The Anti-Political Turns Political

28 January 2019

The Gilets Jaunes, contemners of a political system they regard as rotten to the core, are in the process of discovering that the anti-political invariably leads to the political. Two “leaders” of the determinedly leaderless movement have now founded political parties. Ingrid Levasseur, a nurse, will head a list in May’s European elections. Jacline Moraud, one of the historic “founders” of the GJ movement, has formed a party, Les Emergents, which will not run a list in May but which nevertheless intends to join the political fray.

The decomposition of the political party system begun by Macron’s insurgent candidacy thus continues with the inevitable fragmentation of the anti-Macron movement. This is of course excellent news for Macron. Any GJ candidacy will draw support away from the principal anti-Macron formations, beginning with the Rassemblement Natiional (and secondarily La France Insoumise and Les Républicains). This is not to say that the European elections will not be a referendum on the incumbent, as European elections always are. But it is now less likely, though by no means impossible, that the RN will finish first.

Meanwhile, the Grand Débat National, about which I expressed withering skepticism, has rejuvenated and re-energized Macron, who had previously appeared to be by turns depressed and bewildered. He has recovered his campaigner’s gifts. His frankness, pugnacity, and willingness to take on all comers, including one fellow who complained about difficulties with the renewal of his motorcycle permit, have transformed him from Jupiter into a sort of mayor-in-chief. And since the mayors of France are the country’s most respected political institution, this has inevitably boosted his approval rating, if only modestly.

Macron thus has every reason to continue feeding the Gilets Jaunes, whose ni droite-ni gauche brand of opposition is perfect for splitting the decidedly left and right oppositions to his ni droite-ni gauche presidency. The opposition formerly known as “mainstream” continues to struggle. Wauquiez’s strategy is increasingly contested within the Republican rump, while Olivier Faure appears to have no strategy at all on the Socialist side. As for the extremes, Mélenchon’s egoism has raised hackles and energized opponents (I’ve just finished watching the second season of Le Baron Noir, and I must say that Vidal, the stand-in for Méluche, shares many of his qualities as well as his insuperable flaws–bien vu!). And Le Pen who had been playing her cards well, flubbed the sequence involving the alleged sale of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. Once again she looked like a fool on European issues. Her alliance with the Orban-Salvini axis may not play particularly well in France either. She should be the senior member of this partnership by virtue of experience and the relative importance of France, but instead she looks like a Girl Scout at a jamboree of particularly nasty frat boys–not a good image for a would-be future president.

And so, surprisingly, after nearly 3 months of incipient insurrection and inept governmental response, Macron once again looks to be in charge. Pourvu que ça dure.


Photo Credit: Thomas Bresson, manif-GJ-Errues-Menoncourt, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0.


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  • Geof says:

    I have previously remarked that Macron will benefit at least as much from his opponents’ actions as from his own, though Prof. Goldhammer continues to underrate JLM (when did “egoism” become a fatal flaw in ANY candidate?)

    In the meantime, Joe Biden’s remark becomes more trenchant: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the Alternative.”

  • mertens Greltzig says:

    Are the Yellow Vests ‘anti-political’, or are they merely against the establishment which presently rules the French Political Realm?

  • FrédéricLN says:

    @mertens Greltzig: I guess they are mistrustful of the present political system, i.e. the French institutions as they work since 2002; since then, Presidents have one-party majorities supporting them at National Assembly, which has terminated debate on policies. Since then (or ~1999), municipalities are, step by step, divested of their ability to act, and replaced by institutions out of democratic control. Since then (or ~2005), “la construction européenne” proliferates, with an increasing flow of verbose and unsustainable treaties. I wonder if GJ have or not common opinions on these three topics, but I feel it’s more than the establishment in the meaning of “people” or “social class”, it is about the way French present politics work or don’t work.

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