Monday, April 24, 2017

On a New Era Dawning in the E.U. State of France

With Emmanuel Macron finishing first on the first-round of voting for the head of state in the E.U. state of France, the media declared a new era in the state politics was already a foregone conclusion. Yet the support of the political elites at both the state and federal level could be read as tempering any such landmark announcement.
With 97 percent of the vote counted, Emmanuel Macron had 23.9 percent, Marine Le Pen followed closely with 21.5 percent, “the mainstream right candidate Francois Fillon had nearly 20 percent, and the far-left candidate Jean-Juc Melenchon had 19.6 percent.”[1] The Socialist Party’s candidate came in with only 6 percent. With just 4.3 percent between Macron and Melenchon, it can hardly be said the traditional parties, except for the disappointingly ruling Socialists, succumbed to “a new era” in the state’s politics.[2] Indeed, even “before the official tallies were announced, the political establishment was rallying behind” Macron, suggesting that the political elite would have considerable pull with the independent. “There is a sigh of relief, said Jan Techau of the Holbrooke forum at the American Academy in Berlin.[3] To be sure, the E.U.’s political elite was pleased that a federalist would be in the running against the anti-federalist, secessionist Le Pen in the state’s runoff for governor on May 7, 2017. Even so, that the state and federal political elites were rallying for the “independent” candidate” could be taken as a powerful indication that news of a “new era” in the state’s was being vastly overblown by the media—whose sensationalist bias needs no explanation.
The similarity to Ross Perot, a politically independent Texan businessman who received 18.9 percent of the popular vote, had he won the U.S. presidency in 1992 is simply bad comparative politics. Besides there being no run-off beyond intra-party primaries and caucuses, no “dangerous” alternative on the far-right had a credible chance. Additionally, an electoral structure taking account of the semi-sovereign republics in the Union does not apply to a state-level system in another such union. Specifically, the Electoral College, whose electors are by state and whose allocation of electors reflects the point that each republic, no matter how small, should have a significant role, as per the fact that each state has enumerated and residual sovereignty, in the selection of the federal executive. None of this applies to a state-office race in the E.U.
Eliminating the implied category mistake in likening a state-race in the E.U. to a federal race in the U.S., Emmanuel Macron is actually closer to Jesse Ventura, who was elected head of state and chief executive of Minnesota in 1998. Although he ran affiliated with the Reform Party that Perot had founded, the independent shed that party shortly into his term. The two traditional parties in Minnesota did not cheer on his campaign, so he was not beholden to them. The case of Macron in France is more nuanced. Hence, from this comparison we may conclude that the preachment of a new era in one of the E.U.’s big states to be hyperbolic rather than substantive.

[1] Alissa J. Rubin, “Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen Advance in French Election,” The New York Times, April 23, 2017.
[2] NPR news reported on the election night that the traditional parties’ demise in the first-round election signaled a new era in French politics.
[3] Steven Erlanger and Alison Smale, “After French Vote, Mainstream Europe Breathes a Sigh of Relief,” The New York Times, April 24, 2017.