Wednesday , September 22 2021
Home / Art Goldhammer
Art Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer

Writer, translator, scholar, blogger on French Politics, affiliate of Harvard's Center for European Studies, writes for The American Prospect, The Nation, etc.

Articles by Arthur Goldhammer

High Diplomatic Dudgeon

3 days ago

Share the post "High Diplomatic Dudgeon"

France is angry. She has recalled her ambassadors from the US and Australia. Yesterday, not one but two major news organizations contacted me for comment. “I can’t help you,” I said, and was surprised when one of them reacted indignantly, saying “We were told you that you had encyclopedic knowledge of French politics. How can it be that you have nothing to say about this?” Well, I’m as susceptible to flattery as the next fellow, but no encyclopedic knowledge is required to figure this one out: France got cut out of negotiations that led to the scuttling of a lucrative submarine deal. Notice was also served that the “pivot to Asia” announced by Obama has now inflicted an insult on an old ally. For some reason, France chose to

Read More »

Two More In, One Out

26 days ago

Share the post "Two More In, One Out"

The Republican presidential field took on a new complexion today. Michel Barnier announced that he is in, as did Eric Ciotti, but Laurent Wauquiez took himself out of the running. Barnier is a centrist, while Ciotti and Wauquiez both belong to the LR’s right wing. Le Monde informs us that Barnier, despite his vast experience, lacks charisma, tends toward rigidity, and is irritable, qualities which have earned him the unflattering epithet “le crétin des Alpes.” Ciotti is well-known for his aggressiveness as a partisan attack dog, not usually counted as a qualification for the presidency. But we shall see. If the Republicans have a primary–it’s not yet a certainty that they will–it’s shaping up to be a free-for-all more confused

Read More »

Zozo dans le métro

August 22, 2021

Share the post "Zozo dans le métro"

It seems that Éric Zemmour may be on the verge of throwing his hat in the ring for 2022 and that a fair number of ex-Lepenist politicians may be prepared to back him. He has asked at least one ex-RN mayor for his parrainage. So the question arises, How would the race be affected if Zemmour gets in?
At first sight, the answer might seem to be that no news could be sweeter for Emmanuel Macron. Zemmour will split the far right vote, severely cut into Marine Le Pen’s total, and thus assure Macron of easy victory. But to reason thus is to forget that Macron’s support is for the most part quite soft and depends crucially on voters who, while they may not like him, see him as the only realistic alternative to Le Pen, or at least as no

Read More »

The Morning After

June 28, 2021

Share the post "The Morning After"

The 2021 regionals are history. What to make of the results? First, the vast majority of voters continued to abstain. Second, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National suffered a severe setback. The RN list in PACA, led by Thierry Mariani, did not merely lose; it was crushed, tallying 14 points less than the Republican-LREM coalition led by Renaud Muselier. In Hauts-de-France, moreover, Sébastien Chenu lost by 24 points. In short, a terrible day for the Le Penist forces. And if, as Marine Le Pen contends, a large pool of RN voters remains untapped, her entreaties after Round 1 that they should show themselves to send a message to the powers-that-be fell on deaf ears. Clearly she will have to rethink her strategy for the presidential

Read More »

Has Le Pen Peaked?

June 23, 2021

Share the post "Has Le Pen Peaked?"

The Guardian asked me to comment on last Sunday’s election. You can read the article here. Of course, the RN could still take PACA next Sunday, but the idea that a repeat of the 2017 Macron-Le Pen confrontation is inevitable has been called into question.

Tags: Emmanuel Macron, Elections, Rassemblement National
Share the post "Has Le Pen Peaked?"

