Sunday, May 7, 2017

Macron's Likely Election Evidence That Neoliberalism is on Its Last Legs

Voting in France is underway today to select a president. It is hard for me to see any other outcome than the election of the Emmanuel Macron. Based on the polls and the reporting I've read, Marine Le Pen's only hope is if turnout falls below 60%. But early indications are that turnout should be in the neighborhood of 75%. According to a dispatch this morning by Aurelien Burdeen, "What to Watch For as France Goes to the Polls to Elect a New President":
Why Is Turnout Important?
In the first round of the elections, which featured 11 candidates, the abstention rate was lower than expected, and turnout has historically been higher in the second round. But now many in France are being asked to choose between two candidates they did not support. The latest polls show that about a quarter of France’s more than 47 million voters are thinking of abstaining.
The turnout at noon in metropolitan France was roughly the same as the participation rate, 28.54 percent, at the same time in the first round of the elections on April 23.
But it was lower than in recent presidential elections. In 2007, that rate stood at 34.11 percent, and in 2012, it was 30.66 percent. The exception was 2002, when the participation rate at midday was 26.19 percent.
Most polls close at 7 p.m. on Sunday, except in larger cities like Paris, Marseille or Bordeaux, where the polls close at 8.
Low turnout and a high number of blank ballots (a form of protest vote) are likely to benefit Ms. Le Pen, whose voter base is shown by polls to be more committed than Mr. Macron’s.
Many on the left or right will vote for Mr. Macron in the runoff, if only to bar Ms. Le Pen from reaching the presidency — a French political tradition known as the “Republican Front,” in which mainstream parties ally against the far right.
But there have been signs of cracks in that front. On the right, conservatives who backed former Prime Minister François Fillon in the first round view Mr. Macron as too socially liberal and as an heir to François Hollande, France’s Socialist president, whose popularity has plummeted since his election.
More significantly, voters who supported the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round have struggled with the idea of supporting Mr. Macron and his pro-business policies.
Despite the favorable odds for Macron the mainstream media has been surprisingly reticent to indulge in any premature touchdown dances. The Fourth Estate was burned badly by last November's Trumpocalypse. But Macron is no Hillary, a politician tarred by decades of infamy riding the coattails of a false idol. It is Marine Le Pen who carries Hillary-like baggage. The French have never favored the National Front, and the fossilized National Front patriarch, Jean-Marie Le Pen, reminds them why every time he turns up on television.

What stands out about Macron's candidacy is the lengths to which the neoliberal center has had to go to re-brand itself. A new party, En Marche!, was Jiffy Popped into existence around a thirtysomething elite member of the French deep state because the Socialist Party had collapsed after Hollande, who had campaigned for the presidency as a true tax-the-rich socialist, did an about-face once in office and embraced hugely unpopular neoliberal "competitiveness" reforms championed by Macron himself.

Are the French this stupid?

Apparently. That's what all the neo-McCarthyite Russophobia hack attack scare stories are about -- keeping voters swimming in the fetid mainstream of neoliberalism. These stories are pretty much cut-and-paste jobs. The reporter dutifully disclaims any proof and then quotes someone from a private cybersecurity firm (that probably contracts with some branch of the government) who blames Russia and mentions "Fancy Bear." Burdeen's story this morning is no exception:
What We Know About the Hack
The troves of data related to Mr. Macron’s movement, En Marche!, were leaked on the internet Friday night, hours before a legal prohibition on campaign communications went into effect.
Links to nine gigabytes of zip and torrent files were posted under the profile of someone called EMLEAKS on Pastebin, an anonymous publishing website. The archive was shared on the popular forum 4chan and promoted on Twitter by far-right activists, before WikiLeaks gave it extensive exposure online.
So far, the leak appears to mostly include documents that show the mundane inner workings of a presidential campaign, including professional and private emails, memos, contracts and accounting documents.
Mr. Macron’s campaign said in a statement shortly before the blackout went into effect that the professional and personal email accounts of some of its staff members had been hacked “some weeks ago.”
It said that all of the stolen documents were “legal” and “authentic” but that fake ones had been added to “sow doubt and disinformation.” It denounced the hack as an attempt to destabilize democracy.
The National Commission for Control of the Electoral Campaign, a French regulatory body, warned on Saturday that publishing the documents might qualify as a crime. It called on the news media and French citizens to “show a spirit of responsibility” ahead of the election.
En Marche! has been the target of hackers since last year. Last month, Trend Micro, a cybersecurity firm, said that a hacking group believed to be a Russian intelligence unit had attacked Mr. Macron’s campaign, sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords.
What We Don’t Know About the Hack
• What is genuine and what isn’t. It will presumably take experts weeks to sift through and assess all the leaked documents.
• Whether different individuals or groups were behind the thefts and the leaks, who they are and what their motives were.
Experts suspect a Russian-linked espionage operation known as A.P.T. 28, or Fancy Bear, may be involved, although there is no firm evidence that the operation was behind the thefts. European and American analysts have determined that the group was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee last year.
• Whether the leaks, emerging less than 48 hours before the French go to the polls, will affect the outcome. Because of a blackout legally imposed on TV and radio, news of the leaks is not likely to reach as large an audience as it would usually have. Mr. Macron has a roughly 20-point lead on his opponent in the polls.
Yesterday, thinking about the French vote today, as well as the state of politics in the U.S., I felt hopeful. Not because the winners, whether Macron or Le Pen, are going to bring us peace and plenty, but because the neoliberal center is truly bankrupt, and the effort that goes into bamboozling the voting public, whether its Star Wars socks or a new centrist political party, will soon run its course. Macron will have difficulty governing. The public distaste for the neoliberalism will not suddenly vanish.

Then will be the moment for meaningful change. We're not there yet, but we're getting closer. The problem is there is very little indication right now that the elite who direct the deep state believe that they necessarily have to yield anything.

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