Macron’s Astroturf Party Hits the Buffers in Senate Elections
I’m not sure how long it took average American voters to see through the hollow promise of Barack Obama — hard to tell as there wasn’t much of an alternative — but in the case of France, the process seems to have taken less than five months with regard to Emmanuel Macron.
In fact, the new President of France may as well call it a day after extremely disappointing results in the French Senatorial Elections.
But first a little background. The French Senatorial elections are not directly democratic. Instead, they run on a complex formula of delegates elected by various-sized communes that choose senators at the level of the Departments (French for “counties” or mini-states).
The bottom line here is that the indirect process of choosing Senators basically lowers the public’s interest and thus removes a lot of political excitement from the process, foregrounding instead civic cronyism. Essentially, this is designed to be a stabilizing element in the normally volatile French political system — artificially introducing a much-needed element of Teutonic “phlegm” that Latin democracies tend to lack. The Senate accordingly has a considerable institutional or “conservative” bias.
In the (s)elections, which covered 171 of the 348 Senate seats, Macron’s new party, La République En Marche (The Republic on the March), did much worse than expected. Going into the election with 29 Senators and with 19 of its senators up for election, the party failed to gain any seats and instead fell back, ending up with just 23 Senators.
This should not be surprising, as La République En Marche practically appeared out of nowhere during the French Presidential election earlier this year.
With mysterious sources of funding and a suspicious amount of boosting from the mainstream media, it was a classic astroturf party, designed to temporarily distract voters who were then looking for something new and gravitating towards the anti-globalist Front National of Marine Le Pen.
The most remarkable thing about this “election,” however, is how badly Macron’s party did compare to its performance in the elections for the French lower house, the Legislative Assembly, which took place in June, about a month after Macron’s victory in the Presidential election.
Riding the same wave of enthusiasm that won Macron the presidency, his new party swept the legislative elections, gaining 350 of the 577 seats with 32.33% of the First Round vote and 49.11% of the second round vote. (Yes, the electoral system is rigged in such a way as to give the larger, mainstream parties a distinct advantage over smaller, more radical parties like the hard left and nationalists.)
Now it seems that that wave of enthusiasm, which was artificially generated by media hype and suspect money, has crashed, leaving Macron and La République En Marche beached like a dead whale. They have two of the three branches of government, but they don’t have the French Senate, and the the Senate has almost as much power as the Legislative Assembly and can play a particularly effective negative role, especially against the kind of unpopular reforms that Macron is hoping to push, which will hit specific groups very hard but produce little observable benefit for anyone else.
The only way Macron can achieve a majority in the Senate (>174) would be by swinging right and uniting, say, Les Republicans (135) and the Union of Democrats and Independents (34) with his own diminished number of senators. However, even this would carry enormous costs.
The whole foundation of Macron’s fake “political insurgency” is that France has serious economic and social problems, and that the nation should “de-polarize,” come together, and sort these out in a fair-minded way to benefit the whole country. This is mythic bullshit, of course, and completely ignores the racial elephant in the room. Having to heavily rely on the Centre-Right in the Senate makes it extremely hard to maintain this sham pose.
Either he gives them what they want — namely globalist, cuckservative, business-friendly policies that enrage the Left and much of the populace — or they sit on their hands as Macron swings in the wind and his astroturf party dwindles. Allying with them blows his Leftist-friendly or centrist credentials out of the water and returns French politics to the state of polarization that his advent was supposed to overcome.
So far we haven’t mentioned how the Front National did in either post-presidential election. Although the party did extremely well in the Presidential vote, where Marine Le Pen got 33.9% of the vote, the truth is it did poorly in both the Legislative and Senate elections. In the Legislative elections they scored 13.20% of the vote but ended up with only 8 seats, slightly more than 1% of the total, while in the Senate elections they made no gains on their measly 2 seats.
What does this all mean? In essence this: France is clearly on the road to ruin and everybody kind of knows this in some form or other. This means that the desire to break with the status quo is prevalent and pervasive, and this is why indirect elections — the Presidential and Legislative elections — we see a massive swing away from the old establishment parties. Only in the Senatorial elections, where public apathy and civic cronyism can play an undue part, do we see the establishment parties looking comfortable. But this desire to break with the status quo is not going to go away.
Until the “miraculous” campaign of Macron, the party best placed to exploit this desire was the Front National, even with massive establishment and institutional resistance arrayed against it. What the rise of Macron and La République En Marche did, however, was to provide a simulacrum of change that took the wind out of the Front National‘s sails.
But what a difference a few months makes. Even though the Senatorial elections bring out the cronyist, phlegmatic element of French politics at the expense of the democratic and populist side, the brutal truth is that La République En Marche should have done a lot better than this if Macron was still seen as representing “change” and “hope” in any significant degree. The fact that the party didn’t, suggests that the Macron gambit is essentially played out.
Already France will be looking elsewhere for the change that must come. The role of the Front National is to remind the country once again that it could be them.