The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Monday, May 07, 2007
Steyn on Sarkozy: Don't bet the farm on a big change
Couldn't he just allow the rest of us to be optimistic for one day? (sigh):
Read the rest here--it gets funnier... and more tragic. Steyn concludes:
Is the French election a belated acknowledgment of reality or the latest attempt to dodge it? In other words, is it Britain voting for Mrs. Thatcher in 1979 and America for Ronald Reagan the following year? That's to say, the electorate understands the status quo is exhausted and unsustainable and that unless catastrophe is to be avoided radical course correction is required. Or is it Germany voting tepidly and tentatively to give Angela Merkel the narrowest of victories in 2005? In other words, the electorate was irritated with the incumbents but recoiled from any meaningful change, with the result that Frau Merkel found herself presiding over a nominally fresh government with no agenda and no mandate for reform.
I'd bet on the latter. Just as Frau Merkel proved not to be Germany's Thatcher, I would be surprised if Nicolas Sarkozy turned out to be France's Reagan. Not because he doesn't have Reaganite tendencies but because the French electorate, like the Germans, aren't there yet. M Sarkozy did well in the first round because he co-opted many of Jean-Marie Le Pen's concerns. I don't mean the fascism and the anti-Semitism and the oven jokes. It's a tribute to the shriveling of the French political sphere that, by the time of the last presidential election in 2002, an antiquated perennial loser was able to catapult himself into second place. But, in an advanced technocratic state, where almost any issue worth talking about has been ruled beyond the scope of partisan politics, you might as well throw away terms like "left" and "right." The previous presidential election was meant to be a contest between the supposedly conservative Jacques Chirac and his supposedly socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin. In practice, this boiled down to a candidate who's left of right of left of center, and a candidate who's right of left of right of left of center.
In my recent book, whose title escapes me, I cite one of those small anecdotes that seems almost too perfect a distillation of Continental politics. It was a news item from 2005: A fellow in Marseilles was charged with fraud because he lived with the dead body of his mother for five years in order to continue receiving her pension of 700 euros a month.
She was 94 when she croaked, so she'd presumably been enjoying the old government check for a good three decades or so, but her son figured he might as well keep the money rolling in until her second century and, with her corpse tucked away under a pile of rubbish in the living room, the female telephone voice he put on for the benefit of the social services office was apparently convincing enough. As the Reuters headline put it: "Frenchman Lived With Dead Mother To Keep Pension."
Think of France as that flat in Marseilles, and its economy as the dead mother, and the country's many state benefits as monsieur's deceased mom's benefits. To the outside observer, the French give the impression they can live with the stench of death as long as the government benefits keep coming. If that's the case, the new president will have the shortest of honeymoons.