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Sarkozy and the 2008 US Elections

by NordicStorm 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.

What's with Newt and his constantly referring to France anyway? I'm beginning to think he's a bit of a Francophile...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat Jul 28th, 2007 at 07:40:02 AM EST
Soon we will hear the truth: Newt has an ancestor called Villenouvelle la Grinche.

And, at home, he has a secret store of very stinky cheese...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jul 28th, 2007 at 08:59:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not really. I'd rather say he's a Sarkophile, seeing him as a George Bush who succeeded (so far and on a much smaller scale) and possibly a new de Gaulle.

As for the '08 election themes, he sure has the knack for picking a real winner: English-only government, yeah that should do it... No wonder he's been sidelined for the past ten years (How did that government shutdown and Clinton impeachment worked out for you Newt?).

To be fair, the Republican train wreck is so FUBAR that it's understandable he believes now is a good time for his second coming.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Jul 28th, 2007 at 08:59:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can certainly see why the authoritarian mindset and unitary executive theorist types would like the very powerful French presidency...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat Jul 28th, 2007 at 10:13:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right, it's a strange comparison. I don't see which Repug possible could "do a Sarkozy".

Chirac was stupid with Sarko. He should have offered him the PM's job in 2002, take it or leave it. If Sarko had backed off (Prime Minister is a great preparation for losing in France, ask Lionel Jospin or Dominique de Villepin), Chirac could have sent him out into the wilderness, and Sarko would have looked wimpish. Then he would have had a job becoming head of the UMP (a major condition for winning in 2007). Instead, he let him play a double game as N° 2 in the government while posing as a rebel, which still allows him to get away with not being accountable for the last five years in government. Meanwhile, Chirac did very dumb things to counter Sarko, like the Clearstream smear campaign that backfired on him (and on Villepin, oh dear...) One might almost conclude that Chirac played it so badly he made Sarko president. Er, so Newt's saying Bush is as useless as Chirac??

Newt's "logic" could also be taken to mean that Chirac was (of course) a dangerous socialist disguised as a rightie, while Sarko is the Real Right™.

Now, let's see: America needs a Real Right™ candidate because Bush and Cheney...

Oh well, that's neat.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jul 28th, 2007 at 09:20:11 AM EST
I've never understood why Chirac did not make Sarkozy his PM. Probably that he did not relish another "cohabitation" of sorts and took the eas(ier) out.

Yet another bit of his legacy of failure - the only rightwing guy he failed to "kill" is the most dangerous.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jul 28th, 2007 at 11:53:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The corporate media and their lackeys are already trying to depict Bush as a liberal. This is from Richard Cohen's 'opinion' piece in the Washington Post from May:

Years ago, someone coined the term "neoliberal." I was never sure what it meant, and it has since fallen into disuse, but whatever the case, I'd like to revive (and mangle) the term and apply it -- brace yourself -- to George W. Bush. He's more liberal than you might think.

You recoil, I know. After all, the conventional wisdom is that Bush is the most conservative of all presidents, an advocate of limited government, minimal taxes and, when it comes to the quintessentially liberal concern with civil liberties, the man who gave us the twin black eyes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. It's an appalling record.

But consider this: An overriding principle of conservatism is to limit the role and influence of the federal government. Nowhere is this truer than in education. For instance, there was a time when no group of Republicans could convene without passing a resolution calling for the abolition of the Education Department and turning the building -- I am extrapolating here -- into a museum of creationism.

This is the typical American conservative strategy. It basically can be explained as such: 'conservatism cannot fail, only you can fail conservatism'. If you fail True Conservatism™, then you are a liberal. Q.E.D.

Another classic example of this can be seen on the Powerline blog, stenographers of the Rovian Republican talking points, which wrote:

Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay apparently has announced that he will not seek re-election in the fall. No indication, yet, of his reasons.

It's too bad, I think. DeLay was an effective leader, albeit too liberal in recent years.

So yes, conservatives such as Gingrich will try to explain away George W. Bush and his conservative Republican policies as 'liberal' and state that is why they failed. It is an old tactic. The question is... has the American voters caught on yet?

by Magnifico on Sat Jul 28th, 2007 at 12:37:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And Cohen is the alleged liberal at the WP, no less!
Besides, it seems they're all good "small government" conservatives...until they win an election (that includes  Mr 43).

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat Jul 28th, 2007 at 01:20:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i would not write the republicans off just yet. they're begged, borrowed, bluffed and stolen themselves into more than a few elections of late, and newt was actually quite clever at repackaging perot's core issues to sell a republican congress to voters in 94, aided by dems disillusioned over NAFTA.

i would be ecstatic to see them go the way of the whigs, but i fear that they'll prove resiliant as long as the democrats refrain from going after them hard.

by wu ming on Sun Jul 29th, 2007 at 04:35:30 AM EST
Oh, I don't think they're going away anytime soon, but their prospects for 2008 are less than good, I would say. In fact, a bit of soul searching after another embarrassing defeat would do them a world of good...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sun Jul 29th, 2007 at 06:15:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I notice that some interesting and informative diaries can slip by us that were posted on the weekend...and I'm rescuing this one.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 09:36:28 AM EST
I completely agree NordicStorm with your central premise -- that the analogy falters because no republican candidate can take over the republican party apparatus and platform as thoroughly as Sarkozy did before the campaign had started. As a result of Sarkozy's internal coup (which, by the way, is why it would not have mattered if Chirac had offered Sarkozy the PM'ship in 2004; Sarkozy could have walked away and still controlled the UMP), he was able to put together a campaign structure, platform and rhetoric directed against the incumbent government without alienating the electoral constituency of that same government.

No one on the GOP side can hope to do the same, because the primary elections in the US are coequal with and do not follow after the internal fight for control of the party apparatus, platform and campaign rhetoric.

What I think attracts Gingrich and other republicans to the analogy is the most superficial comparison -- they expect to run against Hillary Clinton and believe that there is some analogy between how Sarkozy beat Royal and how they can beat Clinton. Indeed, I'm not even sure Gingrich or anyone else believes that Sarkozy offers much of a model for them; they simply want to imply an analogy of Royal:Clinton::Sarkozy:?.

All that said, I would not count out the Republicans at all, for the simple reason that the American electorate is much less well informed about and much less interested in the 2008 election so we're by no means assured that the campaign dynamic will continue that of 2006 -- and because the ridiculous system of entirely uncontrolled and unmonitored campaign fundraising and spending means that in the end, the Republicans may be able to erase the current Democratic advantages by simplying outshouting us.

by desmoulins (gsb6@lycos.com) on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 11:49:49 PM EST

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