Tuesday, 9 May 2017

A Few Things I Like about Emmanuel Macron

I woke up in the early hours of Sunday morning with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. I haven't written about the presidential election until now because, while I have lots of opinions on politics, I don't generally feel confident or comfortable sharing them on the internet. I don't think it's too controversial to say, though, that the prospect of having in charge of the country a racist, homophobic anti-semitic islamophobe with no credible policies and a desire to end dual nationality (my daughter) and get rid of migrants (me), did not fill me with great joy.

So after Macron was elected yesterday with a comfortable margin, on waking up in the early hours of this morning, I took a moment to enjoy the irony of the fact that the first word that popped into my head to describe the way I felt was apaisée. And for the past 48 hours, every so often I feel a little burst of happiness that I live in the country which managed not to elect Marine Le Pen.

What I'm somewhat surprised by, however, is how negatively many people seem to feel about Emmanuel Macron, the man who managed to stand in her way.

It's not that I like every single thing about his programme for France's future. I understand people's unease about his coorying up to the giants of the business world and potentially undermining workers' rights. Acquaintances who know more about the economy than I do (but are otherwise not particularly right wing) have said that Fillon was the stronger candidate in this area. One friend was even a bit annoyed that someone a few years younger than he is had just been elected president of France. But apart from the argument that beggars can't be choosers, here are a few of the other reasons I have for feeling positive about Macron's success:

He's intelligent. Watching him in the final debate of the campaign, I was impressed by how well he both knew his own stuff and was able to respond to Le Pen's nonsense without a single hesitation or glance at any notes.

He has initiative. Some people have described his pathway to power as an autoroute given the dearth of other electable candidates, but his movement saw opportunity and took it, which is better than sitting back and whinging about how terrible everyone else was.

He's proposing practical solutions to real problems. Education is a subject close to my heart, and Macron wants to improve the chances of those in the most deprived areas (Zones d'éducation prioritaire). To do this, he wants to stop filling those schools with the most inexperienced teachers, as tends to happen under the current system, and pay those who do work there a bonus. He plans to increase continued professional development for teachers, but also make them more accountable for making sure that their practice is up to date.

He knows that la laïcité is not about stopping Muslims from being Muslims.Which is more than you could say about 40% of the other main candidates.

He is pro-European, but has also said he understands that Europe needs reform. I'm not arguing with that.

He has promised to defend le mariage pour tous and other gay rights.

He has a presidential persona. After five years of Hollande, it's a relief to listen to someone who actually seems convinced by his own words.

He's the man who told Marine Le Pen, "Ne vous dites pas de bêtises - vous en dites beaucoup":

Perhaps it's a sorry state of affairs if I feel so pleased about Macron's victory just because he has at least a reasonable number of qualities to balance against his flaws. But for the first time in months, I'm prepared to be optimistic about this one.


  1. I think French just... aren't an enthusiastic bunch. And I say that as a French who really dislike Macron :-D I just can't help it even if your perspective is perfectly valid. I don't mind him as a person and his core values are definitely more in tune with mine than traditional right-wing politicians (or worst, Le Pen) but I see him as someone completely disconnected from a large part of France. Basically, a naive elite who kind of sound like a televangelist.

    1. I think you're right about the French not being enthusiastic - enthusiasm about politicians seems quite naive here. But I also think a lot of people were in denial about how bad a Le Pen presidency would have been, and implying that the two candidates were just as bad as each other was part of that.

      And I laughed at your televangelist comment :-)

  2. Let's keep in mind that Barack Obama, whom many French people adore, was also quite young and inexperienced and seized an opportunity! I think he hadn't even finished his first term as US senator---but I'm not sure. I think it takes a perfect storm for someone to be elected, so someone who wants to be president has to do when the chances are high. And Macron had something of a perfect storm with this election.

    I'm not sure how I really feel about him yet. Of course, relieved, like you, because Le Pen would have been a gigantic catastrophe on so many levels and a huge point of shame for France. I agree he was very impressive against Le Pen---he could hardly have done any better in that debate. I watched the movie about his campaign yesterday, and though he seems like a nice person in it, it didn't really develop any depth. So I'm waiting to see.

    1. I think lack of depth is the main weak point of Macron's movement. On the other hand, a lot of the in-depth knowledge that we have about the other parties and candidates doesn't come from their speeches and manifestos either, but from what we've learned about them over the years. (Le Pen is a case and point here). So, as you say, definitely a case of waiting to see.