Against the backdrop of growing challenges and ugly political faces, Emmanuel Macron’s potential election as President of France is a beacon of hope for his country and beyond.
France is supposedly one of the pillars of Western democracy and the European Union (which is the best thing that has happened to Europe since the Reformation), and yet, in the past 10-15 years it has been largely absent from that role.
Too self-involved and tangled in its domestic issues, or even weaknesses, France has largely been failing to project the kind of leadership that would have helped rectify any excesses or failures of the EU (good as it is in both principle and practice, it is nonetheless a work in progress).
The duet of France and Germany, which used to justify the name “Franco-Germany”, and is the key to the EU, and therefore a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Europe, has had too little France and too much Germany in the recent years.
That was true under French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in spite of all his posturing, and supposed merging with German Chancellor Angela Merkel into the political being known as Merkozy.
That has also been true under the largely invisible French President Francois Hollande who got elected largely because of Sarkozy’s posturing.
For a number of reasons, including this backsliding in French leadership in itself and in its duo with Germany, the realities of the 21st century economy, some bureaucratic excesses in the EU which are bound to emerge in any organization unless it’s reformed constantly, and what is for the most part a failure of the so called “multiculturalism” in Western Europe, a growing number of French people have become disillusioned with both the current state of France, and, by extrapolation, with the EU.
In the winter of 2016-2017, it seemed like the new French presidential elections would bring either more of the same (Fillon, in spite of his plan to slash public sector, or Hamon), or a radical, destructive course (far-right Le Pen or far-left Melenchon) which would endanger not just France but also all of Europe.
Against this backdrop, the candidacy for the French Presidency by Emmanuel Macron, the centrist liberal, former investment banker, and former Economy Minister in France’s Socialist government, is a new and real hope for both France and Europe.
Largely untainted by old school French party politics, and with an in-depth understanding of the globalized economy and the European Union, Macron has been the only presidential candidate in France with the promise to fix the issues of what is already in place and has been proven to work, while building upon it, rather than bringing it down.
Leaving France’s Comfort Zone
In January 2017, while still trailing both Fillon (before his campaign was derailed by the revelations of “Penelopegate”, i.e. the sweet government funded fake job he had bestowed upon his wife) and far-right Le Pen in the polls, Macron made headlines by speaking English (apparently a rarity for French politicians) in a speech on Franco-German relations at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
This simple but symbolic act epitomized both Macron’s understanding of present-day Europe and the present-day world, and his potential for change by leaving France’s comfort zone, which has often been getting it nowhere domestically as well as internationally and EU-wise.
A quote summarizing Macron’s main message from that notable public appearance in Berlin summed up the gist of the European Union’s issues:
“Never leave the floor to those who doubt. A lot of leaders stopped believing in Europe. They left the floor to those who want to kill Europe. Your role is to criticize Europe but to defend it no matter what.”
A headline in “Foreign Policy” after Macron’s speech in Berlin also caught the importance of the moment by calling the 39-year-old wannabe French President by calling him “the English-speaking, German-loving French politician Europe has been waiting for.”
Of course, back then Macron was still lagging behind in the polls, and his chances to become the next President of France seem slim, so many dismissed him as a mere curiosity.
As Fillon’s presidential campaign all but imploded, and he and his wife ended up under criminal investigations, Macron managed to reach wider audiences with his main messages, and more and more people awoke to the ugliness of the alternatives.
Tackling Change at the European Union
While Macron won the first round of the French elections on April 23 with a narrow lead over far-right Marine Le Pen, and has been projected to be the favorite in the runoff on May 7, he managed to pull off all that largely from the position of the underdog.
The win in the first round has not made Macron oblivious to the fact that far-right candidate Marine Le Pen (who appears to want to destroy everything in order to be in power) and the far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon (who propagated the kind of leftist utopia that has failed so many times) received a combined total of over 40 % of the votes, not counting the votes of other radical candidates.
Taking into account this categorical evidence of the huge number of disgruntled voters in France, Macron has made two important declarations he intends to follow up on if elected President.
