What Clarification?

25 June 2024

Upon dissolving the parliament the president said that it would lead to “clarification” of the political landscape: “The masks will fall,” he added. But clarity remains elusive. Indeed, the dissembling, disingenuousness, misdirection, and outright prevarication that are always a part of political discourse are omnipresent in this hyper-accelerated campaign. The signposts have been removed from the roads. Candidates seek to hide or deny their past and present affiliations. The old Renaissance, already a rebranding of the erstwhile En Marche! (which bore Macron’s initials, EM, as its symbol), has become Ensemble; some candidates claim to be running on Attal’s ticket rather than Macron’s; Edouard Philippe accuses his former boss of having “killed the majority” in whose name he is ostensibly running; and Attal asks to be “elected” prime minister in order to efface the bad memory of his having been “appointed” by the now unpopular president.

The president, meanwhile, having said he would not campaign, has been campaigning everywhere against “the extremes,” either of which would instigate a “civil war” if it came to power. Jordan Bardella, backtracking as rapidly as possible on his hitherto underspecified economic plans, sounds more and more like a calque of Macron. On the left, the enmity that divides the forces composing the New Popular Front has overwhelmed the truism that without unity it’s a foregone conclusion that the left will lose. Mélenchon claims that he had to “pay” Glucksmann 100 seats to get the leader of Place Publique to agree to a popular front, as if he, Mélenchon, owned those seats. Others on the left plead with Mélenchon to shut his mouth for the sake of the team, as if there is the slightest chance that JLM, even if he goes silent for tactical reasons now, can be restrained from using every trick in the book to have his way after the votes are in.

The whole spectacle is so distasteful that you might expect it would turn people away from politics in droves, but the opposite seems to be true. The level of engagement resembles that of a presidential election rather than a mere legislative contest. (I can measure this personally in the number of solicitations I am receiving for interviews, podcast appearances, articles, etc.) The very shortness of the campaign is making any clarification of the issues impossible. Anyone interested in laying bare the flaws of liberal democracy will be able to point to this election as a perfect test case. Rather than fall, the masks have been refined and elaborated for this carnival of a campaign. What a vote for either left, center, or far right would yield is impossible to deduce from what the parties are saying and doing. And the result could well be a hung parliament leading to a technocratic caretaker government, which will be precisely what the results of the European Parliamentary election that led to this were interpreted as rejecting. The irony is cruel.


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