working so hard to make sure that the PS is not resurrected?

It’s obviously a rhetorical question, since I think the answer is that a rejuvenated PS, focused on a new socialism of the possible, would be a deadly threat to Macron.

Still, I find it interesting that year after year, poll after poll, finds a huge number of people (frequently a sizable majority) preferring the policies of the center-left yet no politician (not even in the PS) will stoop to pick up their votes. The consistent trend has been to cater to the right and try to force everyone else to choose among the various “centrist” or right-wing candidates and parties. I really don’t understand why politicians don’t want to offer policies that have been proven to be very, very popular.

What I do understand is that after being faced with unpalatable candidates who policies offered the majority of people nothing but the table scraps of the super-rich in election after election, people in France, the UK, and the US are either gravitating to extremist parties on the right who promise them a better life in return for their becoming haters or else they just say home. We saw in the last election in France; which I personally think is a harbinger of a future crisis of democratic legitimacy, particularly if Jupiter falls from grace.

Robinson said...

@Mitch Guthman- I don't think that it is quite true to say the nobody has stooped to pick up center-left votes in France. The strategy of the PS since the 1980s has been to campaign as a leftist party (very explicitly to the left of the US Democrats, New Labour, the PSOE, the SPD ect.) It then governs as a centrist party. Hollande's anti-capitalist rhetoric in 2012 was nearly as extreme as Corbyn's and more extreme than Sanders'. It was all for show, of course.

Memories of the extreme bad faith of the PS are what makes it so hard for French politicians today to credibly stand somewhere between Macron on the one hand an Mélenchon on the other.

Tim said...


The significance of French politics right now is the elites like Macron can use the chaos of Trumpism and Brexit in order to discredit all populist movements. In the case of Brexit in particular any final agreement to resolve it must be approved by the French government(or France could veto any deal and throw the UK off the cliff). Thus Macron all on his own in the next five years holds a lot of the cards to his future in the way that Theresa May and Trump do not.

Unknown said...

It might be relevant to point out that Macron's popularity has jumped to 57%:

Anonymous said...

@Tim- there is nothing cynical in Macron's strategy. The two options available for France are centrist politics that are pro-european and neoliberal, and populist politics that are neither of these things. Real economic populism in France is necessarily anti-European, and if France ever even made a serious threat to quit the Euro, the resulting chaos would make Brexit look insignificant. French voters know this in their bones, and this is why Macron is popular. There is no alternative, as Mrs. Thatcher used to say.

Anonymous said...

So 2022 is shaping up to be a three-way race: Mélenchon vs. Macron vs. Wauquiez. Or rather Mélenchon vs. Wauquiez, competing for the title of leader of the opposition and the right to lose to Macron in the second round. Of course it is hard to tell this far out- I remember when Sarkozy took over the UMP and was seen as the inevitable candidate of the right.

If Macron stumbles badly, then the Constructifs will turn on him and there may be a serious center-right candidate who unites both the Philippe and the Wauquiez factions of the old UMP. That is how Macron will lose, if he loses.

If Wauquiez manages to unite the anti-Macron rump of LR with the FN (and perhaps Debout la France), the result will be formidable. I doubt that Philippot and Marine Le Pen (who is down but not out) would look kindly on a merger, but (as Art notes) Marion Maréchal might make it possible. Still 1) I don't think that this combination could beat Macron in a second round, in part because 2) it would have no coherent economic platform. Would the LRFN want to be even more neoliberal than Macron? Or would they want to threaten Euro withdrawal to protect the welfare state, like Mélenchon? This question caused Marine Le Pen huge trouble in the last election. Wauquiez won't be able to avoid it either.

Anonymous said...

I would assume that Marine Le Pen wouldn't stand aside for Wauquiez? And that Wauquiez wouldn't get away with a first round alliance with the FN? No matter what alliances the chiefs make, there will surely be two right wing candidates against Macron: one who draws votes mostly from LR supporters, one from the FN. I guess, like the commenter above, I think that the biggest danger for Macron is if the LR candidate wins the support of the pro-Macron bit of the right. But I don't think that that will happen- Wauquiez isn't up to it. Maybe Bertrand or NKM could unite the center right, but only if Macron really blows it.

As things stand Mélenchon is the best positioned challenger to Macron because the left is less divided than the right. If they put forward a candidate (singly or together) the PS, the Greens and Hamon's groupuscule will be lucky to beat Dupont-Aignan. Of course JLM has quite an ego and he might manage to split the far left- splitting is their specialty, after all.

Anonymous said...

It is totally legitimate to speculate about Macron's possible opponent in 2022 (I'm sure Wauquiez thinks of little else.) Surely it is also a bit beside the point? If I had to make a bet about that election, I would be that Macron will be re-elected. What will decide this? Macron! It made sense to wait for the next guy during Hollande's passive presidency- Macon will create the circumstances to which his disorganized opposition (Wauquiez, Mélenchon et al.) will react.

Admittedly Macron's European agenda is stalled right now, because the Germans are uncharacteristically unpunctual. However that goes, when it comes to President Macron France has yet to reach even the end of the beginning.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that there will be much doing w/r/t the EU during Macron's first term, given the German election result. Everyone says: Germany will make no concessions about the Euro, so Macron will press them about something else like the military. But the Germans, though they may claim to like like the idea of more European military cooperation in principle, don't seem inclined to spend a penny more on defense than they do at present.

I agree, however, that Macron will keep us busy for the next four years at least. The shape of the opposition in the next presidential election will depend most of all on what *he* does, and (as the commenter above says) he will be busy.