122 Comments

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.

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Apr 28, 2022·edited Apr 28, 2022

One need only visit France and enter the first coffee shop and order café au lait to realize we’re not in Kansas (or NYC!) anymore… more seriously, French limitations on personal displays of religious symbols is unconstitutional in US and US obsessive tracking of racial demographics (and affirmative action etc) is unconstitutional in France. On the economic side, Americans can only dream of a universal state pension scheme (!) at age 62 or any other (universal healthcare, parental leave etc goes without saying). If I’m not mistaken, French public schools have far more centralized curricula with standardized final exams, including on philosophy. I could go on… and I knew all this before I leaned French (which is still shaky).

So in short, I would suggest your argument would have sounded more convincing if you conceded some obvious differences such as the above, and explained why you think the similarities you point out nevertheless are more important.

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Meh, I'm a US/France dual-citizen (lived in France with my French father until from ages 1-15, then went to Idaho for high school and college, have mostly lived in the US since except for a few years running a business in France) and the gist of the comment rang pretty true to me. Sure, the differences you cite are real, but there seems to be a desire by both French and American actors to overdramatize these differences sometimes.

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Doesn't the US have a universal state pension system that people can start receiving at age 62 if they choose?

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I think you can square these perspectives by acknowledging both countries are culturally similar (vast rural ultraconservative, ultrapatriotic hinterlands, long history of nationalism, and extremely liberal cities, with long histories of racism even if the French tend to hide their racism behind religious objections), but economically very different. Whereas the UK seems most similar to the US economically out of the major European countries, universal healthcare aside. But this might be partly an artifact of how the countries are covered in the media - I'm sure the urban-rural polarization dynamic is fairly universal in Europe and I don't know whether it's actually any different in France.

It's also striking to my American mind how the US tourist stereotype of the French is that they're constantly looking down on anyone else from any other country, which is reminiscent of American patriotism. But I also don't know how much of that is just that we're on the wrong side of an anglophone-francophone divide that makes us very annoying to the French.

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That urban-rural divide can be said of Canada, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Turkey, etc. Seemingly every country has a “heartland” of more conservative, longer-settled rural citizens. A key thing that differentiates the US is that our electoral system over-represents rural voters relative to their share of the population by allocating voting power fully or partly by state in the Senate, the electoral college, and rules for passing amendments.

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I don't know why Americans (or the French) should dream of a pension at 62, much less if, as in the US, it is financed with a capped tax on wages.

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I don't see why you think laïcité and American "freedom of religion" are the same thing. In the US, the restrictions are all about what the government cannot do to interfere with your religious rights. it is true that in relatively recent times this has turned closer and closer into a 'legal secularism' point, notably with the removal of prayer from public schools, but it's still far from the French model.

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The Supreme Court is also clearly rolling back the legal secularism precedents, and the most notorious one (Lemon v. Kurtzmann, which hasn't really been good law in a very long time) is likely getting officially overruled in June.

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I grew up in Europe and later moved to the US. I found it very interesting that Americans consider their country to be secular, and it took me some time to understand that they mean a different thing by secularism, and maybe understand how this view of secularism came into existence here.

I still haven't changed my mind, and a country where Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is the law of the land is still not secular in my opinion, but I can understand how Americans view things differently.

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What are the 2 different meanings of "secular"? I don't follow.

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The US/UK divide is similar, so I think I know what they mean. The UK is more secular than the US in the sense that, in day to day society, religion is not held highly. Politicians who are religious are expected to keep that to themselves, making decisions on the basis of religious belief is considered low-class behavior, etc.

But on the other hand, the US is more secular than the UK in the sense that the US government is highly restricted in its interaction with religion. The Queen is also the head of the Church of England, there are state-funded schools with CoE or Catholic educational programs, there are bishops that sit in the legislature, etc.

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I agree with this. I'm not a member of the Church of England, or the Kirk, or Presbyterian, or a Prod in NI, so I'm officially a second class citizen in the UK.

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A belated reply, but I think that "secular" in the US means that the government doesn't pick sides on which God is the real God, but it can still say "In God we trust". On the other hand, I understand secularism from a European perspective to mean that "In God we trust" isn't/shouldn't be allowed at all.

