Le Figaro Editorial

Translation by The Europeans

4th December, 2018.

Counterpoint : These back-downs imposed by the street trivialize the presidency of Emmanuel Macron and demonstrate its vulnerability.

If, according to the wise formula of Pierre Mendès-France, “to govern is to choose”, then Emmanuel Macron and Édouard Philippe are no longer governing. For the three announced “moratoriums” were in no sense chosen: they were imposed, granted out of war-weariness and the absence of any other card to play to appease an anger that showed no signs of subsiding.

That this decision had become inevitable and therefore needful, is obvious. It is nonetheless a retreat, a word that is in principle taboo in Macronie [ironic reference to France under Macron, — Ed.]. Between two evils, it is necessary to choose the lesser. Better, then, a minor humiliation for those who govern than the burgeoning exasperation of the governed. But on this 4th December, the head of state did more than give up a tax that went too far: he as good as certified the failure of his term in office.

Not because he backed down per se, but because he added his name to the long list of presidents who were forced to back-track on a project, a reform, or a particular measure. This “moratorium” — a provisional device anticipating outright abandonment — in effect trivializes the presidency of Emmanuel Macron, because it demonstrates his vulnerability. The whole Macronian method was built on the institutional impotence of successive governments. If reforms had been impossible, it was because they were hostage to artificial political divisions, because former presidents did not know how to “build consensus”, or steer a course, or show consistency, or remain faithful to their commitments, or prevail within the overall disposition of forces.

“It is all the more humiliating for him to be compelled to back down, not on a courageous reform, but on a lazy tax hike.”

Le Figaro

His presidency was supposed to show that failure is not ordained. After all, had he not succeeded in simplifying the Labor Code, easing the tax on capital, and confronting the citadel of the SNCF [French state railways] despite criticism and demonstrations? It is all the more humiliating for him to be compelled to back down, not on a courageous reform, but on a lazy tax hike.

Macron is thus a victim of the very diagnosis that allowed him to distance himself from the others, all the others. To justify their difficulties today, Macron’s followers invoke the weight of “thirty years of back-flips”. There is some justification in this. But it was precisely he, who in 2017, had encouraged the French to turn the page on those three decades. That was what Macron was elected for. If he now shows some awareness, changes his course and method a year and a half after his election, then this present failure will have been salutary. As he confessed himself on the eve of the demonstration of 17th November: “I do not know how to reconcile the French people with their leaders.”

“I do not know how to reconcile the French people with their leaders.”

Emmanuel Macron

What weakens him today, and which might prevent him tomorrow from prosecuting other necessary and difficult reforms (pensions, the state, Islam, institutions &c.), is this current failure. For Macron can no longer profit from the inaction of his predecessors; he must be accountable for his own actions. Even the promise of the widest and most decentralized consultations does not guarantee calm, still less his recovery. Was it not precisely these consultations that were accomplished during the “long march” of his [presidential] campaign? This is what gives the Music of Macron today the sound of a broken record. And makes one wonder: is Macron backing off in order to catch his breath, or because he is out of breath?