Emmanuel Macron, heralded upon his inauguration in France, is now facing the wrath of a people who feel he has forgotten them. Just as American establishment politicians were soundly rejected by the “deplorables” who elected President Donald Trump, the yellow vested “déclassés” protests in France today are a rejection of Macron’s push for a more globalized France. At the Spectator, Christopher Caldwell reports on the changing tastes of the French. He writes (abridged):
The ‘yellow vest’ protests against President Emmanuel Macron that swept through Paris and other French cities last month have evoked overwhelming sympathy: 77 percent considered them justified, according to a poll for Le Figaro.
Even after Macron offered a budget-busting package of concessions to appease his critics, it was hard to silence the lacerating self-examination one undergoes after a soured romance: God, what was I thinking? Today, France’s café-goers wonder aloud how they could have voted so overwhelmingly two years ago for a president whom they disliked and disagreed with even at the time.
The simple answer is that Macron was running against Marine Le Pen, whose party, now called the National Rally, is a haven for the global economy’s déclassés. The more complicated answer is ‘Condorcet’s paradox’, named after the 18th-century marquis, philosopher, legislator, abolitionist and theorist of probability. Condorcet demonstrated that in any election that involves at least three people, as French multi-round contests do, the public’s real preference can be impossible to determine. People might like Mr Smith better than Mr Jones, Mr Jones better than Mr Brown, and Mr Brown better than Mr Smith — leaving the majority feeling cheated.
Anti-immigration and populist politicians are like other politicians. They succeed not because voters are distracted but because they are attentive. This is even true of Donald Trump, who on the surface appears to have done little (and in terms of legislation has done literally nothing) for the people who elected him. And yet he can be credited with a lot of things that didn’t happen. In December, Trump didn’t sign the UN refugee pact greeted with such fanfare by Macron and others. Described as a mere ‘cooperative framework’ to lay down certain non-political principles, it is — as the activists who worked so doggedly to pass it well understood — an invitation to activist judges in the richer countries to order more liberal immigration policies. On reflection, the populist leaders not just of Italy but also of Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Poland and Slovakia decided they felt the same way as Trump.
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