Thursday, January 26, 2017

The French Presidential Election-- Guest Post From Alan Grayson


En campagne aux États-Unis, Benoît Hamon rencontre Bernie Sanders

In France They Kiss On Main Street
-by Alan Grayson

The Socialists in France are conducting a Presidential Primary this week.  The first round was held last Sunday.  Remarkably, the candidate who espoused the policies that people believed would improve their lives actually won that first round.

Imagine that.

Notably absent was any discussion of the grabbing of private parts, or the use of private e-mail servers.  There was, however, a robust discussion of the right to privacy (or as it is called in Europe, “the right to be left alone.”)

Also a no-show was any debate about whether the candidates had paid taxes, or how much money they had received from speaking engagements.  There was, however, a vigorous debate about how much the rich should pay in taxes, how much pay French workers should receive for their work, and what their working hours should be.

The campaign was mercifully brief.  The first-round winner declared his candidacy five months ago, but the campaign really didn’t get underway until the incumbent President announced, just last month, that he would not be running for reelection.

The first poll after the candidates qualified for the ballot, earlier this month, showed former Prime Minister Manuel Valls with a large lead over former Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg and former Education Minister (for four months) Benoit Hamon:
Manuel Valls 43%
Arnaud Montebourg 25%
Benoit Hamon 22%
Others 10%
There were three nationally televised debates, all in one week (Jan. 12, 15 and 19).  During the debates, the candidates propounded the following agendas:

Valls: ?
Montebourg: ?
Hamon: extend Social Security to everyone, at $950/mo.; reduce the work week to 32 hours; legalize marijuana.

Hamon won the first round of voting:
Benoit Hamon 36%
Manuel Valls 31%
Arnaud Montebourg 17%
Others 16%
Montebourg immediately endorsed Hamon for the second round of votes, happening this Sunday.

(By the way, please excuse the non sequitur, but Hamon’s Wikipedia page features a picture of Hamon with Bernie Sanders.)

So in less than three weeks, Hamon soared from third place to first place. What was his secret? He sketched out for ordinary people what he could do and would do, as President, to make their lives better. He convinced them that he actually would fight to make these things happen. And his audience, understanding the opportunity that comes with choosing a national leader, demanded substance from the candidates.

“Duh,” you say.  Isn’t that what elections are all about?

“As if,” I say.  Is that what our Presidential election just looked like-- no, what it felt like-- to you?

Elections ought to be a celebration-- a celebration of our democratic opportunity to choose leaders who will take action to improve our lives. Not a two-year-long dental appointment without anesthesia, with the pain so awful that it brings the entire tearful country to the verge of a national nervous breakdown.

I understand that it is not politically popular to praise the French, as John Kerry learned in 2004. Oh, I know-- they did help us during the Revolutionary War, and we fought side by side with them in World War I and World War II, but then les hexagones refused to join us in the war in Iraq. That prompted my former employer, the U.S. House of Representatives, to re-designate the French fries served in our cafeteria as “freedom fries.” Hah-- that showed them! (That, plus the 250,000+ American troops who returned from Iraq with permanent brain abnormalities.)

But let us give credit where credit is due. The current Socialist Presidential Primary demonstrates that the French know what elections are all about. Elections don’t have to be painful. In fact, they shouldn’t be. For the French, at least, politics is l’amour (love), not cheap display.

In France they kiss on Main Street,
‘Amour,’ mama, not cheap display.
And we were rolling, rolling, rock n’ rollin'.
-Joni Mitchell, In France They Kiss On Main Street (1975)

UPDATE: The French Berniecrat Won

Or, as the NY Times put it "France chose an idealistic, traditional left-leaning candidate in Sunday’s primary to represent the Socialist and center-left parties in the presidential election this spring." Benoît Hamon beat Blue Dog-type Manuel Valls with a clear cut 58.9% to 41.1% victory.

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At 4:45 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Lovely, Mr. Grayson. Let's cross our fingers that Le Pen does not get anywhere. The French workers have much more political strength than in the USA, where they are being ground into dirt.

At 6:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but the socialist won't win. The Nazi probably will. So there's that.

How about you cover the other partIES too?

At 8:41 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Here are a couple of the upcoming French elections that go into the other parties:

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judging by the trends across the globe, it appears to the great mass of the un-Trickle-Downed that corporatism has organized the takeover of the world's governments. Anything which doesn't directly benefit corporations is under heavy assault for repeal or removal from law or other governance.

YET, . . .

Reuters reported that the attendees of the annual Swag Soiree in Davos aren't sure what to make of Donald Trump:

"Beneath the veneer of optimism over the economic outlook lurks acute anxiety about an increasingly toxic political climate and a deep sense of uncertainty surrounding the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump, who will be inaugurated on the final day of the forum.

"Regardless of how you view Trump and his positions, his election has led to a deep, deep sense of uncertainty and that will cast a long shadow over Davos," said Jean-Marie Guehenno, CEO of International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution think-tank.

"Moises Naim of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was even more blunt: "There is a consensus that something huge is going on, global and in many respects unprecedented. But we don't know what the causes are, nor how to deal with it."

"...some attendees worry that the pace of technological change and the integrated, complex nature of the global economy have made it more difficult for leaders to shape and control events, let alone reconfigure the global system."

One of the reasons corporatism has been assuming direct control over governments is to ensure that they aren't surprised by actions of the people or unforeseen events. But now they have one of their own (assuming Trump isn't lying about his alleged wealth) tossing his Gucci sabots into the Engine of Profit. They appear to be quite discomfited:

"The mainstream corporate types don't want Trump and far-right authoritarians," said [Guy Standing, the author of several books on the new "precariat"], who has been invited to Davos for the first time. "They want a sustainable global economy in which they can do business. More and more of them are sensible enough to realize that they have overreached."

While they watch France follow a course which the French people should reject due to their frequent subjugation by the various forms of German totalitarianism since 1870? I'm not convinced that the Davos crew is as astute as they want to believe they are.

Meanwhile in America, this alleged "realization" seems to have not taken hold:

"[Ian Bremmer, president of U.S.-based political risk consultancy Eurasia Group] recounted a recent trip to Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York where he saw bankers "rejoicing in the elevators" at the surge in stock markets and the prospect of tax cuts and deregulation under Trump."

The party is definitely on at Pirate Central, er, Goldman Sachs. To paraphrase Joni Mitchell from that wonderful clip DWT provided, "And bucks would roll in. roll in, stock price growin'!"

PS to the readers: Joni's 1979 concert in Santa Barbara from which this clip was taken is one of the greatest concerts ever. Great band, and she's rarely been better. Highly recommended. Many thanks, DWT, for the break from the current-day doom and gloom via a glimpse of a much happier time.


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