A good friend wrote today saying that he sensed I had become disappointed with Macron and wondered why. Here is my answer:
Yes, you’re right that I’m disappointed in Macron. I should really write this up in a more coherent form than you’re going to get in this e-mail, but here, bleary-eyed before my morning coffee, are a few thoughts. Paramount among my disappointments is that Macron has blown what I believe was France’s best opportunity in a generation, and perhaps its last chance, to achieve both necessary economic reform and long-overdue political reform. I think there was a real chance for success, and I hold Macron personally responsible to the extent that his personal flaws contributed to the failure. The work was always going to be difficult, but it didn’t have to be this difficult.
Second, I hold myself responsible for taking Macron at his word that he really did have a different view of how the French political economy could work. The rhetoric about a “startup nation” was partly hype, of course, but I thought that he had learned from the startup culture of Silicon Valley that the only way to find out what works is to try a thousand experiments and expect many of them to fail. Instead, he reverted to the kind of top-down one-plan-fits-all mentality for which l’administration française has always been famous. To a greater extent even than his predecessors he circumvented the political institutions in order to rule with the administration from which he sprang. I was slow to perceive just how wrong-headed this approach was.
Third, while I applaud Macron’s continued faith in Europe, I hate the way he has repeatedly used it as an alibi for his failure to enact a social component to his domestic reforms. I hate the cynicism that allowed him to cast himself as the implacable adversary of Salvini only to refuse to allow the Aquarius to dock at a French port after Salvini turned it away. I hate the inhuman treatment of refugees who try to cross from Italy to France as well as the policy of prosecuting people who try to help them. I understand the politics, but I can’t stand the hypocrisy and cynicism.
You may be right that his “consultations” with the people will begin his resurrection, but I don’t agree that his pre-electoral consultations were genuine. They were used not to shape policy but to hone the candidate’s message. Good politics in the short run but lack of vision in the long.
Finally, a candidate elected as Macron was, by a combination of incredible luck and antipathy to his last remaining opponent, should have done more–much more–to build an organization, reach out to those who voted for him with the utmost reluctance, and could have offered him advice in exchange for consent. The Socialists in particular were desperate for a lifeline. Think of what he could have accomplished by bringing, say, Hamon in as minister of urban development or some such thing. Here, Macron’s utter lack of political experience hurt him badly, perhaps fatally.
For those who are less disappointed in Macron–or those not disappointed at all–I would be very curious to hear your reasons.
Photo Credit: francediplomatie, Rencontre du Président Emmanuel Macron avec M. Viktor ORBAN, Premier ministre de Hongrie. (Palais de l’Elysée, Paris), via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.