Thursday, May 17, 2012

B+ or Incomplete?

After reading the Mediapart reportage on the Ayrault government, Arun Kapil raised his grade from B+/B to unambiguous B+ (see links in two previous posts). I had the opposite reaction. What does it matter if the government includes a dynamic nanotechnologist or an outspoken proponent of gay rights if it fails to articulate a clear position on the major issue of the day, which is the "euro crisis"? I put the words "euro crisis" in scare quotes to indicate that this is shorthand for a whole host of other issues: How to revamp EU institutions, how to redress internal European imbalances, how to enhance the competitiveness of French firms to that end, how to redistribute the gains from global trade more fairly, etc. etc.

What I see in the Ayrault government is exactly what I saw in 11 years of Hollande leadership of the Socialist Party: a meticulous distribution of rewards among competing currents with no attempt to make a judgment about the ultimate purpose of the power that is so carefully subdivided. So, Fabius, as Arun puts it, still has a substantial "coterie" of support within the party; better to keep him on board. Montebourg got 17% of the primary vote, so invent a ministry for him. Lots of Socialists voted No in 2005, so put Cazeneuve in charge of European affairs, and don't worry about the symbolism of the Fabius-Cazeneuve tandem because Ayrault speaks German and is the boss man anyway. And if the No faction was a reaction against the overemphasis on liberalism in the "social liberal" current of the party, balance that off by putting Economy and Finance in the hands of Moscovici, who is un tantinet more liberal than the president himself.

This idea of politics as fine-tuning, careful calibration, and sage counterbalancing is, I submit, what kept the Socialist Party out of power at the national level from 1995 to 2012. It is what the old Hollande stood for, which I hoped the new Hollande had left behind. The presidency is the summit from which one hands down the tablets, but instead of writing a new Bible, Hollande seems intent on weaving the old traditions together into a syncretic compromise. This is not the time. He must choose.

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