Republican conservatives reeling from President Bush's plummeting poll
numbers, as low as President Carter's during the dark days of the hostage crisis in Iran, are excited. They have discovered
hope in -- of all places -- France! Yes, the nation at the very center of what they disdained as "old" Europe, the country
that has been Bush's bete noire ever since he went looking for WMD in Baghdad.
The very same culture whose potatoes had to
be renamed Freedom Fries so patriotic Congressmen wouldn't have to utter the dreaded "F" word when ordering lunch in the Capitol
Why the sudden love fest? Because the French just voted in a "conservative" for president,
dismissing his rival, a feminist fem named Segolene Royal as pretty as she was ballsy. She snatched the Socialist nomination
from her companion, Socialist Party Chair Francois Hollande, with whom she has four children, only to give up a six-point
victory (53% to 47% with a huge turnout of over 80%) to the son of Hungarian immigrants.
Which to the Republicans apparently proves the French have wised up to wily women like Hillary
Clinton and have figured out that Bush is a friend of liberty, you know, like Chancellor Merkel in Germany, and are ready to cede power back to Washington.
Only it's not so simple. As usual, the Republicans are misreading international events. Sarkozy
certainly stirred up right-wing populist passions against Muslim immigrants and the "thugs" and "scum" (as he called the unemployed
and angry mobs of teens in the immigrant suburbs), and he owes his victory to the old -- the young voted against him. But
he also got a majority of women -- they didn't go for Royal's message about sisterly solidarity.
Most importantly, he triumphed as an anti-establishmentarian promising to break up the old
elites trained in the "grandes ecoles" and free up the entrepreneurial environment, long encased in a paralytic bureaucracy.
He wants France to join the world and stop wallowing in nostalgia for its old civilizing mission and its vanished empire.
He wants better relations with the United States, but he is as opposed to the Iraq adventure as Chirac, his predecessor at
the Palais Elysee.
In other words, though he has exploited populist and nationalist resentments, he is first
of all a modernizer who thinks France of the ancient regime has rendered itself irrelevant. As a nationalist, he is likely
to enhance not American but French power. His election certainly reflects the appeal of nationalist politics, but it is signals
not a return to but a striking break with the past.
My advice to Republicans: in reading the triangle of Jacques Chirac (outgoing Gaullist President), Royal (failed left-centrist candidate) and Nicolas Sarkozy (successful right-centrist modernizer)
Bush and his Republican wannabes are not Sarkozy, but Chirac, the tired, stubborn, out-of-touch-with reality ideologue. While
Hillary may be, no not Royal, but the pragmatic and realist Sarkozy. In other words, the French election suggests why the
Republicans are likely not to win but to lose the presidency in 2008.
Chirac the outgoing aged president was in bed with the Neoliberals (much like Clinton). His internal policies included lowering taxes for his contributors, business privatization, laissez-fare
capitalism, and he was the most senior member of the G8. He was elected as a
Gaullist for a seat in the National Assembly in 1967. He was Prime Minister in
a conservative government form 1974 to 1976. From 1977 to 1995 he was Mayor of
Paris. Recently there has been much made in the press of political corruption,
in particular the selling off of city assets to a business headed by his friend. And
this was not an isolated case that was exposed concerning Chirac’s years as Mayor of Paris.
The failure of his party to win in the poles in April is complex. Reasons would include his (and thus his party’s) corruption, his party’s
conservative and Neoliberal policies, and the people’s desire for a change. The
troubling fact is that Neoliberal takeover, which has occurred in the U.S. is occurring in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere. Money talks; and the corporate media has created a misinformed populace.