Let’s say a soccer team wins the last six to four. It was an exciting match, but even at the bookmakers it was almost certain who would win. Then the cup can also be taken home for another five years. Amsterdam will book the canal boat tour. Rotterdam was closing Coolsingel.
Of course, sport isn’t politics, certainly not when such big questions are at stake as Europe’s future, defense against Russian aggression and global warming, but a victory like Macron’s in the French presidential election is usually described as “the look”. Weaknesses abounded: fatigue with Macron’s pedantry, resentment about high prices, and the deepening divide between urban and rural areas. However, France decided to grant a second term to a president in office for the first time since 2002.
To be sure, many voters had the proverb on their noses, but the fact that sentiment contributed to Macron winning “everything but Le Pen”. The far-right, skeptical of the European Union and friend of Putin, is loath to do so in France. This is good news for liberal democracy, however it will not just be put up for sale. Moreover, Le Pen could only score well by quickly getting rid of sharp thorns – away from the euro, and France’s exit from the European Union. Le Pen had to take this appearance to go as far as ever to assert that the majority of France wanted to steer a pro-European path. The undiluted far-right – under the guise of Eric Zemmour – didn’t even come close. It is clear that right-wing populism has been defeated, this is the summary of the Battle of the Elysee in 2022.
Populism is the obstacle inside and outside France
Le Pen even brought the topic of immigration to the fore, emphasizing living standards and the ancient achievements of the welfare state. Topics arranged within the range of left and right, with a touch of class struggle. The latter is also part of the policy. Or even the essence, as the Marxist says. In any case, this applies to France. Two classes (high vs. low-skilled, urban vs. small-town and rural, worker vs. artisan) fought an electoral battle over power and resources. One had more voters in the camp than the other, who lost the class struggle. It is actually very simple.
Then several things can happen. The losing class grows or shrinks, depending on Macron’s policies. And he has a dear duty to make sure that they are diminished and to make sure that whoever loses in politics does not have to do so in everyday life. The losing class can also organize and continue the struggle in the streets and in the workplace, as happened regularly in Macron’s first term. In a democracy like France, protest and strike are legitimate means. Violence is not. Macron’s cherished second duty is to prevent excessive state violence – something he failed to achieve in his first term.
There is a third scenario: the losing side realizes that they are constantly betting on the wrong horse. Election after election, part of France is trying to break open power in the middle with an extreme right-wing lever. The bunker door is installed, after the dynamite on the left also failed. You’re giving away voters who feel abandoned in Macron’s French candidates who don’t beg for Putin first, who don’t have a history of anti-Semitism and who don’t make the Islamic faith a top political priority. The beauty of the class struggle in democracy is that it can be won at the ballot box. It requires a leader who does not pollute himself with opinions that the vast majority of the population find truly appalling.
So the story of France and this election is a global story. Every democracy offers better wages, better welfare policies, better housing, and a greater spread of prosperity and development during elections. Immigration must be controlled and that integration brings problems is also a finding of some sections of the left and the political centre. The obstacle is the populist right, which only makes a living through fallacious narratives and cultural politics. In France, this was largely insufficient for a serious chance at power.