When you’re wrong, it’s best to fess up. I said that la NUPES would be lucky to get 100 seats. Current projections have the Mélenchonistas gaining 195-230 seats! Macron’s Ensemble (LREM+) is still expected to hold on to its majority, but it won’t be comfortable. And today the Conseil d’Etat directed the ministry of the interior to report the NUPES’s results as though it were a single party rather than treat each of its constituents as a separate entity, which would have had the effect of diminishing the extent of the left’s revival.
So I must concede that Mélenchon seems to have pulled off a feat in uniting the remnants of the left into a single force that may not stand for anything unmistakable except opposition to Macron, but then it’s not clear either what Macron stands for except indefatigable belief that he alone has the answers. Despite his promise to change his “method” in the second quinquennat, what we have so far is a new commission called le Conseil National de la Refondation, initials CNR, the same as the Conseil National de la Résistance, the entity that set France on a course for renewal after the somber years of World War II. The chutzpah is impressive, but exactly what this new CNR is going to do remains unclear, since its mission seems to overlap with that of the Haut Commissariat au Plan headed by François Bayrou, yet another throwback to the glories of a previous era intended to be a distraction from the dim muddle of the present.
While in France, I talked to any number of people who marveled at Mélenchon’s achievement while saying they wished it had been the work of anybody but Mélenchon. This misses the point. Only a politician with Mélenchon’s gift for denying reality to the point of imagining himself as its master could have pulled off the resurrection of the left’s exquisite corpse. I was particularly struck by the election posters I saw on the walls of Paris featuring the headline “Mélenchon: Premier Ministre.” Only a fabulist as unabashed as Mélenchon could pretend, without actually being a candidate, to be running for an office that the voters do not have the power to grant. But in his imagination he has already established the Sixth Republic with which he promises to replace the only actually existing one.
Despite the historic non-compromise that la NUPES incarnates, the election has managed to anesthetize the electorate to the point where abstention is expected to be the real winner. Macron is pretending that the results will change nothing, while Mélenchon is pretending that they will change everything. The truth is probably somewhere in between: Macron will need to trim his sails according to the final strength of the left coalition. But since no one knows what course the captain has set–even the once clear goal of retirement at 65 has long since been drowned in seas of equivocation–any corrections will be hard to discern.
One final note: I asked everyone I spoke to why they thought Macron was so despised. The best answer came from a confirmed Marcheur, a woman whose métier is not politics but publishing: “Il refuse de se mettre à genou devant la bêtise.”