Macron's new move: the Yellow Jackets movement's sequel
What do you do when 73% of your people are in favor of a movement that is aggressively against you ?
French president Emmanuel Macron has known a huge downfall in terms of popularity: going from someone who inspired hope, renewal and revival, he now embodies in his electors' eyes what the French people hate the most: arrogance.
As said in my previous post, my articles are not here to impose an opinion on a political decision, specially when you realize that it's very difficult to call most political decisions either 'good' or 'bad', it's more than often a matter of point of view. That's why this website's name is OUR OPINION and not MY OPINION.
Therefore I'll let most other newspapers judge Macron's next policies and would like to analyze another of Macron's move. In this article, we will dig deeper and look at Macron's reaction to the movement, how does a political crisis affect a president and how can he face what seems irremediable ?
Let's first explain what lead Macron to embody what most French people hate.
Macron's initial shift that lead to his current reputation.
The summer after Macron was elected, there was a genuine sense of hope that things would finally change in France. Rather than just shifting from republicans to democrats, Macron was promising the French people a more dynamic change that would bring the population together. As the country was still struggling since the last major financial crisis (France still has not managed to surpass an economic crisis that happened more than a decade ago, keep that in mind), a handsome 39 year old president seemed like the right solution. He talked directly to the people, seemed brillant in front of his adversary, Marine Lepen, and gave a new image of France and Europe internationally.
However, good talk and a nice face were not going to change the situation, and Macron's shift to a new kind of president just made it worst.
While Macron initially gave speeches that were closer to a pitch an entrepreneur would give to investors than anything else, he suddenly became distant. Calling some of the French people 'lazy', he tried a new role that was not going to fit him well.
Macron's words first shifted to what seemed like prose, meant to be in the textbooks of students in a few years. The young entrepreneur was officially gone. And the association of him to a king on a throne by the French people began.
This association started with some quite philosophical comments he made. We cannot deny that Macron has a lot of culture, and he likes to show it. Take this for example:
If we do not think the framework of technological changes, Schumpeter will very quickly become Darwin
Pacta sunt servanda
And other words that randomly pop up in his speeches such as irenicism, palimpsest,
While some presidents could benefit from being inspired by Macron's fancy way of speaking (see Donald Trump's tweets), it led to a sense of distance with most of the French population, which had elected him for his closeness to the people.
But this was aggravated when he began to use some 'punchlines', which the French clearly were not accustomed to.
I will concede nothing, neither to the lazy nor to the cynical.
A trainstation is a place where we meet successful people and those who are nothing.
I cross the street, I find you work.
Or when he compared the French people to 'Gauls strongly resistant to change'.
Macron's comments deeply affected a proportion of the population: the poorer, usually forgotten ones, who hoped to finally be listened by a president. Add to this the fact that France has, by definition, a very reactive population with a strong attachement to revolutions historically, Macron lost everyone, and his popularity dropped.
Macron soon realized that his strategy had failed. He therefore undertook a massive shift and is currently doing what no other president has ever done during his presidency: meeting and exchanging with citizens.
Wether you believe Macron took the right decision or not, it cannot be denied that his sudden shift was bold. He popped the bubble that was protecting him, and thus rather than meeting solely with other high officials he directly went to what was the closest to the people: mayors.
I know this doesn't seem very exciting at first sight. But to decide to meet all the mayors of France (at least 35 thousand) to debate on all current issues has never been seen before. Packed in rooms where hundreds of them each express their discontent one at a time, Macron answered every one after the other, taking notes, with the debates during more than 7 hours in a row. Not only did he know each case with a strange amount of precision, he continuously left standing ovations.
In each town of France a debate has been organized for the citizens. Just two days ago, Macron unexpectedly stumbled in one of them in a small rural town to answer all questions, showing that he is dedicated to regain this part of the population's trust. Yesterday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe did just the same.
Macron came back to how he was during the elections, and the truth is, the French prefer the candidate version of him that the president one. He listens, takes notes, and answers with respect.
I am not saying that his answers always were the right ones, or that his current actions excuse how he has acted previously, you can make up your mind for that. However, such a sudden and unexpected move puts forward his tenacity, strength, and willingness to not let go.
Now a frequent question is: would have he done this had the Yellow Jackets movement not happened. It is quite certain that he would not have, but the sole fact of recognizing the need for change and even excusing himself publicly for his distant attitude is a bold and honorable move.
If you have read my previous article, you understand why the Yellow Jackets movement would happened whether Macron had been elected or not in the first place. An interesting question is, had another president been elected, would have he been capable to take the risky move Macron did ?