Vendangeurs ou Socialistes

Arthur Goldhammer
10 September 2018

Maneuvering has begun in advance of the 2019 European elections. Alain Juppé summoned his troops to the Vendanges de Bordeaux, a private meeting intended to consider possible electoral strategies for the orphaned center-right. Meanwhile, la Nouvelle Gauche, which contains what remained of the Socialist contingent in the National Assembly, rebaptized itself once again “Socialist” in the hope that all may after all not be lost.

The Juppéistes considered three possibilities. They could throw in their lot with Macron’s people, just as they joined his government earlier. But doubts about Macron are rife everywhere, and the center-right is no exception. The Juppéistes think that his political inexperience has led him to neglect political realities and rely overmuch on technocratic expertise–a path to perdition that Juppé knows well, having trodden it himself. Macron’s much-decried arrogance was the besetting sin of Juppé own meteoric rise and spectacular fall. Exile changed him, as did age, and he would like to bid for redemption as he rides into the sunset. He would also like to save France, and Macron, from the aftermath of failure. If Macron were amenable to advice, Juppé could give him some, but knowing the nature of the beast intimately, Juppé may have concluded that his youthful double is unlikely to listen.

That leaves the second option: to remain loyal to Les Républicains, despite Juppé’s incompatibility with party leader Laurent Wauquiez. Given Wauquiez’s presidential ambitions, any overture from Juppé is likely to be dismissed, foreclosing option two.

A third possibility is to mount an independent list, ni-Macroniste, ni-Républicain. But the French center has always been an exiguous space, and Macron has grabbed the pit from the peach. What to do? The council of sages gathered in Bordeaux–from Pécresse to Raffarin et cie.–pondered the matter at length in the city whose splendor Juppé has restored, but no decisions were taken.

Meanwhile, the Socialists are trying to rouse themselves from their slumbers now that they face the threat of extinction from the suddenly gregarious Mélenchon, who is wooing the left wing of the old party in a bid to form une Union de la gauche quasi-extrême. It’s a tricky business, because the party rump has few if any recognizable names and is no more ideologically united than it was under Hollande.

The political scientist Jérôme Jaffré recently described le Macronisme as l’Hollandisme en pire, which is cruel but not totally inaccurate. The problem for the Socialists, then, is to find a way to insist that anything good in Macron’s reform program was already in Hollande’s without reminding voters that they weren’t very happy with Hollande himself. Their promise would be, We’ll give you the reforms you want without the arrogance you so dislike. If only they had an affable young face to put behind such a program, they might get somewhere–a face like that of Macron circa July 2016.

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1 Comment

  • Robinson says:

    This article from a right-wing site made me groan: http://www.bvoltaire.fr/pourquoi-nicolas-sarkozy-est-redevenu-le-leader-le-plus-populaire-a-droite/.

    I had innocently assumed that Sarkozy was gone for good at last, but nobody ever seems to go away forever in French politics, and the prospect of a Sarkozy re-relaunch makes a frightening amount of sense, in a so-crazy-it-might work way. Sarkozy is a better politician than Wauquiez, who occupies similar political ground: everybody to their left is too close to Macron and can’t get FN votes, and I don’t think that an extreme-right candidate could get enough votes from the ex-UMP to make the second round. There are always the judges, for what that threat is worth…

    Stranger things have happened! Perhaps Macron 2.0 will knock him off in 2027.

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