The Republicans Temporize

Arthur Goldhammer
20 June 2019

With the news that Les Républicains are about to choose Christian Jacob as their new leader, it is clear that the party has no idea where it intends to go in the future. Christian Jacob is one of those politicians who has always gone wherever the power is at the moment, whether to follow Jacques Chirac, his first master, or Sarkozy, Copé, or Fillon in the years that followed. Fillon is supposed to have called him Rantanplan, after Lucky Luke’s dog, himself a parody of Rin Tin Tin, who came when he was called. LR, in order to avoid yet another guerre des chefs, has called, and Jacob has come, running and wagging his tail.

Of course, the chefs who remain chez LR are pygmies rather than titans and not really in shape for war, another reason for deferring the mother of all battles until it’s absolutely necessary. Gérard Larcher may not be a colossus, but he carried sufficient weight (no physical aspersions intended) to block Valérie Pécresse and send her into the desert. The Sarkozyste faithful keep floating the ex-president’s name as the ultimate recourse, but the prosecutors seem to have put paid to that idea by sending him to trial in one of several pending corruption affairs. Baroin is biding his time, Bertrand remains in the wilderness, Estrosi continues his on-again off-again romance with Macron, Retailleau is sulking, and Wauquiez lies bleeding in a cave somewhere, forgotten by all. Meanwhile, all agree that the Republicans must be rebuilt from top to bottom with a fresh set of ideas, so they have turned to a leader guaranteed to have no ideas of his own, leaving each plenty of room to develop his own projects.

Macron, seizing the opportunity afforded by the rout of the ex-Gaullist party, chose the day to celebrate the memory of Georges Pompidou, the general’s ennemi intime, marking yet another step in his transformation of En Marche from a ni droite-ni gauche startup into a highly diversified conglomerate. Having destroyed all competitors on the left, he has now absorbed the center and center-right. LREM is now like one of those old-fashioned multinational behemoths, General Electric, say, which on the one hand manufactures giant turbine generators and jet engines for the major economic players while on the other hand turning out toasters and refrigerators for the masses. LREM will manufacture large-scale economic policy to keep the machinery humming while offering household amenities to the masses, from the ticket-musée to the abolition of the taxe d’habitation. Of course, as any entrepreneur will tell you, the transition from startup to mature firm is tricky to manage. We’ll see how adept Macron proves, but for the moment I wouldn’t bet on the competition. Marine Le Pen’s fonds de commerce has passed its sell-by date (in my opinion, not universally shared). Everyone will gripe about Macron’s toasters and refrigerators, but everyone still needs to make toast and keep milk for the baby.

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1 Comment

  • Tim Smyth says:

    While this is just my personal very uneducated opinion I have been under that Macron has been staking out Gaullist territory from the moment he rename En Marche to La Republic En Marche kind of like the old Chirac-est Rally for the Republic before it got subsumed into the the UMP and later LR. In fact I would argue LREM is even more “pure” Gaullist than even Rally for the Republic. I don’t think De Gaulle would have ever joined the European People’s Party grouping or the global International Democratic Union(which included the EPP but also the US Republicans, Australian Liberals etc) as Rally for the Republic did under Chirac.

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