The Man In The Mirror

Emmanuel Macron is likely to be the winner by default in the second round of the French presidential elections on May 7th. When the Paris bourgeois-bohèmes look into the mirror, they see him — and vote accordingly. Promises to remember The Great Forgotten of globalisation are casual humbug…

FIGAROVOX : Populism is driven by the Forgotten. Their interests are a thousand miles from the pan-European and globalist project of Emmanuel Macron.

Macron — Spoiled Brat of a Sick France

First published in French 27th April, 2017, in Le Figaro

By Ivan Rioufol

His good fairies must be smelling the naphtha. François Hollande took his turn on Monday to appeal for a vote for Emmanuel Macron, front-runner in the first round of the presidential elections, with 23.87% of the vote. François Fillon, arriving third with 19.94%, had been ahead of him during his, Fillon’s, temporary recovery. The new man is more than just the default candidate of the rejected heavyweights: Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé, Manuel Valls, Benoît Hamon, etc. Macron is also supported by the media, MEDEF¹, and Marine Le Pen’s swarming opponents. She who arrived second with 21.43%. The breakthrough of the leader of En Marche! is expected to deliver him the election on the 7th May. Indeed, the candidate had already celebrated his victory in advance: on Sunday evening at La Rotonde, a plush restaurant in the Montparnasse quarter. Sarkozy too had celebrated in 2007 at Le Fouquet’s… but after the second round. The UMPS², mocked by the Front national, has reconstituted itself as a socialist-republican alliance. But where now is their professed rupture?

Ivan Rioufol

A France consumed with anger doesn’t chime with this clever and wordy lad. City-dwellers have adopted the spoiled brat with the sorcerer’s glint. Paris voted 34.8% for Macron, against 4.99% for Le Pen. This phenomenon was repeated right across the big cities. However, rural France consolidated its support for the FN with 1.2 million votes. The gains of [Jean-Luc] Mélenchon (19.60%) in the banlieues are yet more spectacular; he won 3 million votes. This populist dynamic, taken with Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s 4.73%, is that of the Forgotten Ones. Their interests are a thousand miles from the pan-European and globalist project of Emmanuel Macron. Even if he gets a boost from his performances, his base remains precarious: 18.9% of registered voters. The polls are promising him a landslide victory. But is that so certain?

Macron represents the “included”: town- and city-dwellers at ease on his flat-earth of globalisation and creative start-ups. The paradox is to see the Left, re-baptised “progressivist”, recognising itself in this person who is so remote from the people and their miseries.

During the American campaign of 2016, the super-favorite Hillary Clinton insulted the Trump partisans: she wanted to relegate them to the “basket of deplorables: the racist, sexist homophobes, xenophobes and islamophobes”. This blanket contempt can be seen in France when the FN’s opponents say they want to bottle up [faire barrage] these same bumpkins, fascists, and so on. Such harangues allow the causes of this steadily mounting tide of populism to be ignored. Macron, hissed on Wednesday in Amiens by the Whirlpool workers who came to cheer Le Pen, should bear in mind the fate reserved for Clinton.

This accomplished actor is capable of hypnotising the dazed Right. He first pays homage to Joan of Arc, then visits the Puy du Fou [theme park in the Vendée] in the company of Philippe de Villiers [its founder]: and there you have Macron — on his own admission, both patriot and populist. He also talks about la France périphérique [rural and outer suburban working classes], of the excluded, the invisible, tossing around the blandishments of marketing. What persists, however, is the ideology of the open society, of immigration, of multiculturalism, of the favourable treatment accorded to minorities. On Tuesday, Macron received the endorsement of the Union des organisations islamiques de France (UOIF), which is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose purpose is to defend Sharia law. This islamist organisation calls for “people to vote overwhelmingly to block xenophobic ideas and hatred and give [Macron] the biggest score possible”. Macron in the Élysée would be France put up for auction.

“Rather than mouth the ukases of the moralising Left, the Right ought to be emulating Hannah Arendt when she cursed “the degrading obligation to be of one’s own time”.”

A revolution is launched

The rallying of the party barons of Les Républicains to this ambitious young man, whom Hollande sees as his posterity, is one abandonment more for those who despair of a Right  without pride or conviction. Seeing Fillon, on the evening of his defeat, forget his struggle against islamic totalitarianism and for a nation that assimilates — all in favour of this “republican front” reconstituted to save the very Left that had torpedoed him — was not the least of the disappointments. None of these political professionals seems to understand the message from the electors: they no longer want these insincere practices, these marriages of convenience, these opportunistic disavowals. By eliminating the two principal parties (Parti socialiste, Les Républicains], the French have launched a revolution. It is forcing the world of politics to come back to earth and re-examine its role in the light of new democratic demands. Rather than mouth the ukases of the moralising Left, which unleashed its dogs against the Front national, the Right ought to be emulating Hannah Arendt when she cursed “the degrading obligation to be of one’s own time”.

“It is the citizens who are writing history on the backs of their representatives.”

Wednesday’s great debate [Macron-Le Pen] promises to be decisive. It will be the time to gauge the differences between the two projects, touching particularly on the conception of the nation, of the family, and of western civilisation. The vision offered by Le Pen hardly differs from that of the Right in government, sensitive to the question of identity and to the preservation of the nation’s unity: subjects from which Macron recoils with disgust, preferring a calmative politics, or cowardice served up as virtue. In reality, the Front national has already won the battle of ideas in having returned the homeland, the nation, and the flag, to the centre of public discourse. The post-national ideology defended by Macron when he says that a specifically French culture no longer exists, is a vision combatted by populism, albeit divided into various competing currents. The election of Macron by default, far from calming an infuriated France, will only render her more explosive. This will be the looming issue — unless Le Pen finally understands that the fate of the nation is more important than leaving the euro, or her outdated anti-liberal sallies.

Uniting the Right

In the end, Le Pen has the opportunity to draw together a party of those who reject the programme of Macron. A third of the supporters of [François] Fillon, and about one quarter of Mélenchon’s followers, could already be in the process of joining her. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan [leader of Debout la France and eliminated presidential candidate] has also foreshadowed his support³. The unification of the Right, which party heavyweights discount without any longer quite knowing why, is under way. It is the citizens who are writing history on the backs of their representatives.

The Fifth Republic in Question

Whether the winner is Macron or Le Pen, the frustration will be the same on one or other side of a fractured country. Indeed, the presidential system itself stifles collective intelligence. Exit the Fifth Republic?

¹ MEDEF : Mouvement des entreprises de France. Formerly the CNPF (Conseil national du patronat français). French industry association.

² UMPS : Coined by the far Right, an ironical conflation of centre-Right UMP and centre-Left PS (Parti socialiste). The UMP (Union pour un mouvement populaire) was re-badged as Les Républicains (LR) on Nicolas Sarkozy’s return as party president.

³ At time of writing, Dupont-Aignan has been named by Marine Le Pen as her prime minister, should she win the presidency.