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Jospin Pulls Out (again)

by afew Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 06:24:28 AM EST

Less than a week before the final date (October 3rd) for candidatures for the French Socialist Party's primaries, things are falling into place.

This morning former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced on RTL radio his decision not to run, saying that he did not want to "split the party". He said he would not, however, withdraw from the debate.

I think you'll have guessed, concerning the way of approaching politics, the relationship with citizens, the manner of considering the Socialist Party, that there is a choice I will not make in favour of a - or of one (feminine), to be exact - of the candidates."Je crois que vous avez deviné, autour de la façon d'aborder la politique, du rapport aux citoyens, de la façon de considérer le Parti socialiste, qu'il y a un choix que je ne ferai pas en faveur d'un - ou d'une, pour être plus précis - des candidats"

So it's clear he's against Ségolène Royal. It's not clear he's in favour of anyone else. What effect might this have?


Jospin, a former leader of the party and a good Prime Minister, still has considerable support among party members and sympathizers. This means that, had he chosen to stand in Ségolène Royal's way at whatever cost, the risk was high of dividing the party and weakening the designated candidate for the fight against Sarkozy. Now, although he is making fighting noises, he hasn't really got the wherewithal, in my opinion, to back it up.

The fact is that his attempted comeback after four years' retirement from political life has dragged its feet. People who live in the media's eye know it's imperative to keep on showing your face. A four-year gap is a killer: Jospin suddenly looked old. He could be as energetic and clenched-fist as he liked, he never looked like leading a winning battle against Sarkozy. Jospin has, in a sense, always fought the media, and more broadly, the sway of perception over political life. His belief was always that facts spoke for themselves, and that patently honest discourse was the way to win hearts and minds. He has now twice been disappointed in his belief (in 2002, and today). Perception does rule, and he is perceived as schoolmasterish and Protestant. Ségolène Royal, who knows the importance of perception, has left him in the dust.

Which doesn't mean there is still no anti-Royalism in the PS. The Jospin Attitude - hard work, policy, realism, straight speaking, no kow-towing to media and communications plans - isn't an idiosyncracy, it's widespread on the left (and I personally have great sympathy for it, except it doesn't work). Royal has stirred up animosity in the PS precisely because she demonstrates it doesn't work. In doing so she has trodden on sleeping elephants' toes - those who were waiting for Chirac's mandate to wind towards its end before wheeling out their candidatures have been infuriated to see Royal already out there ahead, occupying territory they assumed was theirs by right.

So there'll still be a fight within the PS. François Hollande, party leader and Royal's partner in life, has yet to announce whether he will be a candidate. The only sense his candidature might have is to be on hand to unify the party in case of a serious split - but that the left should go into the presidential battle with Hollande as principal candidate would already be an admission of defeat, and even (this is my personal view), the end of the French left as it has been organized for several decades.

Otherwise, declared candidates are Royal, Jack Lang, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Laurent Fabius. Jospin's withdrawal favours Royal in the sense that Jospin would have been the heaviest contender for her to fight; but it also frees DSK and Lang, who were in Jospin's shadow. Fabius has done well recently, with a rousing left-wing speech at an event where the candidates all spoke, but he still polls feebly. Will it be worth his while running a personal candidature (meaning leaving the PS) to get a small percentage in the first round of the presidential? His answer to that question depends on his degree of narcissism, I guess.

News of the rest of the left

The "single-candidate" saga dribbles on. I predict, as I always have, that it will end up with each group presenting its own candidate, as in 2002. The Trots already have theirs: for Lutte Ouvrière, Arlette Laguiller (LO will in no case team up with the rest of the hard left, and Arlette's candidature is certain), and for the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, Olivier Besancenot (also most unlikely to back down now). Marie-George Buffet of the PCF is still trying - against the wishes of a significant chunk of her own party - to work out a single candidature with ATTAC and the "anti-libéral" left in general. José Bové has said he is willing to consider the candidature, but he doesn't seem to believe in it. So perhaps Buffet will end up Communist candidate, possibly Bové (or someone else) for the altermondialists.

Splitters one and all...

Poll news

Yesterday's CSA poll on "who would you vote for if the election was today?" gives:

1st Round:

Royal               31%   <--- PS
Sarkozy             30%   <--- New Gaullism
Le Pen              15%   <--- who?
Bayrou               6%   <--- Centre right
Besancenot           5%   <--- LCR, Trot
Laguiller            4%   <--- LO, Trot
Voynet               3%   <--- Greens, fantastic...
Buffet               3%   <--- PCF

2nd Round:


Royal               52%
Sarkozy             48%

Double warning: the election is a long way off, and Le Pen always does better than his polling figures.