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D'accord. As an American in Europe, I always feel the most "normal" in France. This may be due to the fact that I speak French better than German or Italian, but I don't think that's it. Germany and Scandinavia are just way nicer, Italy is crazy, Eastern Europe is a different world and France is... normal.

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If you have not been to the UK, I would venture to say that culturally it has to be most similar to the US, many cultural differences notwithstanding.

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As I mentioned earlier, I find France very rule-bound in strange ways. I also don't like the regular presence of police with machine guns pleasant.

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I think the biggest differences are economic. Like, French workers don't seem as overworked as their American counterparts but also there are basically no innovative French companies either and the average French person's standard of living is just over half that of the average American's.

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Do those standard of living figures take into account the fact that the average American only gets 2/3 as much enjoyment per time looking in the mirror as the average French person, and only 1/2 as enjoyment per meal eaten?

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The World Bank's data on GDP per capita (PPP adjusted) puts the US at $65,280 and France at $49,072, just over 75% of the US level:

https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.CD?end=2019&locations=FR-US&start=2000

Average annual working time in 2019 was 1777 hours in the US and 1511 hours in France (85% of the US level), according to the OECD:

https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=ANHRS

So output per hour, adjusted for the cost of living, works out to $36.7 in the US and $32.5 in France, putting France at 88% of the US level.

When you allow for France's lower levels of income inequality (Gini coefficient in 2019: 0.324 vs 0.415) I think this means the typical French household has a higher standard of living than the typical American household. Wealth in France is enjoyed more in the form of leisure and in the US more in the form of material goods, but American superiority is mostly a myth.

Inequality comparison here: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI?locations=FR-US

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Fair point on the GDP numbers -- it's definitely closer to a 25% gap than a 50% gap when you adjust for PPP (I was looking at non-PPP-adjusted numbers).

That said, it's a little silly to equivalize based on the gini coefficient when you can instead look at median incomes. PPP-adjusted median disposable income in the US is about $42.8k compared to $28.5k in France. https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=IDD

(And yeah, the fact that Americans are harder workers was my original point, so I'm not sure why we'd adjust for hours worked.)

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The data you're citing don't seem to be consistent with the data I'm citing. I don't know why that is. But you've got French median income (PPP-adjusted) at two thirds of the US level and I've got French average income (PPP-adjusted) at three quarters of the US level. France has less inequality so the gap should be larger for the mean than for the median.

I just realized the numbers in my comment are also slightly wrong because I'm mixing per-worker data with per-capita data and not adjusting for the employment-to-population ratio. But I think the general point is correct.

It seems to me that the comparisons should use hourly figures, not annual figures, because work isn't an end in itself and leisure has value. But maybe I'm secretly French.

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I have French wife. We live most of the year in New York but several months each year at her place in France, and can attest the French have a superior standard of living whatever the GDP data say.

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Surely you realize that your comment is anecdata par excellence?

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I am overcome with envy right now...

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"le wokisme" -- Can Matt do a post or Q&A about why American culture wars seem to travel abroad so easily?

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Is it as simple as the US just being the most powerful and with the most media presence in the world?

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I'd like to hear ore about the similarity of French and US approaches to cultural assimilation of immigrants. To an outsider they seem quite different except the US right moving closer to the position the (French?) idea that assimilation is difficult/impossible.

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Apr 29, 2022·edited Apr 29, 2022

Just from what I read, I find strong differences here. It seems the French pretend the issue is about religious values and acceptance of secularism, whereas in the US, most immigrants over the last several decades have been from majority Christian countries and raised no hackles in regard to faith or their practice of it, yet that has not stopped the animosity. It’s true that in the 90’s, the right claimed that their opposition to immigrants was that they were taking jobs. In the end, it’s just old-fashioned xenophobia and fixation on cultural purity.

By the way, I think people who believe immigrants do not assimilate in the US are deluded. By the second generation, which includes myself and most of the adults in my entire large extended family, we are as American as anyone else, know the country’s history as well as anyone else here, follow the same traditions, feel like foreigners in our parents’ countries of birth, and have English more often than not as the only language we speak with (complete) fluency..

