Monday, April 10, 2017

Nail-Biting Time

I am beginning to get seriously worried about this election. It is now possible to envision any combination of the four front-runners in the final, and most of the scenarios would have entirely unpalatable outcomes from my point of view.

My two chief desiderata are to preserve both the European Union and the French welfare state. Le Pen and Mélenchon threaten the former, Fillon the latter. On the other hand, I wouldn't be averse to a measured transition toward a Sixth Republic and a redistribution of a reasonable portion of powers from the executive to the legislative--not as a panacea but rather as a recognition of the flaws of the monarchical presidency. That said, I have no confidence whatsoever in Mélenchon as the steward of such a transition. And to elect Fillon in the state of turpitude in which he finds himself would be to deepen the distrust in which government is already held.

Although for me, therefore, There Is No Alternative to Macron, I can't say I'm happy with his campaign. When asked to specify his differences with the Hollande regime, he named two. First, he had quit the government, but this owed more to his ambition than to any difference of principle (a fact that his answer blithely left unacknowledged even as a possibility), and second, Hollande would not let him go as far as he thought necessary, which only reinforced the critiques of his opponents that his presidency would be Hollande bis. By this point he should have been able to articulate a more detailed critique of Hollande's approach to governing, even if he shares the president's general philosophy of what needs to be done (which is debatable, while the failure of the approach is not).

In addition, though capable of being affable, Macron has come across recently as a sort of Valls lite, perpetually pissed off about something or other for no good reason. While it's true that the picador style of many French interviewers would be enough to irritate even the most patient of men, Hamon, whose detailed incoherencies should require far more defending than Macron's vague ambiguities, handles even hostile questioners with dignified calm and aplomb, much more to my liking than Macron's annoyed and annoying hauteur. But perhaps Hamon's dismal place at the back of the pack is yet further proof that my instincts are out of sync with those of le bon peuple.

So, like Brexit and the US election, this one looks as though it's going to be decided in the home stretch, and I don't like the look of things at all as the field rounds the final bend.