Emmanuel Macron has been on the move. At the Davos conclave of the world’s movers and shakers, he made a splash by announcing not only that France was back but that she had brought Europe back with her. With Angela Merkel bogged down in coalition negotiations, Macron was the man of the hour, the spokesman for the civilized world against Trump the Barbarian, who arrived two days after Macron had stolen the show with a finely crafted speech, hailed by the conservative German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung but unaccountably all but ignored by Le Monde. Macron’s ten-year-plan for the future of Europe, which notably asserted that further progress toward unification would require a “multispeed” Europe, was greeted, FAZ noted, with “a standing ovation.”
Le Monde, whose navel-gazing “hexagonal” provincialism a friend of mine once compared to that of “the local rag in some small town in Nebraska,” devoted little attention to Macron’s most recent appearance in the global limelight but, in stark contrast, a great deal of space to another recent excursion, this one to Auvergne, where he followed Mitterrand’s footsteps to the door of one Michel Charasse, whom Le Monde describes as Mitterrand’s “gunsel” (porte-flingue) but whom old-timers will remember as the court jester of the Mitterrand monarchy.
The special significance of this presidential trip was twofold. First, it highlighted, to the journalist’s delight, the continuity of the republican monarchy from Mitterrand, the last person fully to embody the regal potentialities of the French presidency, to the present incumbent. Here he was, after all, eating the same lunch as Mitterrand at the table of an authentic Mitterrand courtier before treading the same rural hiking trail that his predecessor had followed. Second, Macron successfully demonstrated that he was by no means unfamiliar with la ruralité, as Parisians like to think of the vast là-bas.
After all, Laurent Wauquiez, the human wrecking ball who in just a few weeks has thoroughly demolished what was left of Les Républicains, has charged the president with being a pure product of the Parisian hothouse, an elite snowflake who would never risk muddying his expensive pumps with a walk in the woods. The Davos excursion, from which emanated any number of images of Macron mingling with the hated “cosmopolitan elite,” provided an entire propaganda reel for Wauquiez’s campaign. But then the president walked in the woods in Auvergne, while Wauquiez went to Paris to appear on L’Émission politique, where his ratings were dismal despite a well-rehearsed recitation of the “Macron is an out-of-touch Parisian cosmopolitan” theme.
And then Valérie Pécresse was jeered at an LR rally and had to be rescued from the unseemly boos of the crowd by Wauquiez’s personal intervention. What better demonstration of the disarray of the right? While the president moves imperturbably from global banquet table to Auvergnat charcuterie, Wauquiez’s self-marginalization is dramatized for all to see. The sequence might have been scripted by Macron’s PR team.