A Warning From France

Posted April 26, 2017 on 9:50 am | In the category Election, Europe, Germany, Politics, TRUMP, Uncategorized | by Jeff

The news from France this week was marginally positive with the caveat that a crypto-fascist did come in second and will be in the run-off for President. But for now it seems that the run of Crazy might be winding down after its success in the UK Brexit vote and the election of America’s Chief Clown. Since then the Netherlands has avoided electing neofascists and now France – in the first round of what is one of the West’s most significant electoral tests since the rise of Hitler – has apparently taken a first step towards political sanity. Recognizing that if Macron wins the presidency he will most likely not have a Parliament of his own party, which will likely return France to its tried and true politics of avoidance of real issues and solutions. So the relief may be temporary.

But perhaps the most interesting lesson of this election is that France’s traditional political parties failed to place a candidate in the runoff. And that was the preferred result with the other two major candidates representing, in one instance, the historic corruption of French politicians, and in the other, the amazing capacity for craziness of the French Left. Now it is up to Macron to maintain his lead over Le Pen in the runoff and bring some reassurance not only to France but to the entire EU by waging a serious, competent campaign.

For the U.S. the warning from France was another shot across the bow of our major political parties. It is a reiteration of the warning provided by Trump and another reminder of the failure of both parties to connect to the people with policies and programs that people could understand and respect. The fact that the Republican Party now controls the Congress AND the presidency is less a positive review of their policies than a bizarre accident of fate: long-time self-identified Democrat Donald Trump ran in the Republican primaries because he understood that the competition was composed of losers like Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, etc. It is instructive that the only traditional, mainstream Republican candidate was John Kasich and he never gained any traction.

The Democrats had Hillary Clinton whose campaign never articulated a serious and convincing reason for her candidacy. “It’s her turn” was simply not enough for the millions of people who have seen their quality of life dissipate, the unfairness of the American economy, and the quality of political discourse turn into people simply yelling at each other. It did not help that Clinton had enriched herself with Wall Street speeches and then run a campaign that cheated Bernie Sanders’ followers out of a fair shake. But her failure was a lack of recognition of the depth of anger and despair among a swath of non urban voters in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. While Clinton won the popular vote she lost where it mattered among voters who are simply pissed off. And the blame is not hers so much as the Party’s, which left a large part of its membership behind and never articulated a measure of progressive hope.

The lesson from France – and from the UK and the U.S. – is that there are a lot of people who are angry, who have been left behind, who believe they don’t matter, and who have understandably lost faith in their politicians and their political parties. And then there are the 50% who don’t even bother to vote. Easy to blame them but maybe they need to believe in something for which to vote.

The warnings have been made and it is time for political parties to move beyond serving the needs of their primary funders and candidates and on to the needs of the people they claim to represent.
France’s runoff election is on May 7, and will be followed later in the year by elections in Germany. We shall see what lessons come from those events.

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  1. Well the May 7 results are in, and most of the interested observers from outside have breathed a sigh of relief that the threatening views of Mme Le Pen did not come close to being confirmed in a runoff election Similar results recently experienced in elections in The Netherlands and, to a much smaller extent, in Austria, seem to show hope for a resurgence of a strong and somewhat united Europe,(with Hungary and Poland playing spoiler roles) despite the bizarre situation in the UK.
    But many in the know about the reality of the atmosphere in France can still feel all the warning signs blowing in the wind. Macron is anything but a popular choice among those who will be voting in the next French election, and many see chaos on the horizon when, as seems inevitable, he is tossed out of the office he had done very little to deserve . On the other hand, one can really breath a big sigh of relief that the far right party in Germany has collapsed like a house of cards and the election there will be fought between two centralist parties with perfectly acceptable leaders, both of whom are strongly behind a united Europe.

    Comment by Mary Magoon — May 12, 2017 #

  2. Mary is right about France’s future. The likelihood of Macron having a Parliament that will work with him is almost nil and the extreme right will be watching for an opening in the future. They are playing a long game. AS for the German elections -it is surely good news for everyone, except Greece and maybe Italy, Portugal and Spain, that Merkel remains powerful. But more of the same punishing economics will not be good for the Lon-term future of the EU and the Euro. And Italy, which has not enjoyed a vivable increase in GDP in 50 years is possibly the next big problem facing Europe. But, the crash of the far right in Germany is nothing but good news, even if only temporary. In my view the EU’s future remains shaky, but of course we are allowed to disagree.

    Comment by Jeff — May 12, 2017 #

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