Saturday, December 16, 2017

How Macron Circumvents His Own Ministers

Much was said during the campaign about Macron's lack of political experience and not enough about his intimate familiarity with the real levers of power in France, which are found not on the village marketplaces where politicians distribute their tracts but in the back offices of the various ministries. And now that he is in power, Macron has devised an efficient method of circumventing the politicians, including his own ministers, and reaching directly into those back offices in order to influence how the levers are pulled. His method is detailed in this article in Le Monde. I have long maintained that government in France is effective only when the chief executive forges an alliance with the top administrators. Conservatives used to know how to do this. The Socialists had something of the knack in the early Mitterrand years, when many young énarques in the ministries brought left-wing sympathies with them into the administration.

Macron knows from experience how the sausage is made. It's the secret of his effectiveness so far. He inspires all those departmental directors. Meanwhile, it's said the luster has begun to wear off for many REM deputies, especially those who came from the private sector. They are said to feel "useless." In their previous jobs they were VIPs, decision-makers, movers and shakers. Now they're legislators, who must sit all day day in the hémicycle just to raise their hands. I feel their pain.

Macron Turns 40, Hardens His Heart

Emmanuel Macron is celebrating his fortieth birthday at the Château de Chambord, surrounded by hunters chasing wild boar. It's an injudicious choice for a president who has made much use of the power of symbolism, unless of course he wants to project a Jupiterian power ensconced in a proper seat, or throne.

Meanwhile, he is projecting power of a different kind, cracking down on refugees in makeshift shelters and welcome centers, which the immigration police have allowed themselves to enter for the first time. He would prefer, however, that we refer to "migrants" rather than "refugees." Because apparently the president's policy on immigration is that France remains a "land of asylum" but only for those officially classified as "refugees" before entering Europe. The rest are unwanted migrants who are liable to arrest and deportation.

So while Angela Merkel labors to persuade her reluctant European partners to share the refugee burden more equitably, Macron is setting a very different example, demonstrating that on his watch France is going to take a very tough stand indeed. Which can only encourager les autres to defy Merkel as well. This--far more than the reform of the labor code--is the unattractive side of Macronism.

Meanwhile, François Bayrou, who has kept a low profile since his ouster from government, is apparently plotting a comeback as--listen well!--"the left wing of Macronism." Yes, you heard that right. Bayrou, Monsieur le Centre, sees himself as the left wing, the "social" wing, of Macronism. He is certainly right that such a thing is needed. Perhaps this refugee crackdown will give a chance to show what he means when he says that Macronism needs a social wing. Le Macronisme à visage humain remains to be defined.