Monday, June 5, 2017

What The Left Can Learn From Macron

I've rarely seen a newly elected world leader hit the ground running the way Emmanuel Macron has. It is especially impressive considering how divided the French electorate was in the first stage of voting. I've sensed a lot of jealousy about this on the Left in this country, but I think there is a lot that the Left can learn from his success.

We are apparently in an era where the old political elites are endangered. Hence the likes of Trump, Duterte, and Macron rising to prominence. While the term "populism" has been bandied about, that's hardly a fit description for Macron's political mode. The current wave favors those, populist or not, who offer an outside alternative to the dominant political order. The French Left had to look on an gnash their teeth while the technocratic Macron and the fascist Le Pen had the second round to themselves.

The Left in America should pay heed. The Democrats could easily be outflanked in the next election by a billionaire with Macron's technocratic bent. Mark Zuckerberg has thrown his hat in, and I wonder if Bloomberg will think about it as well. Now that the parties are at their weakest point since the early 19th century, the path to power may well lie outside of them. I could see the few remaining moderate Republicans joining independents and moderate Democrats to support a candidate like this against Trump. The Left needs to be prepared to be proactive against a candidate like this.

Another thing to be learned has been Macron's stance with Trump. Yes that handshake moment was full of masculine bullshit, but it has electrified the world because Macron treated a bully the only way that works: by hitting back at them harder. It works even better in public, since it is there that the bully is humiliated and often paralyzed by that humiliation. Contrast this with the behavior of folks like Bernie Sanders, who immediately started making noise about working with Trump on things like infrastructure after the election. He and many others failed a crucial test of how to deal with a bully like Trump. Macron has figured that out, and is reaping the reward. Maxine Waters is setting a similarly good example here in America.

I should say that I am not a fan of Macron's technocratic neoliberalism. However, I am a big fan of his vigor and courage. While the Left has a different ideology, it has a lot to learn from the way he performs symbolic politics.

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