“Those who no longer have the energy to protest”
As noted this morning on France Inter, Emmanuel Macron, who beat the records set by Jacques Chirac and François Hollande for time spent at the annual agricultural fair in Paris, was hooted by some in the crowd. But those who jeered didn’t worry him. It was rather those “who no longer have the energy to protest.” Indeed, Macron, with his usual shrewdness, recognizes that the success of his reforms to date has been almost eerily without protest. He faces a new kind of challenge, one that his predecessors never confronted: a sullen electorate, which he knows is as unhappy as it is unorganized. The parties have collapsed, the unions disagree among themselves too much to mount a coherent protest, the radicals have gone underground, and Macron finds himself in the position of an infantryman on point, certain that there are enemies out there but uncertain about the angle from which the first serious shots will be fired.
The government has just announced that it will reform the SNCF by decree, which could mean trouble, as the power of the cheminots to paralyze the country is well-known, and there are militants among them awaiting their chance. But Macron may be awaiting his chance as well. He backed off when it came to confrontation with the zadistes over Notre-Dame-des-Landes, but he is now too far in to back off on the SNCF–though a buy-off is not out of the question. If it comes to a choice between saving the rusty spur line to some bled at the back of beyond and getting a fat retirement package for a happy few railway workers, Philippe Martinez may decide that the bus is good enough for the peasants.
As for the prospect of a party revival, Wauquiez has shot himself in the foot, while the Socialists no longer have enough elephants even to form a circular firing squad. I happened to have dinner the other night with a former party higher-up, and I asked him what he thought of Le Baron Noir, the TV series in which Kad Merad plays a scheming Socialist mayor and kingmaker. I expected him to say it was a lively but fantastical imagining of la vie politique, but instead he insisted on its realism. The showrunner used to be an aide to Julien Dray, he said. He knows all about how the sausage is made. He added that he didn’t think the Socialists–the real-life Socialists, not their televised Doppelgänger–would not be coming back any time soon.