…take a look at France’s:
In France, [pollsters] failed to see that former prime minister François Fillon would win the race to become the conservative party’s candidate in April’s presidential election. A social conservative with liberal economic views, Fillon scrambles our notions of Left and Right…
…Fillon tells the French that he wants “to give the country its liberty back.” He promises to cut a half-million public-sector jobs, end the 35-hour work week, and reduce France’s corpulent 3,000 pages of labor regulations to a svelte 150. This would be a revolution, of sorts…
In April 2017, Fillon, an Anglophile and practicing Catholic, could conceivably confront Marine Le Pen, the anti-Islamist leader of the National Front, in the second and conclusive round of the French presidential election. If so, the pundits will find that their old mental maps have been rendered useless in a conflict between two “conservative” candidates. That’s because the working-class vote, once claimed by the Left, has been abandoned by the French Socialists…
So according to Fred Siegel (author of that City Journal article), we have two candidates on the right—or sort-of on-the-right—fighting over what we now can call the Trump voter. Or perhaps the Trump électeur.
I fail to see what’s “liberal” about the economic views of Fillon as described there (after all, these are public sector jobs he’s cutting), although this piece in Politico also calls him economically liberal, and offers an attempt at explanation:
[Fillon] won more than 60 percent of the vote against a more moderate candidate by focusing on social values, winning the support of Catholic groups and projecting exactly who he is: an economic liberal and social conservative who, at the end of the day, is indisputably right-wing…
Hours after Fillon’s victory Sunday, Philippot went on television to assail Fillon as a cold-hearted agent of capitalism, saying his plans to lay off 500,000 civil sector workers would “bleed” France. His calls for reform of labor rules were further “austerity” directed from Brussels and embrace of the EU was proof of his “savage globalism,” Philippot said.
“The candidate of uncontrolled globalization has a name: François Fillon,” Philippot told BFMTV. “His program is rather medieval in nature: he wants to bleed France to make it better, even though we know this doesn’t work very well.”
But Fillon’s camp argue they can siphon off Le Pen’s working-class votes. They point to exceptionally strong performances in some economically depressed areas where the National Front usually does well as proof that Le Pen does not have a lock on “Trump-like” voters.
Back to Siegel:
Fillon’s Thatcherite economic policy will no doubt push France’s vast array of public-sector trade unionists—and what remains of the industrial working-class voters—into the arms of Marine Le Pen, who could merge as the de facto left-wing candidate (if such terms still have any meaning). The many millions who either work for government or are the recipient of corporatist benefits might quietly support Le Pen’s nationalism rather than risk losing their privileges.
Whoever is the victor, the ill-begotten European Union will have been handed yet another shock…
So, which is it? First Siegel says Fillon is economically liberal, and now we hear from Siegel that he’s got a “Thatcherite economic policy.” And although Politico says that Fillon is in line with the EU, Siegel says that neither candidate is.
Clear as mud, I’d say. I know that words like “liberal” mean something different in France from what they mean here, but how could a “Thatcherite” economic policy also be called “liberal”?
And since we already don’t especially trust polls at this point, I suppose we should take this with a huge grain of salt:
France’s Francois Fillon will convincingly beat National Front leader Marine Le Pen in a presidential election runoff next May, taking 66 percent of the vote, a new opinion poll showed on Wednesday.
The Elabe poll showed free-marketeer conservative Fillon, who secured his Les Republicains party nomination on Sunday, remains firmly in first position among several declared or potential candidates, including Le Pen and socialist incumbent Francois Hollande.
Both Fillon and Le Pen, head of the anti-immigrant, anti-EU, National Front, are expected to make it to a head-to-head runoff on May 7 after a first round of voting in April which will winnow out the field.
In that runoff, Fillon would likely secure 66 percent of the votes versus 34 percent for Le Pen, according to the poll, which was conducted by Internet on Sept. 28 and 29 and involved a representative sample of 941 voters.
I say it’s a long way from now to May. But it does seem as though, if we’re talking about the Trump électeur, Fillon is the more obvious choice. Both candidates are tough on immigration, by the way.
And just to make it more confusing, here’s another take:
Forget the headlines about François Fillon being a Thatcherite revolutionary or someone who will transform France into a shining neoliberal model nation. He is middle of the road, provincial middle class and if the French had a term like middle England, he would be viewed as “middle France”…
There is no doubt that he can beat Marine Le Pen – and Europe will heave a sigh of relief.
She has tried to present herself as the Brexit-Trump candidate in France, but if there is one thing that does not work in French politics, it is to make an offer based on what the Americans and English do. Marine Le Pen’s endorsement by Nigel Farage is a viper’s embrace and France and Fillon will hug Germany ever closer and back more, not less, into Europe.
Well, I’ll tell you one thing I’m not going to be doing at this point: making a prediction right now based on my utter confusion about who Fillon is. Anyone who has a finger on the pulse of France can jump in here and offer one, though.