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But you seem to be agreeing that the US does, and to quite an extent knows it does, integrate immigrants more than French. Surely it is true that the Central American arriving here for the first time is already 3/4 Americanized by popular culture and a common Christian origin local culture.

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To an extent, yes, with a strong warning that I am only a distance observer of the situation in France. The way our press covers French politics makes it sound as if many immigrants in France don’t see themselves as really French at all, even after the first generation, which would be hard to imagine of a Cuban-American teenager born in Miami or a Chinese-American teenager born in NY, neither of whom would likely see “American” as something monolithic which does not include them.

I lived in the UK for a time and met many Europeans from all over. I used to think (and thus explained it to others) that the main difference between the US and Europe on the immigration issue is that America has been a very mongrelized nation since birth, not tied together by any idea of “blood” whereas Europeans, even though their histories involve the mixing of many different tribes, have had stable-enough populations for a long time (until the last few decades) that national myths about pure English, French, or German peoples have some hold on the population. The brown-skinned child of immigrants born in England is almost never called “English,” as that continues to mean someone ancestrally from England. They would just be “British” which is more neutral.

The appeal of Trump based on his immigration rhetoric made me question some of that. Many on the Right have admitted they think there is too much immigration, not just “illegal” immigration. And some of Trump’s alt-right supporters have taken to chanting “blood and soil” as their slogan. I’m not sure if American right-wingers are becoming more like European nativists in their attitudes about immigration - could be some are just vaguely scared of being in the minority and losing some kind of cultural status privilege - but I don’t know any more.

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I think you nailed it at the end there. Blood and soil nationalism always has adherents but is not compatible with the American creed.

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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

Two theories:

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.

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I'd like to see someone offer some numbers on this issue.

Macron made a very unpopular decision early in his first term to get rid of France's wealth tax, which had been in place since the Revolution. I don't think the tax brought in huge amounts of revenue and I'm sure the money involved isn't comparable to what changes in the retirement age would do, but if France's pension system isn't sustainable then there was at least the theoretical option of raising the wealth tax instead of cutting benefits. If Macron wanted to be both "centrist" and "popularist" he could have done that while also pushing right-wing reforms in areas like labor-market flexibility.

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My understanding is the wealth tax in France was causing individuals assessed by it to leave the country to avoid it. The loss of revenue from individuals fleeing the wealth tax (via other taxes they paid) was consistently higher than the actual revenue the wealth tax brought in from the individuals who remained. Raising the wealth tax would have simply exacerbated that further.

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That might be true but it seems to me the right response would be to push for more international coordination, not to give up.

When the issue is framed as counterterrorism it doesn't seem to be difficult to get the major economies to work together to surveil financial flows. When the goal is to make rich people pay higher taxes, the same governments wring their hands and say it's all hopelessly complex.

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The French have a territorial tax system, as do most countries, unlike the US, which taxes its citizens no matter where they live. It's why so many wealthy French live in Monaco.

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I'm a permanent expatriate and Democrats Abroad, of which I'm a member, seems to feel that its main legislative goal is to get Congress to stop taxing the incomes of US citizens living overseas. Every year they do a consultation on issue priorities and every year my response is "Please stop doing this, it's embarrassing."

The irony is that in 2020 Bernie Sanders won a large majority in the Democrats Abroad primary, which means most of the members are more left-wing than I am. But when it comes to their own tax liability that doesn't seem to matter much.

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To my understanding (as a non-expat), American expats' complaints are that they're treated brutally by the IRS, plus the US' extremely strict stance on foreign banks means that lots of them simply refuse American customers to avoid the hassle. That expat taxes are extremely complex, and even many US-based accountants are afraid to do them for fear of making an innocent mistake.

