Macron’s Speech

18 April 2023

Yesterday President Macron celebrated his re-election victory in achieving pension reform. I almost said “re-election” because the speech laid out a program for the years ahead as if his presidency were just embarking on a new term rather than licking its wounds after a bruising and exhausting sixth year. Macron laid out three “chantiers” for the next “100 days” (as a newly elected president might): renovating the workplace, enhancing justice, and improving the health and welfare of the French. If the plans seemed vague, it’s because they were, with “strong pronouncements” promised for a time of “apaisement” when the “colère” of the past months will have subsided. “No one could remain deaf to this anger,” Macron said, “least of all me,” yet his words indicated that he had indeed remained deaf, since his only discussion of the pension reform law was to repeat his contention that it was “necessary” and “in full conformity with our constitution,” full stop, as if nothing more needed to be said.

The president compared his three metaphorical chantiers to the actual chantier at Notre-Dame, which he claimed was on schedule for completion within the five years he promised on the day of the fire. It was perhaps not the best rhetorical strategy to compare France in the aftermath of pension reform to a millennial cathedral all but destroyed by flames. Was Macron suggesting that his countrymen should look upon him as le pompier pyromane who burned down the country in order to save it? Not a good look. For all the fist-pumping punctuation of his words, the president looked worn, and to my ear his program sounded almost generic (“we’ll fix the schools and hospitals, call on employers to pay workers more and hire more seniors, eliminate waste and fraud”–ChatGPT could have written this). Gone was all the talk of bringing an entrepreneurial high-tech France into the 21st century. The best one can say about this post-promulgation offering to the French was that, for a Macron speech, it was unusually brief.


Addendum: After the speech, M. et Mme Macron went for a walk in the streets of Paris (with minimal security–hard to imagine Joe Biden doing that in Washington). They were approached by a singing group and asked to join in the singing of a traditional folksong. It turns out that the group has ties to the extreme right, although Macron didn’t know that at the time.



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