Tuesday, May 09, 2017

France Defeated The Fascist/Elected The Centrist


A significant plurality of French voters (43%) who cast their ballots for Emmanuel Macron Sunday told pollsters that had done so primarily to stop Le Pen-- more of the ole "lesser of two evils" vision of politics, generally espoused by the Democratic Party to such ill-effect. Everyone I know-- in Europe and here at home-- was rooting for Le Pen to lose (except for Monsieur Trumpanzèè, Bannon, and neo-fascist Congressmen Steve King and Dana Rohrabacher). But no one-- no one I know-- was rooting for centrist former banker Macron to win. He was just the way to stop Le Pen. (He's already talking about naming right-wing Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé as prime minister.)

But, there are people-- even if I don't know them-- who are actually excited about Macron right here in America. Early Monday morning a group calling itself the Centrist Project sent out an e-mail celebrating. Do you know who Nick Troiano is? In 2014 he ran as an independent centrist against Pennsylvania Republican Tom Marino and got 13% of the vote. He's now the executive director of the Centrist Project and wrote that "Macron's election to the French presidency as a first-time, independent candidate demonstrates that constructive political disruption can come from the political center. And it can happen here, too. A similar En Marche! movement in France has already begun at the state level, where several centrist independent candidates were elected in 2016. Since the Centrist Project's public launch last month, we have already begun fielding dozens of inquiries from potential independent state and federal candidates for the next election. With a majority of Americans now holding an unfavorable view of both parties, we believe the political moment is ripe to challenge the two-party duopoly in the United States, and win."

Le Pen only one two departments across France-- Pas-de-Calais (52.1%) and Aisne (52.9%) in the northeast. She lost all 8 southern departments where polls had shown her leading before the Kremlin's cyberattack on Friday. Macron beat her 20,753,798 (66.1%) to 10,644,118 (33.9%). Macron picked up the majority of first round supporters of the two left-wing candidates, Jean-Luc Mèlenchon and Benoît Hamon. More surprisingly, Macron won almost half of the votes of those who went with cconservative right-winger François Fillon in round one. According to the Financial Times, the strongest predictor of voter preference was education. Areas with higher numbers of university degrees is where Macron found his biggest support.
This pattern echoes the findings of a Financial Times analysis of the predictors of the Leave vote in 2016 Brexit referendum, US presidential election and recent Dutch election. In each of the plebiscites, education emerged as the strongest predictor of vote for a populist option, where the less educated chose it more often than those with degrees.

First-round voting projections and research reported on by the FT indicated that higher income voters were more likely to vote for Macron. This trend reinforces the narrative of the presidential race as a battle of haves versus have-nots, embodied respectively by Macron and Le Pen... Like education, income was also a factor in the recent Dutch election, in which less affluent areas voted in proportionately higher numbers for the populist Geert Wilders. This was also true in the UK's EU referendum, where analysis suggested lower income voters were more likely to vote Leave.

...Macron did well where life expectancy is higher, in line with the theory that [lack of] health and wellbeing are proxies for pessimism-- a known predictor of support for Le Pen. There is a growing school of thought that health metrics, including life expectancy, can be used as precision proxies for imprecise concepts such as wellbeing and pessimism, allowing researchers to identify social breakdown without resorting to large-scale surveys and self-reported measures.

This allows us to interpret the positive relationship between life expectancy and the Macron vote as additional evidence that general wellbeing and a positive outlook on life lead voters to reject Le Pen's appeals to negative emotions, and vote instead for a candidate with a more positive message.

The NY Times analysis of Macron's win, which "brought joy from Europe’s political establishment," was less in the weeds, claiming that "the French presidential runoff transcended national politics. It was globalization against nationalism. It was the future versus the past. Open versus closed." But Macron's victory has it also be seen in what is unique in French history-- Nazi occupation and collaboration.
For the past year, a pressing political question has been whether widespread public frustration against Western political establishments had morphed into a global populist movement. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last June, followed by the presidential election of Donald J. Trump in the United States, created the impression of a mounting wave. Ms. Le Pen, stalwart of the European far right, was the next truly big test.

But Ms. Le Pen’s challenge was different because French history is different. She has spent the last six years as president of the National Front single-mindedly focused on one objective: erasing the stain of her party’s association with the ex-collaborationists, right-wing extremists, immigrant-hating racists and anti-Semites who founded it 45 years ago.

She knew-- as her father, the party patriarch Jean-Marie Le Pen, always refused to acknowledge-- that she would always be a minority candidate as long as she reminded the French of perhaps the greatest stain in their history, the four years of far-right rule during World War II. Inside and outside the party this process was called “undemonization”-- a term suggesting the demons still associated with her party. The French do not want them back.

“There was no choice. I couldn’t vote for Le Pen. You’re not going to vote for the extremist,” said Martine Nurit, 52, a small-restaurant owner who had just cast her ballot in Paris’s 20th Arrondissement on Sunday. She had voted for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round, on April 23, and it was with “not an ounce of joy” that she voted for the “business-oriented” Mr. Macron in the second.

“Mostly, I voted against Le Pen,” she said.

In the end Ms. Le Pen failed to “undemonize,” spectacularly. She failed during the course of the campaign, when her angry rallies drew the Front inexorably back into the swamp from which it had emerged. And then she failed decisively in one of the campaign’s critical moments, last week’s debate with Mr. Macron, when she effectively “redemonized” herself and the party, as many French commentators noted.

It was an hourslong tirade against Mr. Macron, laced with name-calling and epithets, and woefully deficient in substance. She appeared lost on subject after subject, fumbling on one of her signature issues-- withdrawing from the euro-- that is opposed by a majority of French. Something essential about Ms. Le Pen, and the National Front, had been revealed to France.

...Macron’s pro-market views stirred much opposition. Mr. Mélenchon not only refused to endorse him, but also encouraged the idea that Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen were equivalent menaces-- a calculation endorsed by many far-left voters. Nearly half the first-round electorate voted for candidates hostile to the free market and to capitalism. Even if they voted for Mr. Macron on Sunday to save the country from Ms. Le Pen, they did so without enthusiasm.

Some of the antipathy sprang from his hermetic persona, as a caricature of the elite-educated, know-it-all technocrats, perpetually encased in a dark suit, who have guided France for much its postwar history, usually from behind the scenes, and whose record is mixed.

“He’s not someone I feel a lot of conviction for,” said Thomas Goldschmidt, a 26-year-old architectural firm employee in Paris who voted for Mr. Macron after supporting the Socialist Benoît Hamon in the first round. “He’s someone who raises a lot of questions. It’s a vision of society that is too business-friendly,” Mr. Goldschmidt said. “It’s this whole idea of making working life more uncertain. We just can’t bet on it, that everyone out there can be an entrepreneur. Society isn’t built like that.”

Mr. Macron seems aware that his large victory isn’t a large mandate, that the pressure is now on to ensure that France’s reprieve from the National Front is not just a temporary one. “If I fail to solve” France’s problems “or fail to offer a solid start to solving them, in five years it will be even worse,” he told the left-wing news website Mediapart on Friday night. “What nourishes the National Front will be even more virulent,” he added.

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At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like the French voters created themselves an Americanized lesser-evilism to ride to the bottom... just like we've had here for going on 4 decades.

Maybe by the next election, the xenophobes, idiots and neo-nazis will lose their mojo and the French can elect another socialist-leaning, FDR-style democrat.

But the lesser-evilism vector may preclude that. Just as it did here when we elected bill fucking Clinton who kicked everyone in the balls with bob fucking rubin and all the CFMAs and GLBAs and deregs and xxFTAs... and got 2 terms to finish the foundation of 2008 and all future bursting bubbles.

Let the corporatist moderate do what Clinton did all while the Le Pens keep consolidating their base to a workable number. And eventually they'll end up with Le Pen or someone in that mold who is far worse... like our hysterical dipshit.

At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently, during the French election campaign, devil-Putin got distracted with clearing brush in Siberia.

John Puma


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