The latest kerfuffle I heard about was that the IRS announced a new set of regulations wherein any tiny paperwork violations by expats would be subject to a point system, and above x points (which could easily be triggered by a few unintentional errors) meant that your passport and all US bank accounts would be frozen. Expats do have some legitimate complaints, and regular citizens aren't treated this way- but regular citizens have representatives that they can complain to

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I also don't think it would be that hard for France to persuade Monaco to harmonize its tax code. If they won't cooperate, Macron should just announce that their government is run by Nazis.

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Right, so the French elite and government tolerate the tax haven of Monaco. It's corruption.

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Apr 28, 2022·edited Apr 28, 2022

I think there are too many small EU countries (e.g. Monaco, Luxembourg, Ireland) that find it incredibly beneficial to attract individuals/companies through tax arbitrage. I would also say that even without the wealth tax, France is by no means a "low" tax country - and the higher the tax rates the more advantage it is to move to a lower tax region. Going from 30%-25% is something, going from 60% to 30% is immense.

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Would like to see real evidence for this.

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I don't remember the numbers, but it can't be too hard to google the revenues of the wealth tax and the projected deficits of French public pensions.

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This comment and post don't use actual numbers (monetary numbers) to explain why reform and raising the public retirement age is necessary. So explain it with actual budgetary numbers.

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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

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Apr 28, 2022·edited Apr 28, 2022

I think the point is that in a system with a different institutional design, that would probably happen. A system where politics is always divided into two camps will inevitably split moderates and prevent any actual moderate faction from forming. In France moderate parties can form and win.

For many years we got around this with coherent big tent political parties that were able to make a working coalition inside the party. That’s gone today and now parties and candidates are largely driven by the zeitgeist of the median primary voter, which are generally not moderates.

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This is true, but would require radical changes to make happen. Biden is good at these policies, but it's very hard in the current situation.

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More international articles, please!

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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.

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If you only look at economic and welfare policy, then, yes, Le Pen is left-wing. She's against free trade, for higher subsidies for farmers and parents, against liberalization of labor law, against pension reform...

Macron, though, I don't think is more left-wing than Biden even if you only look at economic policy. He liberalized labor law, to make it easier to hire and fire workers; he deregulated small business; he ended the railways' monopoly of intercity transport; he ended early retirement at the state railway; he's for nuclear power.

If you then factor in his views on immigration and security, which are mainstream by European standards but more left-wing than those of Democrats in the United States, the comparison with Tony Blair is apt.

It's also notable that Michael Bloomberg is a Macron fan.

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In the French context, Macron has governed from the center-right. That still leaves his policies to the left of the median Democrat (who Biden famously impersonates). Macron is a social liberal. The closest American equivalent I can think of is Pete Buttigieg.

The Macron-as-the-Blair-of-France has been curiously underplayed in Anglo media.

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No American Democrat would be for eliminating universal healthcare if it existed already. politics is directional not absolute

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I agree that the direction has signaling effects, but ultimately your policies decides whether you are to the left or to the right. Trump moved republicans significantly to the left economically, but he is nobody’s idea of a leftie.

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Well, he's not a left-wing Republican because he also moved them to the right on other issues. But in the economic sphere specifically he's clearly the furthest left a Republican president has been in quite some time

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Absolutely. Labor laws are still much tighter in France than in the US.

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Eh, if Marcon's ancestors had immigrated to America, he's basically be Jared Polis or Michael Bennett - advocating large changes to the welfare state, but not a socialist at all while LePen would be the type of fake populist who talks about the working class while voting for corporate tax cuts and opposing the ACA. The reverse is just as true - Biden would be all-in for Marcon's reforms and one of his first ex-Socialist supporters and Trump would be a strong LePen supporter, and he'd be saying even more racist things.

It's always weird when people act as if people's stated views on things wouldn't change if they grew up in a different political time. If we hadn't passed Social Security in 1935, no Republican would be for it today, just like no Tory would support the NHS if it hadn't passed directly after World War II. By the same token, as scary as it is, the median Republican is less openly racist than a lot of far-right and even center-right European politicians.

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As a US/France dual citizen, I would say you've hit the nail on the head with your analogies.

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These analogies are very, very, very, very strained.

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I think you have to be very careful about "way to the left" in this context. Looking at absolute terms is misleading.

