Staying in the Game

30 August 2023

La rentrée politique has arrived. I hope you’ve all had an excellent summer. I thought I’d break my long silence by taking note of Emmanuel Macron’s effort to remain relevant despite the rough pass his presidency has endured lately. His way of celebrating la rentrée illustrates his characteristic flair for organizing “conversations” that revolve around himself. He has invited the leaders of all the political parties to the former royal abbey of Saint-Denis for a series of round-tables and a dinner. Only principals will participate; staff and press are not invited.

The choice of venue is interesting. Although the basilica of Saint-Denis, the necropole of French monarchs, is only a stone’s throw away, Macron is presumably not trying to signal the imminent demise of his presidency. Saint-Denis, now part of the turbulent “93,” has the virtue of getting all the politicians out of the navel-gazing “75.” Perhaps the substance of their conversations will be decentered as well. That might be a good thing. Of course, everyone who is not a Macroniste is wary of being engulfed by another Elysian comm’ project. The Nupes leaders initially declined the invitation to dinner, with Olivier Faure saying that he had no interest in “pigging out” (se taper la cloche) with the likes of Bardella and Ciotti, but once the dinner discussion agenda was announced, the PS and the EELV decided they might stick around after all. LFI, not so much.

Of course, Macron knows he has some work to do to stay in the game. His main pre-presidential political experience, after all, was in the art of the fronde. Quick to recognize that François Hollande’s relevance was diminishing by the day despite his being president, he threw himself into the fray more than a year ahead of the 2017 electiion. So he is sure not to have missed his interior minister Gérard Darmanin’s similar declaration of independence, even if still nearly four years remain until the next presidential. Indeed, Darmanin’s launch of his own movement in Tourcoing a week ago aroused such concern that Prime Minister Borne had to be dispatched to signal that the palace was keeping a close eye on the rustlings in the provinces.

If Darmanin is still sous tutelle, the other parties need to be reminded that Macron, though diminished, has not yet been reduced to the helpless state of impotence that afflicted Hollande, who consoled himself with soliloquies to eager journalists, who wrote down every self-damning word. Macron is not a man for soliloquies. Hence the Saint-Denis roundtables. But when the dinner plates have been cleared away, will anything remain of the various pistes that will have been explored? On verra.


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  • bernard says:

    Macron made phone calls in front of this meeting to his so-called “majority” parties, to the conservative party as well as to the extreme right party, and to no other party. That says everything about where he is leaning in terms of allies: somewhere between the conservatives and the extreme right. The rest is just talk and obfuscation.

  • Having gone some way towards destroying France’s social democratic heritage, Macron should congratulate himself – he might, before the end, reduce the French working class to the state it was before Blum and 1936! Surely a goal he shares with JDD and the Valeurs Actuels, his fave far right journals. The farce continues with our Tartuffe of a president!

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