Un texte excellent sur l’irrésistible ascension de Macron et son inéluctable chute. Sa victoire est d’ores et déja une défaite.

Avertissement: le titre ne signifie nullement que Macron va partir ou qu’il ne sera pas réélu, non!  Mais cela n’empêche pas qu’il a chuté et qu’il rechutera.

Il a échoué. 

La constitution de la Cinquième République est un coup d’état permanent .

Elle était tempérée par une pratique politique prudente qui faisait que le président ne dépassait pas certaines limites. Macron a compris  que l’on pouvait franchir ces  limites et s’éxonérer des pratiques prudentielles. Il a donc accompli un second coup d’état qui complète celui que représente la Cinquième en elle même.

Il le fait parce qu’il remplit les souhaits,  les exigences des milieux  d’affaires, des banquiers  et de la classe technocratque. Il est de leur classe et de leur culture. 

C’est la politique qui se formule: ils ne sont pas contents ? Oui!  Et après?  

Il viole les  véritables consensus .

Mais sa victoire est  amère car son objectif qui était de devenir un partenaire à part entière de l’Allemagne est totalement hors de portée. Les dirigeants  Allemands ne lui ont rien  accordé en matière de réformes européennes  et ils lui ne  accorderont rien du tout à l’avenir. Encore moins  maintenant qu’ils  savent que Macron n’est pas soutenu par son peuple.

Les insurgés des Gilets Jaunes ont perdu sur ce qu’ils demandaient, mais ils ont gagné sur l’essentiel … qu’ils ne demandaient pas: ils ont saboté la stratégie européenne de Macron! 

Le président dit une chose; le peuple  français en dit une autre. Et les Allemands savent que les  gouvernements passent, les peuples restent. Et leur comportement est générationnel. 

Schauble a tout résumé quand il dit : on ne peut pas faire confiance aux Français. Il suffit de lire la presse allemande pour savoir que Macron: c’est fini.

Jupiter’s rise and fall, Macron et la classe managériale.

Just a few months ago Emmanuel Macron, who had defeated Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election and was hailed as the savior of Europe and liberalism’s great hope.

After Brexit and Trump’s victory, which they never thought was possible and sent them into a panic, liberals around the world were starting to fear that nothing could stop the populist wave that had already engulfed several countries, but Macron’s victory was supposed to have shown that, as they are fond of saying, the center was holding. He would reform France, convince a reluctant Angela Merkel to accept a more integrated European Union and the populist threat would be history.

Today, as Macron is facing one of the worst crisis any French president has faced in years, this all seems like a lifetime ago.

He is now as unpopular as François Hollande, by far the most unpopular president in the history of the Fifth Republic, was at the same point of his term. Moreover, while people mostly felt contempt for Hollande, they hateMacron. His approval rate is hovering around 25 percent, even though he’s only been president for 18 months.

The comparisons with Trump’s approval rate are somewhat misleading, if only because the U.S. is bipartisan to a much greater extent than France (especially since the last presidential election), but there can be no doubt that Macron is exceptionally unpopular.

His approval rate had started to fall long before the yellow jackets movement started, but without significant protests he could still present the illusion that nothing had changed. That illusion has become impossible to maintain.

Macron had ambitious plans for the Eurozone, which he wanted to turn into a more integrated political and economic system. Berlin was already reluctant before the yellow vests movement and probably never intended to significantly reform the Eurozone’s governance in the first place, but after Macron’s weakness was exposed, he had to settle for the mostly cosmetic changes Merkel offered him during the last European Council without much of a fight, as his predecessors had always done before him.

People are asking how Macron lost France, but that’s the wrong question to ask. Macron didn’t lose France, he’d never won it in the first place.

In order to understand what just happened, we need to go back in time a little.

In 2012, when he was called by Hollande, who had just been elected president, to be part of his staff, almost nobody knew who Macron was. Yet although no one could have suspected that at the time, this was the beginning of his irresistible rise, which led him to become president a mere five years later. It’s impossible to understand the events that just took place in France without knowing where Macron comes from and what he was up to during that period.

Macron is a product of the French meritocracy. He went to the École Normale d’Administration (ENA), the prestigious school where most high-level French bureaucrats are trained, then upon graduating immediately went on to work in the French administration for a while, before leaving to join a famous private investment bank where he rapidly climbed in the hierarchy and was able to make connections in French business circles that would prove useful later. Énarques, as are called the people who went to the ENA, frequently go back and forth between the administration and large French companies, which typically maintain close ties to the state. Thus Macron spent his entire professional life in this world, at the intersection of public administration and business, which is dominated by technocrats with very similar ideas about how the country should be run.

They support what we might call the neoliberal consensus. Despite what left-wing rhetoric suggests, they are hardly anti-state extremists, nor do they want to eliminate regulations.