French institutions are to the left of America, and the status quo is to the left of America. If I look at these candidates relative to their institutional context, I think Marcon is to Biden's right.

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founding

Except on things like immigration, citizenship, and religious freedom.

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Macron is not pro-immigration, right?

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Apr 28, 2022·edited Apr 28, 2022

I believe that France is to the left of the US on religious freedom, no?

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I think this is a difficult thing to properly classify. There's no chance that a hijab ban would pass constitutional muster in the United States, but there's no chance that a French school would be allowed to have even informal prayer sessions.

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Yeah, a hijab ban wouldn’t pass constitutional muster in the US exactly because US courts are much friendlier to religious people than French courts (see also Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that I mentioned above).

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And most of the separation of church and state cases in the US had plaintiffs who were not arguing for per se secularism, but were members of minority religions that did not want to be coerced into majority religion practices. As Kenny says, that's not something that neatly fits on a left/right axis. When Employment Division v. Smith was decided it was considered a right wing opinion, but today's right wing of SCOTUS is itching to overturn it.

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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.

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I think the idea of a grand coalition is that you would say defeating the Trumpist wing is the most important issue so you are willing to moderate on the other issues. If you form a grand coalition with some mainstream Republicans you have the potential to win a larger number of congressional districts since you have made it clear that you are not going to be trying to pass as liberal policies (although you might actually pass more liberal policies than the status quo if you will have a larger majority). There are lots of democrats who would be upset by this because 1) there specific policies are the ones that would potentially be compromised 2) they are less concerned about revolution since they are also revolutionary tear it down but it might be a good trade politically (or it might fail terribly but it is probably a better bet than moving left to "turn out the base").

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Hi Scott, good to see you here, I've enjoyed your contributions at LGM for at least a decade, and I'm glad to have an opportunity to thank you for it. Wish I had more time to ask a question on your good comment here, but I at least wanted to get this in quickly.

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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?)

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Apr 28, 2022·edited Apr 28, 2022

One analogy I can think of would be that of Bill DeBlasio running in 2028...Both are oft-in-the-media big city mayors, did some good things that pleased their progressive constituency early in their terms (thinking of universal pre-K for DeBlasio), then watched as most of these soured on them as they began to clearly prioritize a bigger prize.

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de Blasio's "honeymoon" was over in a nanosecond...people who didn't hate him already went over to that side well before his delusional run for president. It's unfortunate that he didn't draw a more capable opponent (or get primaried) in his second election, but such are the vagaries of NYC politics.

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The funny thing is until COVID, DeBlasio actually was reasonably popular (50-ish percent) approval rating, it's just the two types of people on Twitter - left-wing DSA types and neoliberal wonks disliked him for a variety of reasons, while his actual base of low-info working class voters approved of him fine.

I also vaguely remember an article that DeBlasio's team was working w/ Adams in background, because it turned out, there were a lot of DeBlasio/Adams voter overlap.

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That's true, though you're leaving out what I referred to as the "NYC right" or "New York Post/Blue Lives Matter" crowd, which hated de Blasio the most. Their hatred of him that was totally disproportionate to what he actually was IMO, and it was like that from the get-go.

And I say this as someone who never particularly liked de Blasio and did not vote for him (I lived in NYC at the time). Weirdly, my opinion of him improved slightly towards the end of his term.

With all that said, had de Blasio gone all-in on progressivism, he probably would have alienated the voters you're talking about. So perhaps he was politically smarter than I gave him credit for.

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I guess I was just accounting everyone knew weird conservative NYers who hate everything about actually living in New York + the kind of cops who make me think police abolitionists have a point wouldn't like DeBlasio.

The ironic thing of course for DSA types who hated DeBlasio is that between RCV + working class minorities moving right, DeBlasio was likely the most progressive mayor that can get elected for another generation or so.

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Oh interesting. I need to get my head out of NYMag for NYC related info sometimes!

