Bizarrely, Sarkozy has been lashing out against centrist François Bayrou. Perhaps he thinks this will enhance his credibility with the right wing of his party. Now Bayrou has fired back, and Juppé has come to his defense. Bayrou's statement is worth reading in full. I was particularly struck by one passage in which Bayrou sets forth his conception of le peuple. In this populist moment, with all sorts of politicians claiming to speak for the one and only true people, Bayrou takes care to indicate that the People are never one, they are many. Unity emerges from the blending of the many--e pluribus unum, as the American motto reads--that is, from the reconciliation of numerous divergent points of view, not from the negation of the opposition:
J’affirme au contraire que ce peuple que Sarkozy n’a jamais approché, au milieu duquel il n’a jamais vécu, avec lequel il n’a jamais passé ni une semaine, ni un jour sans caméras, ni en une ferme, ni en un quartier ouvrier, ni en une famille d’enseignants, ni chez des artisans, le peuple chez nous, qui y sommes nés, qui y avons grandi et travaillé, le peuple n’est pas ce qu’il veut en faire. Le peuple, contrairement à ce qu’il croit, n’est pas une masse qu’il convient de fouetter de passions et de prendre par le bas, par les instincts, par les mots qu’on jette avec un rictus, par l’excitation contre les boucs émissaires que l’on livre l’un après l’autre en pâture. C’est le contraire.It's a salutary reminder in the Age of Trump et cie.
Juppé has thus far taken a line well to the right of center. No doubt he felt he had to in order to win the primary. I hope he makes a course correction before the general, but nothing could be less certain. A lot depends on how the left primary goes. If Juppé finds himself running against a centrist (Valls, Macron, or, who knows? even Hollande, though the president's star has sunk even further in recent weeks), he will probably stay well to the right. If it's Mélenchon or Montebourg, though, he may reconsider. If he's nominated, he will be the odds-on favorite to win, and then we'll see how he chooses to govern.
My compliments to my blogging confrère Arun Kapil, who not only drew my attention to Bayrou's statement but also insisted confidently throughout the campaign that Sarkozy would not succeed in his comeback attempt. I wasn't as sure as Arun, but his confidence now seems to have been justified.