Read More »

A Hot Take on a Very Cool Electorate

June 20, 2021

Share the post "A Hot Take on a Very Cool Electorate"

The headline that emerges from the first round of this year’s regional elections is that, once again, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National did not achieve the gains anticipated by many commentators. On the other hand, abstainers outnumbered voters by 2-1, so one can’t really say what this implies for next year’s presidential election. What is clear is that two potential contenders, Xavier Bertrand and Valérie Pécresse, received a small boost, while a third less-discussed candidate, Laurent Wauquiez, has come back from the embarrassing defeat he suffered in the European elections to a point where he, too, might credibly join the race to choose a center-right contender for the honor of challenging the center-right

Read More »

The Right Fractures

June 1, 2021

Share the post "The Right Fractures"

The warning signs have been present for some time. Les Républicains are on the verge of a crackup. Caught between Macron’s LRM and Le Pen’s RN, the party’s electoral space has been shrinking. Without a strong leader to hold together its authoritarian nationalist and technocratic-managerial wings, it finds itself rudderless as its erstwhile supporters and cadre jump overboard one after another.
Petty chieftains out to save their own skins are heading in opposite directions: first Renaud Muselier, president of the PACA regional council, entered into a pact with LRM, and now Guillaume Peltier, the party’s no. 2, who began his career in politics in the youth wing of the FN, has shocked his comrades with a proposal for a “court of

Read More »

Patrick Weil, De la laïcité en France

May 24, 2021

Share the post "Patrick Weil, De la laïcité en France"

La laïcité–the distinctive French approach to the separation of church and state–has been a matter of contentious debate for decades. That debate has become even more heated in the past year as the Macron government has taken steps to regulate the practice of Islam in France. It takes a brave scholar to wade into such a tumultuous controversy.
Patrick Weil has the requisite courage. He also has practical experience that few other scholars can match, having served on the Stasi Commission, which considered the question of the wearing of veils (and other visible manifestations of religious affiliation) in public venues. Even more important, he has been able to gain some distance on the Franco-French view of the

Read More »

Policing the Police

May 20, 2021

Share the post "Policing the Police"

On May 19, the forces de l’ordre, as the French like to say, demonstrated throughout France. The demonstration had three purposes, two clearly legitimate, the third more questionable.
The first purpose was to express grief and elicit the sympathy of the public. A number of police officers have died in the line of duty. Most recently, a female officer was killed by a terrorist and a male officer died in the course of attempting to arrest a drug dealer.
The second purpose of the police demonstration was to complain about low pay, long hours, defective equipment, and generally poor working conditions. The short-handed police have frequently been required to work overtime. This was especially true during the Gilets Jaunes

Read More »

Can Marine Le Pen Win in 2022?

May 12, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]I assess her chances in Persuasion. The short answer: yes.
The post Can Marine Le Pen Win in 2022? appeared first on Tocqueville21.

Read More »

The Contradictions of Religious Dirigisme

May 5, 2021

Share the post "The Contradictions of Religious Dirigisme"

Not long ago, in the wake of the murder of Samuel Paty by an Islamist extremist, the Macron government announced a new approach to the regulation of the Muslim faith in France. French universities would henceforth train Muslim clerics in order to reduce dependence on foreign-trained clergy. Mosques harboring “Islamist” and “separatist” groups would be closed. And Muslim organizations would be required to sign a “Charter for the Principles of French Islam,” essentially a declaration of compatibility with French republican values. In short, the state would take a dirigiste approach to Islam, setting conditions under which it would be tolerated. These conditions were justified in the name of national security.

Read More »

MayDay: A Study in Contrasts

May 3, 2021

Share the post "MayDay: A Study in Contrasts"

May Day in France is always marked by two starkly contrasting events: a march by trade unions commemorating the history of the trade union movement, and a speech by the leader of the Rassemblement National (previously the Front National) at the statue of Joan of Arc in the Place des Pyramides.
This year, the contrast was particularly stark. The labor march degenerated into chaos, Elements of the CGT came under attack by casseurs  from the Black Blocs. The event served as an apt metaphor for the chaos that defines the French Left today. The Left is adrift, rudderless, internally divided, and impotent in the face of a rapidly changing world whose contours it seems unable to grasp.
Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen pitched her

Read More »

Panel Discussion on Macron’s Presidency and the 2022 Elections

April 29, 2021

Share the post "Panel Discussion on Macron’s Presidency and the 2022 Elections"

On May 11, at 12 noon EDT, Harvard’s Center for European Studies will host an online panel discussion of Macron’s presidency and the upcoming 2022 elections. Participants will include Marc-Olivier Bherer of Le Monde, acting as host, former ambassador Gérard Araud, Prof. Cécile Alduy of Stanford, and Prof. Philippe Martin of SciencesPo. I will chair the session. Registration is required.