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Apr 28, 2022·edited Apr 28, 2022

The funny thing about de Blasio is that his big political error was that he couldn't quite bring himself to go all-in on being a progressive. The NYC right was always gonna hate him not matter what, so the smart move politically would have been to just double-down on the kind of progressivism that would've pleased his base - just come out guns blazing against the NYPD or enact universal rent control or something. But he didn't, so progressives soured on him, and so he never really had a base of support (but easily won re-election because NYC politics).

To be clear, as someone who is more in the neoliberal-center-left mold that you might expect from a reader of this blog, as a matter of governance I'm *glad* de Blasio didn't do this. But I always think it's funny when I see the New York Post/Blue Lives Matter crowd criticize him, because his big mistake from the perspective of purely self-interested political calculation was basically not being the radical they made him out to be. (Which isn't to say he was a good mayor. He was...fine-ish.)

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I have despised the guy forever and didn’t vote for him in either election, and I think he sucked as mayor. He screwed up MIH such that cross subsidy is all but impossible and the shambolic dithering of city hall made working for the city a trial.

Like so many current politicians, he’s all about elections (attention) with little or no interest in actual governance. But I was surprised that someone who has spent his entire adult life in politics could be so incredibly bad at it.

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Certainly by the end (and well before the end) a lot of voters had concluded he was both lazy and incompetent. His workout schedule at Park Slope's YMCA which took up half his day, and required a police squadron to get him there, didn't help his reputation.

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Right, Hidalgo's honeymoon lasted a bit longer, and she was a bit less reviled by folks within her own party than DeBlasio was by those in his.

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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...

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Shouldn't we judge her primarily based on the policies proposed and (if she were in power) enacted? It doesn't seem particularly productive to try to figure out who's a secret racist or not.

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You mean policies like banning all legal immigration and ritual religious slaughter, or restricting circumcision? Or past comments blaming crime on non-white French immigrants and referring to the increase of France's non-white population as "ensavaugement"? There's nothing secret about her racism; she's just trying to downplay it. If David Duke announces his candidacy for office, you don't have to check the platform on his campaign website to figure out if he's a racist.

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I agree. Le Pen may be terrifying, but there is clearly latent or overt racism in much of the French electorate. You can't ignore mass public opinion forever in a democracy. The left and center have to decide on priorities to defeat Le Pen.

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"She just showed greater discipline in saying the loud part quiet." as a longtime observer of both LePen père et fille, I can confirm you're correct.

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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.

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There are very, very few single issue voters.* For most its a constellation of issues with varying priorities. Moderating on Social Security and Medicare lets people prioritize other issues more.

*e.g. imagine your most important issue - if Trump adopted your exact position on that issue, would you vote for him in 2024?

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Not sure you could get many people to say "I voted for Trump because of Social Security." But on the other hand entitlement cuts was one of the strongest attacks on Romney, Bush, etc. and Trump just neutralized it (by lying, but still).

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Guffawed heartily at this! I was about to write "well maybe a few right-wingers who sat out 2012 because Romney was too much of a plutocrat liked Trump's promise to not touch SS and Medicare.." but then realized how that sounded :)

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These people exist. I have talked to them. Lots of elites underestimate how much Mitt Romney was disliked. The callous disregard for the middle class, the sweetheart deals to form Bain Capital that meant he couldn't lose, the born to wealth vibe, the $100 million IRA, the use of tax havens, the refusal to release his tax returns. It turned people off.

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I do follow French politics and did not find this boring or annoying.

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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.

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I think the takeaway is that overt racism is more socially acceptable in Europe than in the US, because most European countries had very few nonwhite citizens until a few decades ago. If you want to defeat the far right you have to do a certain amount of Sister Soujah-ing with policies like the hijab ban, which may be distasteful but at least aren't totally horrific. That's popularism!

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You do Sister Soljah against truly bad things. Wearing a hijab just aint! Macron ought to host an after-sunset Ramadan dinner at the Élysée Palace.

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Yes, Sister Souljah isn't the correct term for what I meant. Neither is popularism, I guess, but you know what I mean.

If Macron does the hijab ban *and* the Ramadan dinner, is that triangulation? That was a Bill Clinton thing.

