Macron, Marathoner

Arthur Goldhammer
26 February 2019

Emmanuel Macron has stolen the thunder of the Gilets Jaunes by embarking on a Magical Mystery Tour. Calling the traveling Macron show a Grand Débat National is an ingenious camouflage. Jupiter’s descent among the people, “ceux qui ne sont rien,” is nothing less than a brilliantly stage-managed road show. But will it prove to be a farewell tour, the final extravaganza of a once-promising rock band that has passed its sell-by date, or the beginning of En Marche!’s Second Révolution [sic, ©]?

The media are dazzled. The coverage is reminiscent of the favorable, not to say adoring, coverage Macron received during the campaign. The president’s huge crowds are measured, his appearances are timed (7 hours in Grand-Bourgtheroulde, an astounding 15 hours at the Salon de l’Agriculture, beating even Chirac’s record, although Chirac clearly knew one end of a cow from the other, while Macron’s expertise in this area may be questioned). The change of stratégie com’ is total, from la parole rare à la faconde intarissable.

And one has to hand it to Macron’s location scout: Grand-Bourgtheroulde! The name alone speaks volumes, its resonant syllables by themselves conjuring up torpid summer days in la France profonde, like the opening shot of one of those back-to-the-roots movies in which the camera moves slowly over golden fields as a rural bus wends its way along a winding country road, bearing a bored Parisian back to her birthplace and a rekindling of life’s flame among the good unspoiled provincial folk. Souillac! Evry-Courcouronnes! And of course the indelible images of Macron among the SDF, kneeling before the poor, captured for posterity by the official presidential photographer lest this invaluable refutation of the charge of presidential arrogance go unnoticed before the bar of History.

Meanwhile, the numbers of demonstrators wearing gilets jaunes has been declining. But has Macron really regained the initiative? LRM is once again edging out Le Pen’s party in polling for the European elections in May, but the low expected turnout suggests that Macron, unlike de Gaulle in ’68, has not galvanized a silent majority to shore up a beleaguered presidency. The president’s versatility before the legions of questioners is not in doubt, but no clear policy response to the issues raised by the Gilets Jaunes has yet come into view. Macron is temporizing and improvising, with remarkable skill to be sure, but at some point he will have to act, and one has the sense that the smoldering anger in the country has not subsided, even if for the moment the media are distracted by le spectacle Macron.

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4 Comments

  • Geof says:

    Now that Populism has proven to be a social movement rather than a political force, I repeat my earlier predictions that the challenge to EM will come from the left, not the right. I fully expect FI to poll neck and neck with LRM, perhaps losing but proving my point that it is the alternative to Macron. The President may well get a boost from Theresa May’s chaos, but in the end, France’s economy is going sideways, which will keep many voters LEANING towards EM home. This time, the youth vote goes to Melanchon.

  • Massilian says:

    Geof pov is very original ! His prediction bold ! I hope Melenchon reads this blog, it will boost his morale ! I think, the left is only halfway through its nightmare. You have to drink the cup to the dregs. The time for a rebirth isn’t close.
    The nostalgia is too strong. The brains too weak to abandon old inoperative concepts, too tired to dare to imagine anything other than the happy cocooning of classes, cultures and different people… The eyes are too tired to see reality in the face. The only good news is that on the right they are not in better shape. In the meantime, since nature hates emptiness, it is BFM TV politics that are in control. So far, it is not as bad as in Italy or UK… And unlike what happens in Algeria, young people don’t really give a shit. Macron is not Bouteflika.

  • FrédéricLN says:

    “LRM is once again edging out Le Pen’s party in polling for the European elections in May”, yes maybe, but what for? Not a single other party / list than LRM/MoDem would support the government (or maybe UDI, which weighs 2%). So 60% of the French foresee not to vote, 30% to vote for opponents, and 10% for the ruling coalition.

    In tactical terms, Macron’s present campaign looks like Napoleon’s one in 1814, battle of France. Running at light speed from a town to another one in order to confront, and quite successfully, despite unskilled troups (“les Marie-Louise”), his separate enemies. Until “the Coalition armies marched straight for the capital” (wikipedia quote). Macron’s challengers in the political field do not make up a coalition. But in my humble opinion, as soon as a coalition would emerge, Paris would be taken.

    (A contrast to 1968: De Gaulle’s opponents were kind of a coalition — at least politically, all of them were on the left side of the administration. But most of them just did not want to take Paris).

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