On the contrary, on some issues, such as the environment, they are strongly in favor of increasing regulations. But they support a moderate reduction in public expenditure, liberalizing the labor market and disengaging the state from production by privatizing state-owned companies.

Basically, they are the kind of people who make lazy arguments in favor of free trade by invoking the Kaldor-Hicks criterionlike a mantra, without ever pausing to consider the distributional effects of the policies they support.

On foreign policy, neoconservatives and liberal interventionists can always count on them to reflexively support their latest crusade, as long as it’s conducted in the name of human rights and they are being assured that it’s the only way to avert a genocide.

When their military adventures create millions of refugees or facilitate the passage of economic migrants by destroying states that, for all their faults, were at least capable of controlling their borders, they explain that we have a moral obligation to welcome these poor people. But you will never hear them acknowledge that it is they, not the people whom they now call racists because they aren’t pleased to live with immigrants whose crime rate is several times higher than average, who created the problem in the first place.

Indeed, as their counterparts in the rest of the West, the French cognoscenti regard immigration from the third world as highly desirable and resent the vast majority of the population for not being sophisticated enough to understand their point of view.

It rarely occurs to them that multiculturalism might look very different for the people who can’t afford to dine out in ethnic restaurants and have seen the neighborhood where they grew up changed beyond recognition by immigration. On the contrary, they pride themselves on their openness, though it doesn’t prevent them from using various strategies to make sure their kids don’t go to school with the children of immigrants. Openness is good, but it has its limits.

After 50 years of immigration from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa, the unemployment rate among immigrants and their descendants is still almost three times as high as in the rest of the population.

Their labor force participation is much lower and actually seems to be getting worse in the second generation. Even when they are aware of it (which they usually are not), the French sophisticates are not moved. They just blame racism and insist that eventually things will just get better. How? They have no idea, but don’t you worry, it just will. They don’t seem to realize that, even if they were right that racism is the explanation, it wouldn’t make the problem any less acute unless they have a magical solution to end racism.

In short, although they have a very high opinion of themselves and much contempt for the people who can’t see the wisdom of their policies, the French mandarins are not nearly as smart as they think they are. They like to think of themselves as champions of evidence-based policy thinking, but on many issues, they are actually remarkably insensitive to evidence.

Like the communists who insist that real communism has never been tried, if something they support didn’t work in the past, they will always find a way to explain that it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Perhaps we didn’t go far enough, or we just have to try for a little bit longer, but rest assured that eventually they will be vindicated. Except they usually aren’t.

Nevertheless, French technocrats are convinced they are right and it’s also what Macron, who is one of them, believed when he joined Hollande’s staff to work on economic issues after his victory against Sarkozy in 2012. In that position, Macron was one of the people who had the greatest influence on French economic policy at the beginning of Hollande’s term, though he had to compete with other advisers, who didn’t always like the kind of policies he was pushing. Sometimes it was because they were not aligned ideologically with the technostructure and sometimes it was because, unlike Macron who had never held elected office, they were aware of the political consequences the policies in question could result in

During his tenure as Hollande’s adviser on economic issues, he was the main architect of a series of measures whose goal was to lower the cost of labor in France and make the country more competitive, especially compared to Germany where the Hartz reforms implemented under Gerhard Schröder had led to a significant reduction of the cost of labor.

He also pushed for a more ambitious reform of the pension system, something which is about as politically explosive in France as entitlement reform in the U.S., but wasn’t able to convince Hollande and thought about resigning after that, which he eventually did a few months later.

After a couple of months away from politics, during which he lectured at the London School of Economics and contemplated creating a startup in education, he was offered the job of Minister of Economy in 2014, which he accepted. Unlike his previous job as Hollande’s adviser, this position gave him visibility. Thanks to his youth, his relative obscurity and his connections, he attracted a lot of attention from the media and soon became one of the most prominent figures in the government. This caused Manuel Valls, the ambitious Prime Minister, to take umbrage at Macron’s popularity and after a few months the newspapers were filled with stories about their growing rivalry.

As Minister of Economy, Macron focused on deregulating the French economy. In particular, he presented a law that relaxed the legislation that prevented people from working on Sunday, increased competition in licensed professions, liberalized the transportation market to allow buses to compete with trains more easily, etc.

He also supported another law, presented in front of the parliament by one of his colleagues even though Macron was behind the most radical measures, that liberalized the labor market. Those measures were consistent with Macron’s ideology, but they had a devastating effect on Hollande’s popularity among his base. He had been elected in 2012 on a promise to wage a war against finance and his government was now implementing policies that, in some ways, went further in the wrong direction than what the right had done under Sarkozy.

