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Caesar Was an Ambitious Man

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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

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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 linked Le Monde article, holds that the left has no chance to intrude upon the impending Macron-Le Pen confrontation unless it gets its act together early and united behind a single candidate, which of course will not happen. The same holds true for the center-right, which also has a surfeit of contenders, from Pécresse to Bertrand, along with Philippe, Baroin, the perennial Wauquiez, Sarkozy if he beats the various raps he is facing, and still others too numerous to mention. So in effect Le Monde is saying, Prepare for another Macron-Le Pen faceoff.

But in these parlous times, nothing is inevitable. I see numerous dangers for Macron. Among them is the shocking level of anti-vaxx sentiment in France, where skepticism of the authorities has always easily blended with skepticism of authority tout court, including scientific and medical authority. Cell-phone towers, power lines, speed limits, GMOs, pesticides, hydroxychloroquine, vaccines: all of these issues have mobilized movements in opposition to “expert” consensus, sometimes with a respectable rational basis, sometimes less so. At the moment, anti-vaxx sentiment seems poised to blow up into the next headache for Macron and to merge with the already potent anti-government movement embodied by the Gilets Jaunes.

If this happens, and chaos ensues, it will no longer be as clear as it seems now that multiple left-wing candidacies cannot be viable. The first round of the 2022 presidential election could become a free-for-all among numerous candidates, with no clear lock on the top two spots. Macron’s move to assuage anti-vaxx sentiment and honor his pledge to “listen” to citizen sentiment by appointing a citizens’ committee to consider the vaccine question could prove in retrospect to have been less cynically adroit than it seemed at first. Covid has had the effect of keeping the political cauldron as tightly locked down as the citizenry, but these early stirrings of the presidential race could be the first signs that the lid is about to blow off.

Photo Credit: U.S Department of State, Emmanuel Macron en 2020, via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

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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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