France’s establishment has worries. But they’re worries that should be shared by our own. In short, the lousiness of the elites is coming back to haunt them.
They deserve it.
French President Emmanuel Macron is the establishment candidate in this month’s election (though the party he founded in 2016 rode that year’s anti-establishment wave). But he’s in trouble.
After some bad polls and a round of “yellow jacket” protests in the streets by farmers and working-class citizens who felt ignored and demeaned by his government, Macron moderated his approach a bit, taking a harder line on radical Islam and a less politically correct line on social and economic issues. (He even denounced “woke” politics as the corrupt invention of American academics.)
As an incumbent, with a strong foreign threat from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, he should be cruising to victory. Nonetheless, he’s got a tough election ahead of him. An IFOP poll released this week, as Michel Gurfinkiel notes in The New York Sun, suggests it’ll be close: “Macron would get 27 percent of the vote in the first round, coming Sunday, and Marine Le Pen would qualify as his sole opponent in the second round, on April 24, with 23 percent. The final score might then be 53 percent for Monsieur Macron and 47 percent for Madame Le Pen.”
That’s a win for Macron, but it’s a squeaker, and pollsters warn that anything could happen with such a narrow margin.
This is a major change in French politics. Marine Le Pen is the daughter of French rightist politician Jean-Marie Le Pen. But where leftists hated the father, they’re increasingly willing to vote for the daughter in a two-way race with Macron.
Why? Because in a huge shift, the left and the right hate the establishment more than they hate each other. Gurfinkiel says that what he calls the “Resentment Coalition” of left and right could command as much as 60% of the electorate. (It turns out that the “fringes,” put together, might make a supermajority.)
French politics don’t get a lot of attention here, but American elites, and Americans generally, should probably pay some. Because our situation is similar.
The 2016 election of President Donald Trump was something of a “Resentment Coalition” victory itself. And that’s because our establishment has given citizens a lot to resent. (Media organizations promised to look into the Trump phenomenon, then quickly turned to demonizing Trump’s voters instead.)
The establishment gave us victory in World War II, antibiotics, moon landings and a win in the Cold War. In light of that, Americans were willing to cut it some slack, at least so long as it paid lip service to American traditions, American exceptionalism and, well, Americans.
But the Cold War ended 30 years ago, and since then the establishment’s track record hasn’t been so good, and it’s treated ordinary Americans with increasing disrespect. The result is that many Americans on the left and the right are starting to realize they hate the establishment more than they hate each other. This, of course, terrifies the elites.
The usual establishment move is to call its opponents on the right bigots while mobilizing those on the left to attack the right. It tried that in France with the yellow-jacket movement, with limited success: French geographer Christophe Guilluy observed, “Immediately, the protesters were denounced as xenophobes, anti-Semites and homophobes. The elites present themselves as anti-fascist and anti-racist, but this is merely a way of defending their class interests. It is the only argument they can muster to defend their status, but it is not working anymore.”
In the United States, they talk a lot about white supremacy, but nobody really thinks that the United States is in danger from white supremacists — whenever you hear of a white-supremacist “hate incident” nowadays, odds are it will turn out to have been faked.
The left is pushing “trans rights” and “transphobia” as a way of accusing their opponents of bigotry, but shockingly, the black and Hispanic voters that Democrats have always depended on aren’t super excited about being in the vanguard on these issues.
Those voters are also pretty unexcited about the inflation, unemployment and crime that have resulted from Democratic spending, overregulation and “depolicing.” Politico reports that Democratic focus groups are finding crime fatigue, pandemic fatigue, cynicism about politics and frustration that the Biden administration hasn’t delivered what it promised.
Polls show a significant rise in GOP support from black and Hispanic voters, too. Could we see a Coalition of Resentment here in 2022 and 2024?
If the establishment doesn’t want that, maybe it should stop inspiring resentment.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.