Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 11:47:34 AM EST
The other day
I echoed the French media's noise about Nicolas Sarkozy's better polling in the run-up to the French presidential elections. Since then the Ségolène Royal campaign has shifted up a gear. At a Paris meeting on Tuesday evening, she went on the offensive. From Le Monde
|Elle dénonce "une droite dure, agressive", "qui dit tout et son contraire" et compare l'expression de Nicolas Sarkozy ("s'il y en a que ça gêne d'être en France, qu'ils ne se gênent pas pour quitter un pays qu'ils n'aiment pas") au mot d'ordre de la dictature brésilienne des années 70. <...> Copieusement hué, le candidat de l'UMP est tour à tour qualifié de "communautariste", de "bushiste", et accusé de défendre "les intérêts d'un tout petit monde qui ne pense qu'à lui, qu'à son pouvoir".||She denounced "a hard, aggressive right", "that says just about anything and the opposite too", and compared Nicolas Sarkozy's words ("if there are people who are bothered by being in France, they can give themselves the bother of leaving a country they don't like") with the slogan of the 1970s Brazilian dictatorship. <...> Copiously booed, the UMP candidate was called by turns "communitarist", "Bushist", and accused of defending "the interests of a tiny little world that only thinks of itself and of its power".|
There was plenty of red-hot fighting talk, and the overspill crowd was delighted. Royal was warming up the base, of course, something it was probably more than time to do. Over this week it's become clear that Sarkozy's attempt to paint himself as close to the "workers" is a feeble and inconsistent ploy (on TV yesterday, Sarko outside a factory, my translation from memory: "I have great sympathy for workers, I think they're kind of resistants [afew note: yes, as in WWII!], like peasants and craftsmen". Of course, no one in the media pointed out he was betraying both ignorance and a patronising attitude that would not have been amiss at Vichy. No one even seemed to notice that, however plausible Sarkozy might be, there comes a point where the cynical rubbish he's talking begins to sound like nothing but cynical rubbish.). Denouncing Sarkozy as a "Bushist" (more widely understood and instinctively disliked than "neo-con" or "Atlanticist") and a right-winger is both necessary and useful.
Royal also spoke of the right's campaigning methods -- smears, low blows, use of power, money, and media -- and compared it to her style of "participative democracy", or grassroots and, to some extent, netroots way of working. From Libération:
|Contre ce «conglomérat de la finance et des médias», elle s'est dépeinte en candidate qui veut «donner d'abord la parole au peuple», au point de citer les mots d'une caissière au chômage. Et qui entend «incarner le changement politique, la révolution démocratique en marche.»||Against this "conglomerate of finance and the media" she depicted herself as a candidate who wishes "to let the people speak first", enough for her to quote au unemployed check-out girl. And one who means to "embody political change, the democratic revolution on the move".|
The Royal campaign claims 4,700 "participative democracy" meetings bringing together 600,000 people have been held around France, and the number should reach 6,000 meetings by the end of next week. Major debate subjects include the cost of living, sustainable development, and education. On the website Désirs d'avenir, ongoing debates have now totalled 135,000 contributions. This page lists the debate topics, pointing up four major debates, on (briefly) education, violence, cost of living, environment. The local debate meetings, and the online debates, are and will continue to be synthesized. A mojo system (0 to 5 stars) is used to identify the most appreciated contributors, who are then asked to work on the synthesis of their preferred subjects. The syntheses are to be fed into an overall synthesis, which is to form the subject matter of Sunday's programme meeting. Whether Royal will stick strictly by that method, or discuss the synthesis as a basis for a programme, or whether the synthesis will sort of be a programme but not sound like a programme, is not yet clear -- there are all kinds of traps in a process like this carried out during the campaign. But there is no doubt that it's a courageous initiative, one that has not been carried out in French politics before, and one that has genuinely stirred up debate and activity on the candidate's site. In the year since it opened, more than 2.2 million single visitors (520,000 in January), have spent an average of 8 minutes a visit on the site.
The site also contains a page of links to pdf files noting positions taken and propositions already made by Royal -- organized by subject, the list including cities, suburbs, housing, public services, work, unemployment, security, health, retirement, the Republic, international relations, taxation, purchasing power, Europe, social "glue", culture, women, environment, democracy, defence, education and research. Doesn't that give you a sense of a politics we would like to see, at one and the same time broader and closer to "the ground"? Is it just clever political marketing? I don't think so. I think these subjects of preoccupation come out of the participative process, and not least from the netroots.
|Tonnant contre les «profits rapaces», «fainéants», «arrogants», «avides», dénonçant les «masses financières aberrantes et indociles», elle a dénié à cette «nouvelle oligarchie» toute légitimité à «prendre la tête de l'Etat républicain». <...> Hier, elle a brossé le tableau d'une France dont, à son sens, les citoyens ne veulent plus. Dimanche, à Montreuil, la candidate élargira le propos à celle que les Français, selon elle, désirent.||
||Thundering against "rapacious profits" that were "idle", "arrogant", and "greedy", denouncing "aberrant and unruly financial assets", she rejected any legitimate right of this "new oligarchy" to "take the reins of a republican State". <...> Yesterday, she painted a picture of a France that, as she sees it, the citizens no longer want. Sunday, in Montreuil, the candidate will broaden the view to what the French, according to her, wish for.|
As I said the other day, the media will pounce on this announcement and no doubt pronounce it idealistic, unrealistic... something a woman would come up with. It is really going to be worthwhile shoving it back down the media's throat and winning this election.