Share the post "Panel Discussion on Macron’s Presidency and the 2022 Elections"

Read More »

The Re-Demonization of the Rassemblement National

April 27, 2021

Share the post "The Re-Demonization of the Rassemblement National"

Over the past decade, since taking over control of the Front National from her father, Marine Le Pen has successfully moved the party, now renamed Rassemblement National, into contention for the presidency. Her strategy has been dubbed one of “de-demonization” (dédiabolisation in French) but might be better described as a transformation of religious, racial, and xenophobic prejudice from the plane of the concrete to that of the abstract. She has draped herself in the robes of Marianne, defending the Republic from those who, she claims, would seek to denature it.
This strategy has carried her a long way. She survived the first round of the 2017 presidential election and seems on her way to doing even

Read More »

Les Splendeurs et Misères du Commentateur Politique

April 26, 2021

Share the post "Les Splendeurs et Misères du Commentateur Politique"

These are difficult days for the political commentator. The normal political thrust and jab has been overshadowed by the universal preoccupation with the pandemic. Commentary on Covid is best left to experts, and those who dare to wade in despite the murkiness of the available facts are likely to see their hasty conclusions quickly overturned. Consider, for example, the initial comparisons of Germany and France, to the latter’s detriment. Sweeping statements were made about the reasons for France’s failures and the superior wisdom of Germany’s leadership. This broad-brushed condemnation of France, mostly by French commentators, now looks to have been premature and superficial. Even cautious Germans

Read More »

Why Are the Political Skies Darkening?

February 9, 2021

Share the post "Why Are the Political Skies Darkening?"

With the 2022 presidential election looming in the middle distance, it seems that everyone in France with the slightest modicum of presidential ambition is launching a trial balloon lately. The skies are full of unlikely lighter-than-air contrivances: Arnaud Montebourg, until recently employed as an apiculturist at the delightfully named Bleu Blanc Ruche, has launched his, trailing a banner emblazoned “Buy French!” in the hope of attracting both right- and left-wing sovereignists who recall his quixotic campaign to nationalize DailyMotion while marketing Frenchness by donning a sailor’s pullover. Eric Zemmour is off to the races, hoping to unseat Marine Le Pen as monarch of the far right, as long as it doesn’t

Read More »

Caesar Was an Ambitious Man

January 12, 2021

Share the post "Caesar Was an Ambitious Man"

‘Tis the weeks after Christmas, in the year before the next presidential election, and ambitions are stirring throughout France and Navarre. Le Monde dutifully warns that the French left is in danger of disappearing for want of unity: Arnaud Montebourg is once again engagé, after trying his hand at beekeeping; Ségolène Royal is seeking to recapture the magic of 2007; and Jean-Luc Mélenchon remains persuaded that “la République, c’est moi,” even though Yannick Jadot is convinced that green is the new red. Bernard Cazeneuve is lurking in the wings, discreetly as always, and others stand at the ready in case one of the prematurely ambitious falters.

Of course, the conventional wisdom, conveniently encapsulated in the

Read More »

Paradoxes of France

January 5, 2021

Share the post "Paradoxes of France"

This is the first of two reviews of Emile Chabal’s brief history of France since 1940: France (Polity, 2020).

Emile Chabal’s splendid new book is entitled simply France, without further qualification. What sort of book is it? A history or an interpretive essay? If a history, what period does it cover? The unadorned title offers no clue. If an interpretive essay, does it purport to present, as General de Gaulle famously did in his memoirs, “a certain idea of France,” fiercely personal and unique to its author and his experience of the country, or something less intimate, a vast panoramic landscape intended to awe readers with the sublimity of its all-encompassing view rather than orient them in the here and now?

