Your Presidential Weight to Carry, Monsieur Hollande
Europe’s economic whirligig has claimed its biggest scalp to date with the French vote on Sunday to replace Nicolas Sarkozy with France’s first socialist president since 1981. François Hollande, with 52% of the vote, will become a curio in French politics as only the second socialist president in the history of the Fifth Republic. It’s historic, but so are current circumstances. During the last half-year the French unemployment rate reached its highest in 12 years with just under one in ten unemployed, and the size of the economy has hardly changed. Sarkozy began his Presidency immediately before the global depression began and during his five year tenure the situation for most French has gotten worse.
The result isn’t surprising. The whole of Europe is reeling and electorates respond with spittle. The Conservative Party in the UK has just slipped to a second place of the overall vote in recent local elections because fiscal spending cuts have caused the country back into recession. Greece held a national election on Sunday too, with the sitting government being expelled because the austerity measures against the country are removing the future for most citizens.
I think that many of Hollande’s ideas are, on paper, a step forward. Maybe I’m wrong. But every election makes me ruminate on voting psychology and the complexities of the world’s casual web. Hollande’s moves are determined by other chess boards. Voters’ trends are as well. William Saletan wrote in Slate recently an excellent piece on the American election that should be read by all voters anywhere in the weeks before they ballot. Obama and Romney are each framing all events during the last four years as being placed squarely at Obama’s foot. They have to: neither will get elected otherwise. Yet this simplicity that rears in every election is crap. Events and decisions are tied with sundry others made in the present, past and also in the future.
Obama’s team is claiming that he saved the US auto industry from a spiraling dive. Of course it won’t admit that, although true, Bush began the viability plans for GM and Chrysler Obama used a month before Obama took office. Romney is correct to say that 800,000 Americans have lost their jobs since Obama took office. But the unemployment rating rose three points before Obama took office, and although it continued to rise it has now come down to roughly its figure in January 2009. Did Sarkozy’s decisions worsen France’s situation, or did he rescue it from worse troubles? What existed around him that helped or hindered?Continued on the next page