First, he has promised he would seek to reform the EU because the failure to do so by allowing the Union’s existing flaws to persist would at the end of the day bring the far-right (exemplified by his rival Le Pen) to power.
Second, even though Macron has declared himself a fan of Merkel’s economic policy, he has told Germany that it should “rebalance” its trade, arguing that amassing a huge trade surplus is good neither for the German economy, nor for the Eurozone.
The German policies of trade surpluses, strict fiscal discipline, and unwillingness to accept a slightly higher inflation rate in the Eurozone have been blamed for hurting the southern EU and Eurozone members with their weaker industrial sectors, such as Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and even France, and, therefore, exacerbating the economic imbalances within the Eurozone.
If as President, Macron manages to tackle this issue without damaging the interests and self-perception of Germany, the EU’s powerhouse, he would have largely fixed one of the EU’s top three woes.
Perhaps one of Emmanuel Macron’s main weakness as a candidate, which forebodes a possible gap in his potential Presidency if gets elected, is that he does not seem to pay sufficient importance to the overt failure of “multiculturalism” in Europe.
A lot of the voters that picked the far-right, and even the far-left in the first round of the French presidential elections are not just concerned about the economy, the EU bureaucracy, and the perceived German sucking-in of intra-EU trade profits.
A growing number of Europeans of native as well as of immigrant background are increasingly aware that the “multiculturalist” society in Western Europe is an almost complete failure, and keeps becoming a bigger failure by the day, feeding growing ghettos in all major Western European cities, where encapsulation and pre-modern customs have been allowed to wipe out the post-modern European way of life based on secularism, individual rights, liberty, and rule of law.
That is not to say that an utterly compromised, seemingly clueless, and possibly truly extremist candidate such as Marine Le Pen, the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, with her National Front would do a better job at fixing this issue, to the contrary – people like her would only make it worse.
(And that’s not even mentioning that she seems like a protégé of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin’s “democratic” record aside – how can any citizen of a great power, which France still is, vote for a candidate funded and possibly dominated by a rival great power such as Russia?)
Any European politician of any importance, all the more so if they are the President of France, will have to approach honestly and tackle boldly Western Europe’s failed “multiculturalism”, unless they want to set Europe up for a really messy future.
That goes for Macron as well if he becomes the next President of France.
Macron has previously said he was a fan of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “immigration” policy, apparently dismissing the fact that in 2015 alone Merkel’s delusional policy in question, for no rational reason, resettled into Germany about 1 million able-bodied men from the Middle East who could afford to pay handsomely the international human trafficking mafia…
The constant terrorist attacks (more than 20 since 2015) in France committed by radical Islamists are only the tip of the iceberg of the failed “multiculturalism” in Europe. The underlying problems are much deeper, and fixing them will require extremely controversial and painful decisions.
Macron is yet to demonstrate if he can rise up to the challenge if he is elected President of France. Of course, the largely complacent elites in Europe are to be forced to wrap their heads around the issue and its solutions, too, so he will not be alone.
Regardless of his failure so far to focus on Europe’s abysmal multiculturalist integration, Macron is the candidate promising new and real hope for France, the European Union and Europe.
Even the fact that he has been targeted with fake news by the propaganda outlets of Russian President Putin is indicative enough of his worth for the future of European democracy. So is his decision to kick two of the Kremlin’s mouthpieces, RT and Sputnik, out of his news conferences.
Some have criticized Macron for his plan to reform the French labor market by arguing that many before him have attempted to do so, and failed. Others, for failure of coming up with any meaningful criticism have resorted to attacking his personal life (one humorist famously described his wife, 24 years his senior, as a “menopausal Barbie”).
None of that matters because Macron has been the only candidate in the 2017 French presidential elections so far who can bring about a brighter future for both France and Europe.
If he gets elected, he will need to watch out for many things, including not becoming another Obama or another Trudeau on foreign policy – and not only.
Here is to the founded optimism that he can handle it.
Any contribution is appreciated!
*Note: An earlier version of this article appeared on intelligencerpost .com.