Macronism: The Endgame

20 February 2023

Emmanuel Macron came to power as an ambitious young visionary who (rightly) divined a concentration of force in the center of the political spectrum–a force that supposedly relegated to the past the obsolete division between right and left. He drew support from both the center-left and center-right segments of the then mainstream parties, the PS and LR, shattering both. The disintegration has proceeded apace during his time in office and has been further exacerbated by the bruising fight over pension reform. But the consequences may prove dire for the very idea of progressive centrism (not altogether an oxymoron) that Macron purported to represent.

First, the disintegration: In opposing pension reform, the unions proved to be far more important than the parliamentary opposition, and union leaders are more than a little unhappy with the strategy of the parliamentary left. Both Laurent Berger and Philippe Martinez have criticized Mélenchon’s obstructionist obstreperousness, the effect of which was to prevent deputies from debating the critical Article 7 at all and from taking a final vote on the amended bill, which means that the Senate will vote on the government’s text. With Mélenchon’s LFI calling the shots for the NUPES, the moribund PS is again bitterly divided over how to proceed.

As for LR, Aurélien Pradié sought to stand out from the crowd by opposing the party line set by leader Eric Ciotti, leading to his expulsion. But Pradié was not alone among LR deputies in his unwillingness to go along with whatever deal Ciotti had worked out with the government. Valérie Pécresse’s dismal showing in the presidential election meant that the party had no funds to dole out to deputies in return for their toeing the party line, so it was every man and woman for him or herself, and the deputies were therefore free to respond to disgruntlement and bitterness over the reform among their voters.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen has used the fracas largely by staying out of it, in the hope that what the French want in a president is not a streetfighter like her father but a tutelary figure who knows how to float above the fray. With the LR in such disarray, it becomes ever more likely that most deputies will gravitate as individuals toward the largest planet on the right, the RN, while the remaining few who still cannot stomach the idea finding their way toward the rightmost fringes of la Macronie.

But the Macronists are not happy either. The charismatic illusion of generational change that held them together initially has long since dissipated, and internal divisions are becoming clearer. Once pension reform is pushed through, as seems inevitable, these divisions will widen as a result of the maneuvering of candidates for the 2027 presidential contest. With the NUPES headed nowhere as Mélenchon’s personal leadership is increasingly called into question, there is a wisp of a hope that a new social-democratic party will somehow emerge out of the PS and Macron dissidences. At the same time, it is all but certain that, with Macron out of the picture and the LR on the cusp of evaporation, the majority of Macronists will reorganize as a new party of the center-right.

Thus 2027 will likely be yet again a four-way confrontation between a much-weakened far left, a fairly weak nascent center-left, a similarly nascent center-right still in search of arguments to counter and differentiate itself from the far right, and, finally … a Rassemblement National closer than ever to power, led by a thoroughly made-over Le Pen and a populist Politburo now chastely clad in costume-cravate and fully prepared to present itself as the champion of those who are by ho means les premiers de cordée–and proud of it.



  • Anonymous says:

    Dear Art:
    Thank you for this trenchant analysis. What of LePen’s relationship with Putin? What about that loan to the RN by Russian interests?
    I was in Béziers, the first city to elect an RN mayor, last summer. As I made my way up the hill to the topmost part of the city –where the “Mairie” and the most expensive apartments are– I noticed a well set up boutique selling Russian dolls.
    It gave me a “frisson”.
    Of course, the line of the RN might be said not to be that of the PC under George Marchais. And the PC is no longer a factor in French politics. Still, Russian influence in France is a reality, and if the RN triumphs in 2027 a group comparable to the Germany Parliament’s “russverstehers” might be prominent in the RN’s workings –payback for Russian money flowing to the RN.
    During the Spanish Civil War the Comintern infiltrated the Loyalist ranks –although Hemingway and Gelhorn, cynically, never reported the fact. So there is a historical precedent for a Soviet/Russian-inspired “fifth column” in Europe, and France. –Even if on the surface, the populist RN and Russia would seem to be strange bedfellows.

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