I am shocked. I did not see this coming; not at all. My thoughts are still disorganized and disrupted, but it seems to me that French politics is also disorganized right now. I’m still trying to make sense of it all. The only that’s certain is that Marcon is surfing on an enormous wave of popular support. Beyond that, I can only offer a few random observations.
To begin with, there’s an equally large number of people who did not vote. Both main political parties (the LR and the PS) suffered crushing defeats. But are they finished or will they come back when, or perhaps if, they are able to resolve their internal differences and challenge of Macron? Who knows?
For the moment, the stars are perfectly aligned. The LR is destroying itself with an internal fight for the power between Sarkozy and “Honest” Fillion. And, of course, the PS was destroyed from within by the militant centrists, of whom Macron was one.
The REM has swept everything. Macron has a total power. Certainly, more power than De Gaulle. Maybe, more than anybody ever in France.
And it is an important difference. These new députés are not committed to a cause, an idea, or a philosophy; instead, they are committed to a man. One man who holds all the power of the state in the hands, essentially as king. More than king, perhaps, because there is not a Cardinal Richelieu around to oppose this king. All of my political and philosophic differences with Macron aside, this extraordinary concentration of power is a very disturbing development for a republic.
Both, the LR and the PS are facing annihilation in Paris if my guess about the upcoming legislative election is correct. For the PS, one of its most popular and important figures, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, has lost in the first round. And PS luminaries Benoît Harmon and Jean-Christophe Cambadélis were also beaten in the first round. Very strange. I see no reason people should abandon their party for the benefit of Macron.
Mélenchon and La France insoumise will support the frondeurs of the PS in the second tour. Not Valls, naturally. Harmon has also called for PS members to vote against Valls. Although Valls’s politics are not mine, I’ve always admired and respected him personally; but there’s undeniably a sense of rough justice in this. If there is anybody running in this election who richly deserves to be drowned by this tidal wave, it is most assuredly Valls.
But, surprisingly, the FN did quite well in its strongholds. 122 candidates qualified for the second round. So, Mélenchon and La France insoumise also did strangely well, especially considering how badly the PS was treated.
All of which would seem to count against the conventional wisdom that this election reflected a wave of popular support for the centrism. And nevertheless, it is undeniable that Macron, the self-proclaimed centrist, has ridden to power on a wave of popular support like nothing else I’ve seen in French politics. If that’s not a wave of support for centrism, then what is it?
And this is the second major election in which absenteeism and the null vote represented a huge proportion of eligible voters and that number has been growing – it’s now more than 40 % according to Le Monde.
My hope is that the PS can return to being a party of center left. The party of Jean-Jaurès. A movement towards a socialism of the possible is something that would be very important for all the Western democracies.