Once again, taking popular positions on high-profile issues matters
As a fluent French speaker, I think Americans vastly overrate the differences between the two countries. It's especially glaring on the question of secularism, where American journalists claim "laïcité" is a subtly different concept (it's not; it's an exact translation) and that French right-wing objection to visible signs of Islam in public places grows from some consensus on the meaning of secularism settled since time immemorial (this stuff is all extremely controversial and the subject of heated debate in France). France has extremely similar debates as the US does on what is now called "le wokisme" (cringe, but also lol). The academic Stéphanie Roza wrote a whole book whose title translates to "The Left Against the Enlightenment?" where she defends Enlightenment principles as essential to the leftist political project – it fits in seamlessly with similar arguments in the English-speaking world.
And, look, both France and the US are secular, diverse, cosmopolitan republics with a powerful presidency, metropolitan areas with more than 10 million inhabitants which are global centers of art and culture, overseas territories, and a culture of self-importantly considering our country the world's beacon of liberty. We're just extremely similar countries! And yet even though France is doing fine, better than fine, most of the anglophone press has basically assigned it to the role of 'sick man of Europe' when I'm more optimistic about its longterm performance than any other large European country.
It's an interesting question why Macron should campaign on unpopular pension reforms.
The reforms are desperately needed. I wrote a story about why in July: https://atlanticsentinel.substack.com/p/macron-should-go-ahead-with-pension
1) Macron saw his popularity go down a bit in the weeks and months leading up to the first voting round and he wanted to remind his base why they liked him in the first place: because he's a reformer. He liberalized labor law and deregulated businesses; changes the European Commission, IMF and pretty much every international organization had been urging France to make for many years, but which previous presidents avoided for fear of stirring unrest. Macron made those liberalizations in the first years of his presidency, but then he delayed pension reform during COVID. Some of his voters might have been tempted by Valérie Pécresse, the Republican candidate, who also argued for pension reform. By doubling down, Macron convinced his voters to come home.
2) He wanted an unmistakable mandate for reform. Nobody can claim the French didn't know what they were voting for. Le Pen was against pension reform; the French chose the candidate for was for it.
Considering you pride yourself on being a realist, your whole "Liz Cheney and Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney would totally form a coalition with centrist Democrats" thing is so extremely weird to me
More international articles, please!
All of this is true, if you completely disregard that economically both Macron and Le Pen are way to the left of the Democrats. Le Pen's economic program is basically socialism/social democracy for the French and much maligned neoliberal Macron still supports universal healthcare, free education, unions and a green new deal.
If you honestly ran the French results through the American system, Macron - who is to the left of Biden - would have crushed it in the Democratic primary, and Le Pen (a fusion of Sarah Palin and Ivanka Trump) would have been a fringe player in the Republican primary, since she is a woman.
Macron is a French Blair, for better or worse. Socialists/Social liberals have now won three consecutive presidential elections in France, the two last elections in blowouts. And all we hear about is the strength of the radical right.
I am very genuinely baffled about 1)how a grand coalition with Liz Cheney -- a completely orthodox extremely conservative Republican on all questions except whether Joe Biden won the 2020 election -- would work, and 2)since this would presumably require making concessions to some views that are more unpopular than anything advocated by mainstream Democrats how this would be more electorally appealing. Moreover, that's pretty much an exhaustive list of anti-Trump Republicans in Congress with any influence or chance of being in office in 2023 and wouldn't get you anywhere near a functional governing majority even if you assume the can opener.
The thing is that the 2012 Obama Electoral College map simply can't be reassembled by position-taking or messaging. Historical events intervene and Democrats aren't the only players on the field. Obama wouldn't win Ohio or Iowa if he could run again in 2024 either; this is the reality we have to face, just as Le Pen running a shrewd campaign and Macron running a puzzlingly poor one still resulted in a rare re-election of a French president with margins comparable to Reagan '84 or FDR '36.
Can anyone give a tl;dr for why Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo came in 10th place?
(My limited knowledge of Hidalgo comes from urbanist Twitter, where she is a hero for what appears to be a sweeping pro-pedestrian, pro-biking green agenda she has carried out. Is she an unpopular mayor? Do people like her but just voting tactically? Some other reason?)
George Wallace, near the end of his life, became a born--again Christain and publicly disavowed his previous racism and segregationism.* Le Pen did nothing of the sort. She just showed greater discipline in saying the loud part quiet. Convincing people she's not as racist as they thought is not the same as actually not being racist. Her success is plenty terrifying.
*For the record, I am highly cynical regarding Wallace's last-minute conversion. But, for the sake of this argument...
Matt, your homework for this summer is to find ten 2016 Trump voters who voted for Trump based only on his "moderation" on Social Security and Medicare, or Trump voters whose favorite part of Trump's message was his "moderation" on Socail Security and Medicare.
I do follow French politics and did not find this boring or annoying.
I'm not sure there was a WAY to fuse a few "moderate" Republicans into a governing legislative coalition nd that that way was rejected out of concern for unpopular but right-in-principle policy concerns. Please spell that out if its of any relevance going forward and not jut some "If Hillary has actually gone after the Evangelical vote." And what would that coalition have been able to so that the 50+1 could not? Wouldn't it just have made Susan Collins rather than Jo Manchin the deciding Senator?
My take on the elections is to wonder how why Macron and the Left do not try to promote better assimilation of immigrants. The anti-hijab rule seems hugely counterproductive.
As a (British) resident of France it’s kind of amusing how badly understood this country is by the anglophone world. While outsiders were wringing their hands about Le Pen’s apparent advances (bringing her nowhere near to victory) we saw the left on a serious march. I’m not at all convinced that Mèlenchon wouldn’t have given Maccers a real fight, with another percentage point in the first round. But hey, far right far right Trump etc.
Also, I’m currently staying with friends in their $1m+ house in California and looking forward to returning to my *much* nicer €190k house near Cherbourg & laughing at comparisons like GDP per capita.
I think that there are just too many people on the progressive left (including some in the Biden administration) who don't think that Le Pen would have beaten Melenchon and they are willing to take the gamble. It doesn't feel like a risk worth taking, but at some point I fear we are going to have to run the experiment. And things look hopeless enough for Dems in 2024 that when Bernie said he might run if Biden didn't I mostly just felt resignation rather than fear or distress.
“Fusionist politics” which you criticize the Dems for eschewing is just so much harder in a two-party system. The French party system seems fluid (esp these days) but how exactly are Dems gonna “fuse” with Romney, Susan Collins, etc.? And for the record, i support moderate policies on the merits.
Otherwise, good piece.
That's the thing, though. You can't claim it's being "snuck in" after it was such a major campaign issue.