Sunday, April 15, 2012

On the Extreme Left Vote

Jean-Luc Mélenchon's political skills have enabled him to monopolize the extreme left vote, claim the allegiance of many who might have voted Green had the EELV fielded a stronger candidate, and reclaimed some working-class voters who had drifted toward the extreme left. The accomplishment deserves recognition, as do his forthright pronouncements on certain controversial social issues. Yesterday, for example, in Marseille, he praised the France of métissage, the univeralist France that welcomes foreigners and extends to them (in principle) the rights and benefits of citizenship (as commenter Brent rightly reminds me).

Still, his achievement should not be overstated. Suppose he gets 15% of the vote. Here's what I wrote (with George Ross) about the extreme left back in 2009, when Besancenot was its preferred candidate:

The Common Program of the 1970s transformed [the Socialist Party] into a party interested in governing but did not entirely dissipate the conviction of a part of the population (and of the PCF itself) that the best way to protect the interests of the “people of the left” was less to influence government policy than to oppose it. This sentiment, though less powerful than it once was, continues to motivate perhaps 10–15 percent of voters, who cast their votes for the parties of the extreme left, the extreme right, the Communist rump, and even the Greens, in the hope of demonstrating a disruptive potential sufficient to inhibit governments from pursuing reforms deemed to be aimed at dismantling the French social model.
Mélenchon has merely consolidated this vote and achieved, according to polls, its consistent high-water mark of 15%. If he goes beyond that, if he wins 16 or 17% on April 22, I will have to reconsider and suggest that something significant is stirring in the depths. But at the moment, I see simply a reshuffling of the deck.

The quote if from What's Left of the Left:

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