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No I mean instead of the hijab ban. Give a medal to a woman in hijab for her essay in praise of Montesquieu. :) Didn't a Muslim die in a terrorist attack on Jews? Make him part of your campaign.

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Macron did this. He gave immediate citizenship to a Muslim African (in the country without papers) who climbed up a building to save a baby. He also recognized the Muslim cop who thwarted terrorists going after Jews.

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I don't think the French and American contexts on immigration are entirely similar. In France, a significant portion of immigrants are Muslims from what had been French colonies, especially Algeria. In the US, much of it is from Latin America. The French are having a hard time assimilating a population whose religious beliefs and practices they consider antithetical to traditional French secularism. In the US, we're having a hard time welcoming a population we think cheated and snuck over the border without following the rules.

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That was a bit what I meant about the US attitude moving toward the French attitude. And I grant the cultural difference of US immigrants is less and the motivation, apart from how some of them went about it, couldn't be more American.

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But is is an issue that both countries need to work on.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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That's the thing, though. You can't claim it's being "snuck in" after it was such a major campaign issue.

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Americans will continuously claim that the Democratic party is a right-wing party in Europe and then the Dems will go on to be like "we should decriminalize entering the country illegally", "people who enter the country illegally should be able to gain citizenship", "affirmative action for racial minorities, including immigrant minorities, is good", "[the entire suite of LGBT issues here]" (to be clear I support almost all of these on the merits, I'm not shitting on the actual policies but more the messaging decisions)

these are all radical positions in Europe! frankly it's shocking the American public has any concept of the Dems as a "center-" left party at all

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Taxes and health insurance policy are apparently the only things that matter.

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Within the EU migration (right to work, to set up a company) is universal - every Greek, German, Latvian can move to another of the 27 Member States.

That’s not the case for Mexicans or Canadians under NAFTA?

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But within the United States it is, and I believe that migration between Canada and US is easier than in Europe with non-EU countries.

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For Norway and the microstates (Monaco, Vatican, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra), they have the complete labour market freedoms as well. For the Swiss, not sure but seems easy (and there’s complete freedom for travelers - entering Switzerland from the EU, there is no border control - the Swiss are “Schengen”)

For the UK, that’s hard to say as there are so many workers who got their posts before brexit and stayed.

Which leaves the question as to compare an Albanian, Montenegrin, Turkish or Moldovan etc work seeker in the EU to a Canadian in the US. I don’t know how hard that is and that differs in the 27 jurisdictions.

Wikipedia says : “ A total of 8.0 million citizens from European countries outside of the old EU-27 were residing in the EU at the beginning of 2012; among these more than half were citizens of Turkey, Albania or Ukraine” (this 8m is lower than the number of Mexicans in the US but ten times the number of Canadians residing in the US).

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This is true, but I do want to point out that what's true of European politics is not true of US politics. Americans are consistently more pro-immigrant than any European nation I know of and an electoral strategy of tough on immigration rhetoric would not be as effective in the US

https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2021/05/05/2-immigration/

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There is absolutely no proof that the tough-on-refugees-stance has actually helped the Social Democrats in Denmark.

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I mean yeah, there have been a bunch of takes obviously. And that's understandable, since it's an attractive idea to consider "being mean to immigrants" as smart, pragmatic politics.

But social democracy is a very widely-studied topic in European political science, and I am not aware of a single study that can actually prove that their hard-right stance has helped Denmark's Social Democrats. They actually lost votes compared to the previous election! There are however a bunch of studies indicating that their stance only helped other left-wing parties, while securing less support from the right than they lost to the left - at the price of intra-party fighting and diminishing internal consensus.

(I'll try to look up some of those studies if interested, on the road right now)

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It is definitely hard, but that's why we should be very careful with blanket statements like "a hostile attitude to immigrants helped Denmark's Social Democrats electorally". Btw: There have been a looooot of studies about Covid and the 2020 election, because you have a lot of data from surveys and exit polls and because it's a very fascinating topic. Consensus seems to be that Covid definitely hurt Trump's chances, but probably not enough that it swung the election.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/20531680211041505

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247664

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8242570/ (an outlier, but an interesting one)

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