The sigh of relief that accompanied the election of Emmanuel Macron (or more precisely, the defeat of Marine Le Pen) in the French presidential runoff last May was soon followed by a groan. It quickly became apparent that Macron was determined to implement the kind of centrist neoliberal policies that fanned the flames of neofascism in the first place, not only in France but around the world. One surprising constituency, however, has been thrilled by the ascension of Macron: Anglo-American "Third Way" pundits. As Harrison Stetler writes at the website of The Baffler, establishment intellectuals like Fareed Zakaria of CNN and Pamela Druckerman of the New York Times, who once regarded France and its generous welfare state as hopelessly backwards, see Macron as the savior of the technocratic centrism pioneered by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. But according to Stetler, this "newfound Francophilia" is merely the last resort of a failed political and intellectual project. An excerpt:
This newfound Francophilia is a symptom of the epidemic of escapism ravaging the Third Way intellectual establishment. One is forced to ask just how E.J. Dionne, Jr., in the wake of Macron’s victory, could so confidently write that “in the 1990s, President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke of creating a ‘Third Way’ in politics between an old left and a new right. Under far more trying circumstances, Emmanuel Macron’s victory gives the Third Way a second chance”—as if the Anglo-American political experience of recent years could be discussed without reference to the popular disenchantment from the Blair-Clinton era. Karl Marx’s rejoinder to Hegel’s lesson that all historical events occur twice—first as tragedy and then as farce—rings ever true. Macron may have ascended the stage during his victory celebration to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” but you can bet that all Zakaria, Dionne, et al heard were the faint echoes of Fleetwood Mac and Michael Jackson singing “Don’t Stop” at Bill Clinton’s 1992 inaugural ball.
Macron-mania may also be the product of some personal score settling. Indeed, for the last thirty years many of these very same writers had come to develop something of an obsessive complex about French obstinacy in the face of the political shifts in the United States and the United Kingdom. France became, from the vantage point of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Economist, the “sick man” of the advanced capitalist world. While many sought to display their vigorous dynamism by eviscerating any and all sense of commonweal, redefining political “responsibility” as the enactment of policies making life more difficult for poorer Americans and Brits, the French were more reluctant to bid farewell to the old idea of social democracy. It’s hard to imagine Thomas Friedman, for example, embracing in the pages of the New York Times a “right to disconnect” that would protect employees from work email encroaching into their evenings. In France, the principle that working fewer hours for higher wages may be part of the solution to structural unemployment has long been a respectable opinion. Add to this France’s stubborn refusal back in 2003 to support the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, and the country was viewed as downright rogue, to use the nomenclature of the time.
Image of Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump via Politico Europe.