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So this increases the odds of a relatively good outcome? Better that Sarko, anyway.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:09:20 AM EST
It looks better to me than a diehard attempt by Jospin. It's not that I wouldn't support Jospin, but I think he's too out of touch now, and what he calls his "way of approaching politics and relations with citizens" doesn't get through the media haze. So, overall, it's good news he's not running.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:29:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jospin has, in a sense, always fought the media, and more broadly, the sway of perception over political life. His belief was always that facts spoke for themselves, and that patently honest discourse was the way to win hearts and minds. He has now twice been disappointed in his belief (in 2002, and today). Perception does rule, and he is perceived as schoolmasterish and Protestant. Ségolène Royal, who knows the importance of perception, has left him in the dust.
Is this what the criticism of Royal for "advocating a 'democracy of opinion'" is all about?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:14:14 AM EST
I take it the "democracy of opinion" thing was a dig against her opinion polls. I mean, it must make them all hopping mad to see that the clincher for Royal - the argument all PS militants and voters see above all else - is that she has crushingly good polls. She can win. It makes the others look like losers, and they don't like it.

Otherwise, she has constantly come in for criticism on her "media" candidature. I don't know to what extent she orchestrates a media strategy - making sure she gets that bikini pic in the people mags, for example - or to what extent it's just the media running after her. Or, third and most likely, she knows the hay she can make out of the media running after her rather than her running after the media.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:38:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She has a delicate balance to strike between being seen as too feminine and not feminine enough - the normal problem of the female executive.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:43:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and that a woman of authority is easily framed as a schoolma'am, while Sarkozy gets away with insane tough-guy posturing and no one notices.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:55:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The meme has legs... Libération has today one news item and two opinoin pieces mentioning it. Here's one of them:
Alchimistes de la démocratie d'opinion (Alain DUHAMEL, 27 septembre 2006)Alchemists of a opinion democracy (Alain DUHAMEL, 27 September 2006)
......
Pourtant, avant même la fin du prologue, quelque chose d'essentiel est en train de se produire : la République présidentielle semble tout près de succomber à l'ultime métamorphose qui la transformerait en démocratie d'opinion.However, even before the end of the prologue, something essential is taking place: the Presidential Republic appears all too close to succumbing to the ultimate metamorphoses which would transform it into a democracy of opinion.
......
Le facteur inédit qui risque de faire basculer la Ve République vers la démocratie d'opinion, stade ultime du triomphe de l'émotion sur la rationalité, c'est que les deux cofavoris de l'heure en mettent déjà les recettes en oeuvre.The previously unseen factor running the risk of tipping the balance of the 5th Republic towards opinion democracy, ultimate stage of the triumph of emotion over rationality, is that the two opposing front-runners or the moment are already putting its prescriptions to work.
......
Nicolas Sarkozy, déjà maître de l'appareil de l'UMP, omniprésent dans les médias, interpelle directement les Français sur des thèmes sélectionnés avec soin pour se prêter à la mécanique de la démocratie d'opinion (justice, sécurité, immigration, régimes spéciaux, carte scolaire, etc.).Nicolas Sarkozy, already master of the apparatus of the l'UMP, omnipresent in the media, appeals directly to the French [people] on topics carefully selected to lend themselves to the mechanics of pinioon democracy (justice, security, immigration, special regimes, school charter, etc.).
......
Cela ne résiste cependant pas à l'examen: l'autorité épanouie des deux alchimistes de la démocratie d'opinion, leur autodétermination absolue, spectaculairement symétrique, balaie la rhétorique participative. Nicolas Sarkozy et Ségolène Royal tentent de se construire un trône sur les sentiments et les passions, sur la séduction et les emportements. Ils savent pourtant l'un et l'autre à quel point la démocratie d'opinion, si elle peut aider à la conquête du pouvoir, en handicape l'exercice.That, however, does not resist examination: the blossoming authority of the two alchemists of opinion democracy, their absolute self-determination, spectacularly symmetric, brushes aside participative rhetoric. Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal try to biuld themselves a throne on feelings and passions, on seduction and anger. Neither of them knows, however, to what extent opinion democracy, while maybe aiding the conquest of power, is a handicap to its exercise.
......
Comment construire un projet rationnel, cohérent durable sur l'évanescence d'une popularité, sur un donjuanisme politique encouragé par les médias qui, pour la plupart, n'ont qu'une idée en tête après quelques expériences malheureuses (le 21 avril 2002, le rejet du référendum européen, les tambours et trompettes pour tant de candidats bientôt abandonnés), surfer sans risque ni gloire sur le sillage de la démocratie d'opinion?How to build a rational project, coherent and durable on the fickleness of popularity, on a political donjuanism encouraged by media which, for the most part, have only one idea in their head after a few sad experiences (21 April 2002 [the last Presidential election], the rejection of the European referendum, the drums and brass for so many abandoned candidates), to surf without risk or glory on the wake of opinion democracy?
All this angst...

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 08:11:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't realize Alain Duhamel had got astride this farting charger. He's an ageing pundit (no lefty, though he has a gig with Libé) who likes to swirl words around and look as if he's got something to say.

