Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 09:34:58 AM EST
When former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich isn't busy comparing himself to Charles de Gaulle, he also doles out campaign advice based on the "French example":
There's a French lesson for Republicans in the election of Sarkozy who called for a clean break from Chirac although he was in the Chirac administration and he ran as the candidate of change. I think Republicans ought to pick five or six big items, I would start with English as the official language of government for example, and draw the line sharply with the candidates of the left.
For some ungodly reason American conservatives have fallen madly in love with Sarkozy (see this endorsement
from Redstate.com for example), but I'm not sure there's really a lesson to be learnt here for the Republicans.
Rescued from the diaries ~ whataboutbob
For one thing, the relationship Chirac - Sarkozy was a bit more complex than Sarkozy just being "in the Chirac administration" (it's rather well established that the two weren't exactly the best of friends, for example). It may be true to some extent that Sarkozy managed to portray himself as the "change" candidate, but who of the Republican candidates would be in a position to do the same? All of the frontrunners have attached themselves by the hip to George W Bush, knowing that they otherwise won't have much of a chance making it out of the primaries. Meanwhile, the one Republican candidate who does advocate an agenda much different than that of the Bush administration, the libertarian Ron Paul, is barely registering in the polls (if still having a significant cult following), and was nearly shut out of the debates for having the audacity to suggest that US foreign policy could possibly have negative consequences for the US.
Furthermore, it will be rather hard for whoever makes it out of the Republican primaries to call for a clean break from Bush after having spent the previous couple of months arguing the exact opposite.
Gingrich's suggestion is to pick a couple of issues so as to distract the general public from the Republican screw-ups of the past eight years. I don't think that will work either. That's straight out of the Karl Rove playbook, and it failed utterly in 2006. The immigration issue is proving to be a bit of a disaster for the Republicans, with the fast-growing Hispanic minority becoming increasingly Democratic. As an aside, "English as a national language" sounds like code for "no hablo español", which is bound to thrill the fastest growing minority in the US. A "Southern strategy" for a new generation, but as evidenced in 2006, one that isn't working particularly well. Particularly not with Iraq expected to still be a major issue in 2008.
Sarkozy certainly flirted with the French extreme right and ultimately absorbed much of the extreme right vote, but that won't work if all that is left your party is the extreme right.
Besides, the UMP brand in France hasn't been so completely torn to shreds as the Republican brand in the US (as evidenced by the recent electoral success of the UMP).
Additionally, Sarkozy won largely by appealing to older voters. In fact, if we are to believe an exit poll from TNS-Sofres, the only age group Sarkozy won a majority of was the 50+ group, and a sizeable majority at that: 52% to 37% for Royal. I don't see how the party wanting to reform Social Security and principally responsible for creating 3,600 dead and 26,500 wounded grandkids would pull that off.
Which isn't to say that a Republican, with a little assistance from the media, can't win in 2008 (I, for one, was absolutely positive that Kerry would win in 2004. Then again, I was also absolutely positive Ségolène Royal would win in 2007...). But my point is that the circumstances under which Nicolas Sarkozy ran - and won - in France are decidedly different from the circumstances the Republican candidates are facing in the United States.