FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Code Bleu, The French Election

The French presidential election can be variously construed.

One could argue that fragmentation on the Left caused Lionel Jospin, the Socialist prime minister, to miss the run-off, leaving France to choose between Jacques Chirac, an incumbent already rejected by over 80% of voters, and Far Right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, a sort of French David Duke without the phony polish.

Others will argue that the fact that all the candidates on the Left together carried less than 44% of the vote suggests that Jospin himself is to blame for the situation. His personality is uninspiring, he ran a dreadful campaign, etc.

However, the most significant fact of the French election is that with sixteen candidates to choose from, almost a quarter of the votes cast were for what you and I would call right-wing nut candidates (including Le Pen).

So here are the important totals: Left, 44%, Right 32%, Extreme Right, 24%.

The Right, led by incumbent President Jacques Chirac, will distance itself nobly from the Far Right in the run-off election, in the interests of preserving national “honor.” But the fact is that Chirac will owe his presidency to the Far Right no less than does George W. Bush. Take the extreme Right out of the equation and the Left outnumbers the Right.

As for the French Left, is there another democracy in which three different Trotskyist candidates for president could combine to pull 11% of the vote, as they did in France? Two of them outpolled the Communist candidate, Robert Hue, who got 3.5%.

The French Greens significantly bettered all previous performances in French presidential elections. They had never broken 4% before, and Noel Mamere, the Green standard bearer, got 5.4%.

On the one hand, that’s great. On the other, it was only good enough for a sixth place finish, behind Arlette Laguiller, one of the Trotskyists. Not particularly encouraging in an election in which everyone made the Greens’ case for them by complaining about the blandness and lack of differentiation between the two top candidates, Chirac and Jospin, an election in which 64% of the voters clearly wanted someone else, not to say anyone else.

Chirac will win the run-off in a landslide. The Greens and other Left-leaning parties have thrown their support to him to “stop” Le Pen. The only suspense lies in whether Le Pen will pick up or lose support. Only if he draws more than 25% of the vote can it be argued that the Far Right is really on the rise in France. Best guesses put him at around 22%.

Following the run-off election France will enjoy seven more years of being governed by a man 4 out of 5 voters did not want, a candidate seen as the lesser of sixteen evils, a man whose re-election only serves to postpone the indictment on corruption charges widely regarded as inevitable when he leaves office, assuming he ever does (if Le Pen is the French David Duke, Jacques Chirac may be the French Edwin Edwards).

Suppose Jospin and not Chirac had been the survivor? Few people in France would feel significantly happier about the outcome. The two men’s policies were indistinguishable for the most part.

From an American perspective all this may look like nothing more than the predictable perils of a multi-party system. Or so we may tell ourselves from time to time. Yet our two-party system offered George W. Bush and Al Gore, if anything an even more boring pair than Chirac and Jospin.

I shall sit under the wych elm and ponder three questions tonight:

Is the chief virtue of our “two-party” system the fact that it obscures the extent to which our own political life is dominated by the Far Right?

Is the French election emblematic of things to come in American elections?

What is there about the current state of democracy, in whatever form, with however many parties, that continues to render significant change unlikely, when such large majorities clearly want it?

David Vest writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He is a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs.

He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com

Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com

 

More articles by:

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail