Saturday, February 25, 2017

Macronism at Ground Level

Emmanuel Macron the candidate has tried to emulate de Gaulle, floating above the parties, or even Jesus, walking on water (he did not reject the label "Christic" as a description of his campaign style). It has worked well for him so far.

But others have taken his campaign into the villages and hamlets of France, and according to this report, they have fared less well. "He's like all the others." "Tous pourris." "A good-looking scoundrel." Etc.

Now, one might say that these responses reflect the naiveté of the canvassers: three young people who took time off from their studies or jobs in the US to return to France and take Macron's message, which seems to inspire them, to "the people." Or one might say that it's the sort of anecdotal evidence that proves nothing: if, as the polls say, Macron is supported by 20% of likely general election voters, you have 4 chances out of 5 of running into a stream of vitriol if you tap at random into various places on the French electoral map.

But one does have to wonder how deep Macron's support is, what reserves he can mobilize if momentum starts to shift in his direction, and whether his strong early support reflects mainly high-information voters in the larger cities who read newspapers and tune in early to presidential politics. There are many people who doubt Macron's staying power. He has not been tested in face-to-face debate. The FN, judging him to be the most likely second-round opponent at this point, has begun to train its fire on him. Half of Florian Philippot's speech the other day was aimed at Macron, who epitomizes everything the FN is running against: Europe, globalization, cosmopolitanism, and loss of sovereignty. His charge that colonialism was a crime against humanity will be cited again and again by the far right as evidence of his lack of "patriotism," a capital offense in their Manichean view of a world divided between "patriots" and "cosmopolitans."

De Gaulle did not need to develop a common touch. He was a figure of myth. Macron, however much he wishes he were, is not de Gaulle. He may be able to continue his campaign à distance, but for all its modern trappings, it retains a strangely archaic feeling. It is a campaign of mass meetings rather than mass media, coupled with small, exclusive gatherings out of the limelight with influential representatives of what is politely called "civil society" and impolitely called, even by Macron's new "ally" Bayrou, "moneyed interests." Occasionally he will don a hard hat and tour a factory. But even Giscard sought to soften his technocratic image by playing the accordion and breaking bread with peasants. Macron, who is said to be an excellent pianist, needs to set up his piano in some village square and boogie with local burgers.