Macron, the gilets jaunes, roundabouts, and French politics (Charles Devellennes)

  • Macron represents a new era of French politics, for one thing the streets are reacting differently.
  • Hollande tried for normalcy but that era has passed.
  • “Macronades” are little sayings that Macron has become famous for (ex. telling an unemployed man “you only need to cross the street to find a job”).
  • Macron is very stubborn but the gilets jaunes forced his hand.
  • The gilets jaunes were the only political force to successfully get Macron to increase social welfare spending.
  • The center right and center left parties have completely collapsed. Macron has taken more upscale voters from both.
  • Macron is really despised by a lot of people. One reason is repressive police violence. He also pushes through reforms without consultation.
  • He is perceived as a right-wing president.
  • No political party has captured the gilets jaunes movement, they have intentionally evaded this in any event.
  • There was a gilets jaunes party in the 2019 european elections but it completely flopped.
  • In the first round of presidential voting younger voters went for Mélenchon, the middle aged favoured Le Pen and Macron won the old.
  • Macron’s base has changed, the wealthy and retired have flocked to him over time. He passed a tax break for the richest.
  • Le Pen has support in rural and peri-urban areas, places outside of big metros where you need a car to get to work (the gilets jaunes protest was sparked by a carbon tax policy).
  • There is a diagonal of these communities that crosses France (low pop. density).
  • Le Pen is first for working class voters. That said, the working class tends to abstain from voting.
  • Many working class non-voters are those who have distanced from the left but haven’t been taken in by Le Pen.
  • The France of roundabouts, edges of cities, big box supermarkets etc. is the key locus of gilet jaunes type French. They tend to live in still further outlying areas and are small property owners.
  • French villages have lost needed amenities like little shops so locals have to go to big box stores via the roundabouts.
  • Macron has framed French politics as “it’s me or the fascists”.
  • A Macron reform made the “state of exception” permanent in French law so his self-assertion as the candidate of democracy is disingenuous.
  • Le Pen’s platform was surprisingly boring.
  • There’s been a far-right candidate in 3/5 of last French presidential elections (final vote).
  • Macron claimed to be “at the same time” left and right.
  • Since 2002 the left end of the French political spectrum has coalesced around anti-fascism (against the National Front, now the National Rally).

Bonus: Quentin Letts on suburban roundabouts in the UK

Mini roundabouts are suburban, bossy little objects. They are imposed on us from on high, ostensibly for our own good (but just as possibly because they create work for consultants). Their introduction involves great cost and prolonged upheaval at the end of which you are left with a small lump, little bigger than an upturned saucer, on the Queen’s highway.

Be not deceived. Mini roundabouts are a menace. They are an aesthetic blot. They kill the spirit of the road. And they cause car sickness, as the pongy interior of many a family hatchback will confirm.

They were invented by a 1960s’ Ministry of Transport boffin, Frank Blackmore. It may seem harsh to include Mr Blackmore in this sort of book. He was only doing his job. He was maybe even ‘acting under orders’, as the saying goes. But life is a merciless business.

Blackmore created a monster, as anyone who has visited Swindon’s ‘Magic Roundabout junction roundabouts all stuck together – will agree. The mini roundabout – a moonscape of mini has run amok. Mini roundabouts have replaced ancient crossroads, once site of the gibbet and the wind-gnarled oak, more recently a place of sporting judgement. At crossroads you had to time your leap, gun your engine, make tyres squeal. We could not all be Nigel Mansell but we could at least get the adrenaline pumping by darting out in front of an oncoming juggernaut. Why should only Mr Toad have some fun at the wheel?

At a crossroads, moreover, you have a sense of one road being senior to another. Should the busy A road not have priority over the piddling country lane? Not at a mini roundabout it doesn’t. Heavy traffic has to screech to a halt for even Mini roundabouts are the very opposite of democratic. They are the many bending to the few.