I'd simply reply that if he thinks no candidate before didn't choose themes that people were concerned about and didn't know that you had to speak to emotions, he wasn't watching. He's telling us that, before, we had politicians lining up policy and programmes and being dead serious? Then how did Chirac get elected? Mitterand had a programme - was forced to have a programme - but he knew that wasn't what would make people vote for him.

It may be that Royal and Sarkozy play the media more than any pols before them. But they're fifty-year-olds, not eighty-year-olds. The media take up a different place in life than they did a generation ago. Alain Duhamel should know, he's been in and out of newspapers, magazines, and TV studios for thirty-odd years.

(Nitpick: Ils savent pourtant l'un et l'autre... means "They both know...")

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 08:26:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, I'm reacting to Duhamel more than to the meme. What people are calling a "democracy of opinion" is the tendency to bypass parties and institutions and go straight to public opinion via the media.

Strangely enough, the Fifth Republic was founded by someone who was pretty much down with that...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 09:01:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the nitpick: I am sure I saw a ne ... point somewhere...

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 10:20:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that he is the ultimate "inside-the-beltway" journalist insider, a big fan of moderation, compromise and centrism.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 10:53:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that the left should go into the presidential battle with Hollande as principal candidate would already be an admission of defeat, and even (this is my personal view), the end of the French left as it has been organized for several decades.
Please expand on this personal view.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:16:38 AM EST
Essentially I think it would weaken the PS (and plunge it into defeat) to the point where complete redefinition would become necessary. That might be accompanied by split-offs and a more or less prolonged period of a weak and divided left. Until endlessly being in opposition got enough people riled up to make unity possible again.

(The reference to several decades is pretty much to François Mitterand's rebuilding of the non-Communist, non-hard left).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:50:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For some time some critics were saying that all the media attention on Royal was a bluff and that Jospin would come back at the last minute, but I think everyone has been a bit surprised at Royal's capacity to please a wide audience.
by Alex in Toulouse on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:20:17 AM EST
Also (though perhaps less) by Jospin's incapacity to renew his game.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:39:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I also think that as time moves forward and election day approaches, people on the Left are beginning to realize that they need to be pragmatic. Ideology, optimism, expectations => all have to go out the window.

When confronted with the prospect of a populist conservative ultra-liberal security freak having severe chances of winning (for being very popular), a man who will wreck France, you know that taking whatever socialist elephant out of the closet, dusting his headmaster clothes (including the sweater with leather patches under the elbows), and presenting him as France's future, is just not going to work.

You need someone who appears fresh, and more centrist & conservative than the average leftie, because you know that come what may nearly all lefties will give their votes to the Left in the 2nd round ... but that this still won't be enough to make you win in a country that's regularly shown as being 55% right vs 45% left. You know that what you need is to seduce the centrists, and why not also some women on the right, in order to tip the Le Pen & Sarko confrontation in your favour, in the 2nd round.

So you present Royal, and it's a smart move. You get the media's help, and there you are: you have someone Sarko can have nightmares about.

by Alex in Toulouse on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:54:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And these UMP years have been very hard and sad for a lot of us, so we have to focus. (not "we" literally, I mean the "lefties turning pragmatic").
by Alex in Toulouse on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:56:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Couldn't agree more.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 08:05:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Jospin Attitude - hard work, policy, realism, straight speaking, no kow-towing to media and communications plans - isn't an idiosyncracy, it's widespread on the left (and I personally have great sympathy for it, except it doesn't work).
This is worthy of a diary all by itself.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:31:39 AM EST
Yes. There's definitely a contrast in this election run-up, between the Jospin Attitude and the Royal Style, that is of much broader interest for politics and more, in a media- and perception-driven world.

I'll try to find time to expand on it in a diary.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:44:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it is in this sense that Royal, Schroeder and Blair represent a "new Socialism".

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 08:13:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We are all monarchists now.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins
by EricC on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 01:13:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to the Wikipedia article about her she has "conservative" attitudes about GLBT issues. Yet she said "opening up marriage to same-sex couples is needed in the name of equality, visibility and respect" and has promised to do so if her party forms the next government.

What the hell kind of definition of "conservative" do they use in France?! And what are "radicals" advocating?

I wish it weren't so difficult to immigrate to France :(

by Jett on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 02:29:59 PM EST
She was, let's say, equivocal about this. She's from a traditional background, yet she lives in a very public unmarried union which has produced four children. At the same time, she was fairly conservative in her positions on GBLT questions (in favour of civil unions as they are practised in France, called PACS, but against same-sex marriage). It was pointed out to her that this didn't line up, and (no doubt with her advisors) she decided to change tack, and came out with new language, that you quote.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 03:47:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, and what passes for conservatism here in France will surely surprise you, Jett. But many "conservatives" in Western Europe would be labeled leftists in the US...

As for immigrating to France, there are plenty of Americans living here, in Grenoble, so it can't be that difficult :-)

by Bernard on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 04:36:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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