Although they were enough to anger Hollande’s base, throughout the process, Macron had been increasingly frustrated by the concessions he had to make in order for those laws to pass. Not only did Hollande and his advisers force him to water down the initial proposals, he had to make even more concessions in order to have them approved by the parliament. Ordinarily, the parliament does whatever the president asks in France, because there is no real separation of power in the Fifth Republic. But Hollande was exceptionally unpopular and many of his party’s members of parliament were reluctant to vote laws that betrayed the promises on which they had been elected, so the government had to make more concessions than usual in order to avoid a revolt in the parliament.

For Macron this experience was a revelation.

In his opinion, as in that of most technocrats in the state apparatus, the problem was that the president, who in France is far more powerful than in the U.S. (where Congress still matters a great deal), didn’treally understand the necessity of the reforms pushed by Macron and most of the technostructure for years. Without the support of the president, he concluded, real change was impossible. Macron’s presidential ambitions go back to when he was very young, but it was during those crucial months, when he unsuccessfully tried to convince Hollande and his party’s members of parliament to agree to his more ambitious plans to reform France, that he apparently started to think seriously that his time had come.

Hollande was exceptionally unpopular and, as the end of his term approached, it became increasingly clear that he wouldn’t even be in a position to seek reelection in 2017. Macron started to prepare his candidacy while he was still a member of the government. He correctly diagnosed that he wouldn’t be able to run as the candidate of the Socialist Party. Not only would the party’s base, which is far to the left of the leaders, never choose him in the primary, but even if he somehow managed to be nominated, he wouldn’t be able to run on his platform. Say what you want about Macron, but unlike Hollande who became president just to become president, he wanted to become president to implement the reforms that, in his view, were inevitable but had been blocked for decades by clueless politicians.

Macron created his party, though he wouldn’t call it that at the time, in April 2016 and started campaigning while he was still in the government. This became untenable and, in August, he finally resigned. At this point, few people doubted that he would run, but he waited until November to announce it officially. At this point, with no party behind him except the movement he’d just created, not many people would have bet on him. But he’d already been preparing his campaign for months before his announcement and, thanks to his connections, was able to raise a lot of money. Indeed, despite the fact that no traditional party was backing him, his campaign would go on to spend more than any other.

A recent analysis of the donations Macron received showed that 56 percent came from Paris alone and another 14 percent from abroad, while large donations (more than 5,000€) made up the overwhelming majority of the total (86 percent), which speaks volumes about who his base is and helps to understand the problems he currently faces. As polls would soon show, Macron was the candidate of the managerial class. These people are educated, urban and relatively affluent, and in politics are liberal on both economic and social issues. Traditionally, they had been forced to vote for a center-left or center-right party, which for them was less than ideal because they had to put up with a lot of policies they didn’t like no matter what they chose to do. But with Macron they finally had a candidate who matched their preferences closely.

Despite the money he was able to raise and his popularity among the managerial class, which translated into support in the media where his views are common, Macron could never have won had it not been for two crucial events.

First, at the beginning of the campaign, a French newspaper accused François Fillon, the candidate of the traditional right-wing party and the overwhelming favorite, with credible evidence of having given his wife a fictitious job as a parliamentary assistant for years. This story became the main focus of the campaign, during which the issues were barely discussed. The media pounced on him, who was indicted in March but refused to withdraw, for the entire campaign. In addition, Fillon campaigned on a very harsh economic platform, calling for a very substantial reduction of public expenditure and barely talked about issues such as immigration and crime, which further sank his campaign.

Second, in the primary organized by the socialist party to nominate its candidate (since Hollande had announced in December that he wouldn’t run again), the voters chose Benoît Hamon, the leader of the party’s left-wing. Hamon is a leftist and ran a disastrous campaign, ending up with only 6 percent of the vote, less than any socialist candidate since 1969. By campaigning on a very left-wing platform, he was competing with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate and himself a former member of the Socialist Party. Mélenchon’s popularity was already well-installed among that segment of the electorate and he is a far better campaigner than Hamon. Thus, by adopting this strategy, all the latter achieved was opening up a huge space in the center-left for Macron. This allowed him to attract most socialist voters, who had no taste for Hamon’s leftist antics.

Macron arrived first in the first round with 24 percent of the vote, ahead of Le Pen who got 21.3 percent, while Fillon end up with 20 percent and Mélenchon 19.5 percent.

At this point, despite the usual scare-mongering about the National Front, there was just no way Macron could lose in the second round. Indeed, after Le Pen ran about the worst campaign she possibly could have, Macron defeated her with a whopping 66 percent of the vote. Macron, whom just three years before nobody knew, had managed to become president.

With such a large victory, he and his supporters thought he had a mandate to apply his program. But this was a grave mistake that explains why he’s in such a bad situation today.


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