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Describing the current state of France’s cultural and political mood requires using one of our favorite linguistic exports from the country: malaise.
The French are mired in the globalism-induced funk most Western nations are familiar with by now but are lacking the unified will to do something about it. Because of that, they’re resigned to living with the seum that comes with reelecting Emmanuel Macron for president.
The lovingly titled “President of the Rich” defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen by a 58% to 42% margin on Sunday. While that would be an absolute spanking in American politics, it’s a troubling sign for Macron considering his lead shrank from the 66% to 34% victory he enjoyed over Le Pen five years ago. Record low voter participation, highlighted by record high abstentions, represented the peoples’ acceptance that there is no reasonable alternative to their situation. They have agreed to plod along on their plateau for the next half decade, hoping one comes along.
Part of that is a failure of the nation’s populist coalitions. The far right, led by Le Pen, and the far left, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, “are natural partners against the elite party, but they cling to their 20th-century grudges and have not coalesced,” wrote Christopher Caldwell. Meanwhile, France’s upper crust rallied around Macron, as have those who simply can’t stomach voting for Le Pen’s own pungently offensive (and politically stupid, if I might add) desire to ban the public wearing of hijabs, the religious head covering Muslim women don.
As the people search for the right candidate and platform, “Macron’s party will rule without serious challenge until they do,” Caldwell wrote.
This stagnation is embodied by Macron’s staunchest supporters: retirees. Forty-three percent of that voting bloc saved Macron in the first round of the elections and was the bedrock of his triumph in the second (and final) round where he beat Le Pen. It was during that first round where Le Pen and Mélenchon cannibalized each other’s bases of young and middle-aged adults, ultimately causing Mélenchon to be left out of the final runoff.
So, the European Union and its network of movers and shakers have France’s senior citizens to thank for being the most energized voters on Sunday. However, the fact that they are also the most sedentary, and not to mention the wealthiest and most insulated from globalism’s failures, doesn’t bear well for national morale.
French historian Emmanuel Todd noted that the “gerontocratic problem [that is, government by the old] is far more dangerous for democracy than all the worries expressed about populism, the far right, Islam or terrorism.”
“It is not normal that the inactive should decide for the active, who produce goods and children,” Todd continued. “No society can long survive massive transfers of resources to the old at the expense of the new generations.”
The French people seem to be taking on the personality of famed watercolorist — and notorious perfectionist —Claude Monet when it comes to their political future. Just as Monet had destroyed three years’ worth of paintings prior to a 1908 exhibition in Paris because they didn’t live up to his lofty standards, France’s disgruntled Invisible Class are caught squabbling over which candidate can deliver the kind of full-throated rebuke of Macron’s European rule and fumbling the opportunity to do so in the process.
They should realize that an imperfect attempt at change is better than the toxic predictability they’re settling for — something their allies have already come around to.
The United Kingdom finally left the EU at the beginning of last year following its well-known Brexit vote. Smoothing out the particularities of that arrangement has provided some bumpy moments — especially when it comes to trade and the welcoming of skilled migrants — but Britain’s people determined that was a price worth paying to free themselves from the EU’s bureaucracy.
Donald Trump’s election in 2016 was another example. We may have had to endure four years of Trump dictating U.S. policy from his Twitter account, but out of that chaos our nation was reborn. Trump exposed the odious media bias and prompted an independent media renaissance (that this site is a part of). Without Trump’s election, we never would have lived through the social media clamp down of the past five years, which motivated billionaire Elon Musk to buy Twitter and potentially lay the ground for a broader free speech revolution in Silicon Valley.
Believe it or not, that pugnacious spirit is even catching on in the East. South Korea just elected its “incel” president Yoon Seok-youl, who campaigned hard on appealing to men’s issues, primarily their disdain for South Korea’s embrace of feminism. Yoon went so far as to promise to get rid of the Ministry of Gender Equality once in office, which he caught flak for by the Human Rights Watch. Six years ago, that would’ve been a red flag; today, in our increasingly globalist society where “human rights” are a euphemism for “whatever helps me politically,” South Korea seems to be trending in the right direction.
Change in and of itself doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome. Maybe Yoon’s focus on men’s issues will be at the expense of reining in South Korea’s crippling housing prices. Maybe Brexit will leave Britain out of lucrative trade deals that would grow its economy. Maybe the awakening Trump started will only be felt by half of the U.S. and will further widen the divisions we’re all too familiar with now.
But at the very least, these nations are betting on themselves. They are ignoring the consultative “wisdom” of the world’s self-styled royalty, largely because Britain, South Korea, and the U.S. have suffered from that wisdom’s shortcomings in one way or another — just as France is now in the form of a struggling economy and the arrogant indifference to its working class.
Yet the French submitted to the failed science of global elitism for another five years. Avoiding either a Le Pen or Mélenchon presidency might have been prudent. Those two factions will have a chance to make their voice heard during the country’s legislative elections in June.
Still, the moment to evolve presented itself, and like many of its voters, France abstained. That could lead to a more constructive political revival come 2027. Or it could devolve into more resentment and upheaval akin to the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protests of 2018-19. One thing is for certain: the French are sickened with malaise…and are fine waiting for the perfect moment to snap out of it.
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