Monday, March 17, 2008
Tilting At Windmills
Last year, when Nicolas Sarkozy narrowly defeated Segolene Royal in the French presidential elections, the American conservative press was crowing about a new era in European politics and the death of the Left. In France, in the aftermath, it looked pretty grim; A very fractured Left that had spent more time in the campaign sniping at each other than giving united support against Sarkozy and his American style political tactics.
In fact, Segolene's own party was at war with itself as generations clashed.
But, this is the world of French politics and the American pundits have very little grasp or understanding of what is really taking place. Much faster than anyone would have dared to predict, the charm of Sarkozy wore thin and his plot began to unravel. He tried to run a government with the same technique of backstabbing and continual flow of substanceless ideas. He has surrounded himself with a coterie of ministers who cannot act on their own and are in continual fear of losing his favor and hence their position.
Most of all, the cult of his narcissiscm has become a tired litany of his name being constantly mentioned in each news cast. In the exit poll from the Munincipal elections 2nd tour yesterday, 65% of the voters said he should just shut up.
His slogan, Travaillez plus, gagnez plus (work more, earn more) has become a tired joke as his policies favoring business management and crushing unions has not stopped the flow of French Companies laying off workers for cheaper Eastern European Labor and prices have continued to skyrocket for the basic neccessities, of course, his Prime Minister, Francois Fillon will be happy to explain that the cost of imported cheap electronic goods from China has to be factored in, so in reality, no matter what you are paying at the supermarket and gas pump, things aren't that bad.
Last night in the 2nd tour, the results were evident. The Socialists were reborn and the Communists took cities. The Socialists now control 59 Departments in France and the majority of French Mayors are Socialists. The only big cities that retained UMP Mayors were Bordeaux, Agen, Biarritz and Marseille. Marseille by a thread!
2 of the ministers in Sarkozy's government lost their cities, including the hotly contested race in Perigueux, lost by Xavier Darcos.
One of the casualties of the election last night was Francois Bayrou's MODEM Party.
If you remember the American Press in the last election, Bayrou was touted as the "third man", the dark horse of French politics, as if he had risen out of obscurity.
Bayrou tries to represent a moderate position, he sees himself as the heir to his hero from his region,The French King, Henry IV, or Henry of Navarre. Henry IV is always referred to as France's best king, a Protestant who assumed the Regency after the death throes of the Valois. He was able to unite the country and bring an era of stability and economic prosperity after the devastating Wars of Religion.
In reality, Bayrou more resembles Don Qixote, the fumbling knight errant, never quite in touch with reality. Last night he lost his last platform of elected office which he had held for years. The new Mayor of Pau is a Socialist.
A smart slap was delivered to Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday. Last week, we saw the re election by a handy margin of The Socialist Government of Zapatero in Spain.
The golden age of a Thatcherist Conservative Paradise which was fantasized by the American Conservative press a few months ago turns out to be just that, an elusive dream of a fading empire tilting at windmills.