10 July 2024

Yesterday was a day full of revelations. First, we learned that Jordan Bardella, deprived of the chance to become France’s next prime minister, will instead become the president of Patriots for Europe, a new group of European Parliament deputies organized by Hungary’s Viktor Orban. The defection of the RN contingent catapults the new group into third place in the EP, a gathering place for the unsavory, among whom we also find Matteo Salvini’s Lega, which has split off from Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia. The Lega will be represented by the eminently unfrequentable Gen. Roberto Vannacci, who quite fond of Mussolini–a great “statesman” in his book–and not at all fond of homosexuals, feminists, women who have abortions, or immigrants. Just the sort of “black sheep” whose presence on the RN ticket Bardella now blames for his loss. But a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Meanwhile, Libération revealed that Le Pen and Bardella enjoyed a secret dinner with Édouard Philippe at the home of Macron’s informal advisor Thierry Solère. Philippe was then forced to exit the ivory tower from which he has been denouncing any government of the “extremist” New Popular Front in order to explain himself on TF1: “I like to meet people,” he said, and from his “cordial” dinner he was happy to learn that he had “deep disagreements” with the leaders of the RN. Deadpan, the host, Gilles Bouleau, then shivved him with the sure-to-become classic line: “You had to have dinner with them to learn that?” Of course, it was only because he loves meeting new people so much.

This sequence took a bit of wind out of the sails of the two right-wing schooners racing to put landing parties ashore and stake their claims to the prime ministership. Darmanin, Philippe, and Le Maire all agree that the left, despite having won the most seats in the AN, can have no place in any new government. Meanwhile, LR stalwarts such as Xavier Bertrand and Olivier Marleix say that the next PM must come from … wait for it! …. the ranks of LR, because the left is too extreme and la Macronie has discredited itself. For once, Laurent Wauquiez, who is expected to become the new head of LR, came off as the most reasonable of the lot, asking how they could expect Macron to choose an LR prime minister when the party had only 60 deputies. A good question. But we are still in the bluffing phase of this ludicrous poker game, in which all the cards are already on the table for all players and all kibitzers to see and no one has a winning hand, so the only strategy is to pretend that what has already happened didn’t.

To my eyes, the situation looks ominous. Whatever government emerges from this preposterous game is going to leave many people very angry. Twenty years ago, Perry Anderson concluded tour de force critique of the state of France by quoting Raymond Aron: “Ce peuple, apparemment tranquille, est encore dangereux.” I would no longer call ce peuple tranquil. Its nerves have been rubbed raw. That makes it only the more dangerous. Macron has created an explosive political cocktail. His next decision could set it off.



  • bernard says:

    Philippe has now made himself dirty after having dishonored himself during the legislative campaign. He will never be elected President whatever he thinks because the stain will remain.

  • Fred Freundlich says:

    Macron did not make this mess. As an investment banker neo-liberal, he has certainly added to it, but it is much longer in the making than that. ONe hardly has to say this to Arthur Goldhammer… growing inequality all over the West, shrinking welfare state, little genuine interest in provding decent services such that a much higher % of migrants could make a decent living, various histories of racism-ethnocentrism, misogeny, hate that more easily come to a head in a world increasingly complex and uncertain with global challenges that its leaders generally seem too politically opportunistic, cowardly and self-interested to address… polarization, declining trust in institutions, the search for scapegoats and simplistic, comprehensive “solutions”, anger, violence. Etc.

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