The answer is

Read More »

First Le Maréchal, then Mlle Maréchal

December 28, 2020

Share the post "First Le Maréchal, then Mlle Maréchal"

Is Macron’s flirtation with the far right intensifying? A week ago he gave an interview to L’Express in which, mine de rien, he dropped the names of Charles Maurras and Maréchal Pétain. Of course, he did so with a characteristically graceful pirouette, insisting that these are two important figures in French history, too important to be left out of any reckoning with the past. Indeed, they are, but did Macron invoke their names as an historian, with an eye to placing them in their context and critically evaluating their work, or did he intend to use them as icons to signal his affinity with demagogues of the far right such as Eric Zemmour, who seek to rehabilitate the exclusionary nationalism they represent?

Read More »

Valéry Giscard-d’Estaing

December 3, 2020

Share the post "Valéry Giscard-d’Estaing"

Giscard-d’Estaing, who died yesterday, marked a transition in the history of the Fifth Republic. Or, rather, he should have marked a transition, but the “modernization” he championed proved abortive, and the “republican monarchy” he sought to overthrow proved stronger than he imagined. In a sense, he was betrayed by his aristocratic instinct, which outwitted his énarque‘s intellect. He retreated from his initial campaign to bring the presidency down to earth into a frosty hauteur that struck many as a failed simulacrum of Gaullian grandeur, and in the end he was replaced by Mitterrand, who displayed a more developed theatrical flair for the monarchical role.
Giscard began as a technocrat–the best economist of his generation,

Read More »

The All Too Candid Cameras

November 27, 2020

Share the post "The All Too Candid Cameras"

Pandering to the police, which was the purpose of the notorious Article 24 of the so-called Global Security Law (see my previous post), has backfired, putting Prime Minister Castex and President Macron in the awkward position of being obliged to denounce police violence even as they are attempting to pass a law that would cover it up by making it illegal to publish images of police caught in the act of beating citizens, such as the four who launched an unprovoked attack on music producer Michel Zecler. They are now suspended, but so is Article 24, which has been farmed out to an “independent commission” for a rewrite–a move which The Financial Times describes as a “humiliating climbdown” for Macron. But even a humiliating

Read More »

De quoi le Parti Socialiste est-il le nom?

November 24, 2020

Share the post "De quoi le Parti Socialiste est-il le nom?"

What’s in a name? Not much, or perhaps all too much, in the opinion of Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure. In an appearance this morning on France Inter, he announced that he would push for the party to change its name, because the adjective “socialist” no longer conveyed what it stood for. “What is that?” inquired the interviewers. Well, that remained to be seen, responded Faure, with characteristic decisiveness. There would first need to be a debate among “socialists,” and then a consultation with the broader left (including, apparently, the Greens, but not Mélenchon), and then perhaps with the country at large. And Anne Hidalgo would of course have to be part of it, even though she is currently feuding

Read More »

Separatism or Diversion?

October 2, 2020

Share the post "Separatism or Diversion?"

I’ve been quiet for so long that some of you must have concluded that this blog had ceased to exist. The political situation here in the US has been so anxiogenic that it has been hard to concentrate on France. But Emmanuel Macron’s speech today on the subject of “separatism” has awakened me from my slumbers. It signals, if nothing else, the beginning of the 2022 presidential race and tells us something about how Macron plans to position himself on the political chessboard. But the subject deserves a closer look on its own merits.
The French Republic is founded on the premise that it is “une et indivisible,” and the current president’s hostility to “separatisms” and “communitarisms” is, to take him at his word, intended to

Read More »

The EU Survives

July 22, 2020

Share the post "The EU Survives"

European summits are odd affairs, in which the high and mighty are reduced to pulling all-nighters, like second-year students obliged to endure a college bull session–which by some accounts these meetings resemble. There are the conciliators and the prima donnas, all duly described by the EU press, which must wait outside closed doors through white nights in the hope of catching word of the irritation of Leader A, the witty repartee of Leader B, or the pounding of fist on table by Leader C. The sessions drag on longer than expected. The caterer is not prepared, and Europe’s potentates must make do with improvised sandwiches. Hopes are raised, then dashed. Despair mounts. And then, at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute an

Read More »

The Castex Government

July 6, 2020

Share the post "The Castex Government"

