Sunday, June 11, 2017

Can Macron's En Marche! Change the Channel from Corbyn's Labour

There has been some mainstream media confusion about messaging in the wake of Labour's surprisingly virile showing on Thursday. The "Corbyn Confounds Critics" highlight is rapidly being rubbed out in favor of "The Tories Fucked It All Up Again."

A few other talking points are emerging: 1) "May Still Won," the flip-side of which is "Corbyn Can't Govern"; 2) Labour's pick-up of 29 seats is being interpreted as a win for "Soft Brexit" over "Hard Brexit," to the exclusion of what it really was -- a crystal clear signal that voters want a return to social democracy -- more money for the National Health Service, free university tuition, higher taxes on corporations and the rich, and a less bellicose foreign policy.

Of course this kind of social democracy is exactly what the neoliberal center exits to deny, and that is why Labour's performance is going to be downplayed and derided. The messaging might not be as consistent as, say, "We Must Bomb Syria." But don't doubt that a consistent, relentless anti-Corbyn/anti-Labour set of talking points effectively dismissing Thursday's results as a one-off, a fart in a gale, is forthcoming.

Another talking point that bubbled up immediately after Thursday was the refulgent expression of a recent Francophilia in the U.S. prestige press. Brett Stephens' absurd Saturday column, "The Year of Voting Recklessly," is a good example:
The news isn’t all bad. Corbyn still fell 64 seats short of a parliamentary majority. Trump’s approval ratings are at 39 percent. Regrets? The Brexiters have a few. And Emmanuel Macron may yet provide evidence that, at least in France, there is gravity, energy, excitement and even sexiness at the political center. 
The West hasn’t walked over the ledge, yet. We’re only dancing at the cliff’s edge.
It appears that the neoliberals are placing all their eggs in the recently woven En Marche! basket. I don't think it's going to end well for them. French polls close in a couple of hours, and, as Alissa Rubin reports, turnout is already running far below recent legislative elections:
On Sunday, the French began voting in the first of two rounds for representatives to the National Assembly, the powerful lower house of the French Parliament and, in essence, decide whether to back the man, his cabinet and his plan.
The participation rate at 5 p.m. local time, nearly 41 percent, was considerably lower than the turnout at the same time in the first round in 2012, when it was 48.3 percent, according to the Interior Ministry. It was even higher in 2007: 49.3 percent.
Who does this benefit? The media has been heralding an-all-but-certain majority for the neophyte En Marche! Macron has selected novices to run. If victorious, they will be tasked with implementing cuts to pensions and worker rights -- the austerity agenda.

I have some experience with idealistic newcomers to politics. That's who the Green Party attracted back in the Nader days. Most didn't last very long because they had no stomach for conflict. That's what politics primarily is -- both internally and externally -- managing conflict. And the basic way that conflict is managed is through reciprocity, a.k.a., the grubby art of quid pro quo. Idealistic newcomers are usually shocked that this is what politics boils down to.

My sense is that is why the Five Star Movement didn't parlay its excellent showing in 2013 Italian general election into a broader, more effective base of power. M5S ran novices.

So regardless of whether the polls are correct and En Marche! sweeps the first round, assuring a strong majority in the National Assembly, legislating more draconian neoliberal austerity is going to be easier said than done.

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