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Comme une lettre à la poste

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Share the post "Comme une lettre à la poste" I try not to be cynical–well, not too cynical–about politics. Too many people already are. But when the president formerly known as Jupiter takes up pen and paper and asks his citizens–ceux qui ont réussi comme ceux qui ne sont rien–to help him figure out how to run the country, my patience wears thin. Of course, he doesn’t mean it: a few sentences in, right after saying no subject is taboo, he indicates that restoration of the ISF is off the table. And he notes that he was elected on a platform of reform, which he intends to carry through. Nevertheless, he will be glad to hear suggestions from all of France and Navarre concerning matters such as adding a dose of proportionality to legislative elections, admitting

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I try not to be cynical–well, not too cynical–about politics. Too many people already are. But when the president formerly known as Jupiter takes up pen and paper and asks his citizens–ceux qui ont réussi comme ceux qui ne sont rien–to help him figure out how to run the country, my patience wears thin. Of course, he doesn’t mean it: a few sentences in, right after saying no subject is taboo, he indicates that restoration of the ISF is off the table. And he notes that he was elected on a platform of reform, which he intends to carry through. Nevertheless, he will be glad to hear suggestions from all of France and Navarre concerning matters such as adding a dose of proportionality to legislative elections, admitting immigrants, overhauling the tax system, reducing carbon emissions, paring back the legislature and the bureaucracy, and making government more responsive.

This is the nebulous Macron of the campaign, the Macron aux yeux doux who wants to be all things to all people en même temps. “Tell me what you want and I will tell you who I am.” This great national debate is an exercise so puerile that I am surprised he allowed himself to be talked into it–or did he come up with it on his own? After a weekend in which the number of Gilets Jaunes on the march increased, giving the lie to any notion that Macron’s firmness on New Year’s Eve had put paid to the movement, the president has presented the French with the kind of mixed message said to induce schizophrenia: On the one hand he says the country is in such a shambles that he needs help even seeing what needs to be done, let alone enacting change; on the other hand, it’s steady as she goes, I have already enunciated exactly what needs to be done, and nothing can divert me from my fixed course.

Evidently he has no clue what the enragés really want, which is no surprise, since they have no idea themselves, beyond on veut sa peau. His game seems to be to buy a little more time in the hope that his structural reforms will finally produce the desired results. We can spend three months collecting your innermost thoughts on how many immigrants you’re willing to tolerate if, in the meantime, you let me proceed with the plan to revise unemployment insurance and pensions. And please don’t plague me about Europe. While no question is off the table, you’ll notice that I carefully avoided any mention of the EU, sovereignty, the euro, or l’Europe qui protège, because you and I both know these things are going nowhere and Le Pen is touting the new brown Europe that she and Salvini and Kurz are going to build, which I don’t want to talk about. So let’s change the subject to proportional representation. Meanwhile, les chiens aboient et les caravanes passent.

I’m sorry. This is not going to work.

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

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