“Those who no longer have the energy to protest”

26 February 2018

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.


Photo Credit: Jacques Paquier, Emmanuel Macron, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0.


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  • Philippe says:

    A lot of awesome, high-caliber posts on this new site. The conversation, however , is anemic (unlike the old artgoldhammer blogspot). I believe this can be remedied by surfacing new comments, or a comment count, on the blog homepage. Blogs often adopt a “streaming” interface (like the old blogspot or crookedtimber.org, the other blog I read) in order to highlight fresh content (blog posts or comments). Currently, the blog homepage uses a “magazine” interface. In order to find out if new comments have been posted and follow a conversation , one has to open up each post and scroll all the way to the bottom . Also contributors could be encouraged to comment on ea others posts …

    • Jacob Hamburger says:

      Thanks, Philippe. We’re working on making a few of these changes, and I agree that there should be more interaction between contributors. Thanks for bearing with us in the early stages of this new format

  • Geof says:

    When LBJ was running the U.S. Senate, he eschewed the labels “conservative” and “liberal,” famously preferring to think of some senators as “work horses” and some as “show horses.” So far, Macron has only nibbled around the edges of reform [the new ban on lifetime employment for the rail workers will apply only to future hires.] So it very much remains as to which type of “horse” he is.

  • Tim Smyth says:

    Just in my own line of work I have noticed that former Socialist Finance Minister(under Hollande) and now EU Commissioner Pascal Moscovici seems to be scheming for something. He is now seemingly the political ally of choice for Thomas Piketty and Gabriel Zucman for example. One set of wisdom is that he is angling to be EU Commission President after 2019 however, I find this unlikely. First he is not on the same political team as Macron. Second it is unlikely the Socialists at the EU level will have the requisite political support in 2019 to make one of their own Commission President with sometype of alliance with the ALDE group and whatever Macron’s En Marche puts up in France. While I can imagine other EU left of center parties such as in Italy and Germany allying with En Marche I can’t imagine that happening with En Marche and the French socialists. Thirdly Macron has already been giving strong signals that he would actually prefer the next Commission President NOT be French and instead would prefer a non French politicians allied with En Marche.

    Thus all of the above leads me to believe that Moscovici is actually plotting a move to return to Paris. But then the question is why and how? The PS at this point seems deader than a door nail.

  • Bernard says:

    I second Philippe. Also, the site is remarkably slow to load.

    Many people do believe that le Baron Noir is quite simply modelled after Julien Dray.

    On the SNCF reforms, it appears that Macron has made the opposite choice compared to what you suspected. There could be two reasons for this. First, closing the spur lines to some bled (how very parisian!) would be a casus belli with the majority of local politicians – there will be local elections soon enough …-. Second, the reason why the previous major strike at SNCF in 1995 was so successful (it essentially brought down a government after all) was that the cheminots were supported by a vast majority of the French. Today, public opinion has turned against the cheminots and unions have no good relay in the general population – Martinez does not play on the level of Bernard Thibaud.

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