Emmanuel Macron’s self-reinvention did not get very far. The just-appointed Castex government is as unexciting as the new prime minister himself. After Philippe, Castaner and Belloubet were shown the door. Darmanin was moved to interior. Le Maire, Blanquer, and Le Drian remain in their posts.
So what distinguishes the new government from the old? Nothing, really, except that Macron is no longer the young man in a hurry who was going to reshape everything and transform French politics from top to bottom. By essentially keeping the old government in place and firing his popular prime minister, he demonstrates that he has failed to make good on his promise.
The new prime minister is slightly farther to the right than the old: he

Read More »

Macron bis has begun

July 3, 2020

Share the post "Macron bis has begun"

There should be no surprise about Macron’s dismissal of Édouard Philippe: any prime minister who is more popular than his president is ripe for sacking. And it is doubtful that Philippe would have been so assiduous about regaining his mayoral post in Le Havre if he had expected to be kept on. Still, he had demonstrated a quiet competence that might have counted for something. But perhaps Macron wanted to avoid any possibility of his PM building a presidential candidacy on disloyalty to his president, as Macron himself did successfully in 2016-17 and as Valls attempted to do much less skillfully.
The president might of course have chosen a figure as substantial as Philippe to replace him–Bruno Le Maire, say–but Le Maire is also a

Read More »

Green Wave?

June 29, 2020

Share the post "Green Wave?"

Yes, the Greens did very well in yesterday’s Covid-delayed second round of municipal elections. They captured some major prizes: Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, and, most surprisingly, Bordeaux. They retained Grenoble. They came close to winning in Lille, the fiefdom of former Socialist PM Martine Aubry, and Toulouse. In short, a fantastic showing in all of France’s largest cities, save Paris. They have the wind in their sails–or should I say in their turbines?
But what does it all mean? The Green vote actually signifies a number of different things. First, it surely expresses growing concern about the environment, especially among urban professionals. Second, it embodies a vague and not always clearly formulated protest against the current

Read More »

Mediapoliticking Comes to France

June 3, 2020

Share the post "Mediapoliticking Comes to France"

A movie star and a reality-TV buffoon have won the presidency of the United States in recent years. Is it conceivable that the mantle of Charles de Gaulle will devolve upon a 9/11-denying film clown like Jean-Marie Bigard, a televisual vulgarian like Cyril Hanouna, or a provocateur of the infotainment circuit such as Éric Zemmour? The French media are full of speculation that one of these men might challenge Macron in 2022. Macron is reportedly worried enough about this possibility that he placed a telephone call to Bigard, facilitated by yet another entertainer-cum-politician, Patrick Sébastien.
Or–another interpretation–Macron may actually be trying to instigate a candidacy by one of these media populists, whose

Read More »

The Future of the EU: Too Many Plans, Too Many Hands

May 28, 2020

Share the post "The Future of the EU: Too Many Plans, Too Many Hands"

There are now numerous Covid rescue plans on the table for European leaders to consider. There is no need to run them down here because Prof. David Cameron of Yale has provided an excellent summary of their provisions. Briefly, the central bone of contention is whether EU assistance will be provided in the form of loans, ultimately to be reimbursed by member state recipients, or as grants. In both cases, the EU itself will amass the funds to be disbursed by borrowing in its own name, and it will repay those loans in one of two ways: through taxes it will somehow acquire the power to levy, or through repayment of secondary loans to member states. There is also a further question: to what extent will

Read More »

Virage à 1 km–mais à droite ou à gauche?

May 26, 2020

Share the post "Virage à 1 km–mais à droite ou à gauche?"

The pandemic has presented Emmanuel Macron with an opportunity. He can now reimagine his presidency without appearing to have been forced into retreat by the Gilets Jaunes and opponents of his retirement reform. The first moves have already been announced: more resources for hospitals, including long-demanded and long-resisted salary hikes and new hires, plus an 8 billion euro bailout for the auto industry. With Merkel now having come around on debt mutualization, one could almost imagine a reboot of the Macron presidency back to its hopeful early days, but this time with un virage à gauche rather than à droite.
But the right still holds the top posts in the Macron administration, and two of its ambitious

Read More »