May 14, 2007


Why the French Left Was Left Behind (Kang Kyung-hee, 5/14/07, he Chosun Ilbo)

Sarkozy harvested an unexplored "blue ocean" with policies and strategies that were new to France's right. Chirac was clever at exploiting France's national pride -- he would feign passionate tantrums and stalk out of meetings if French wasn't used at international conferences the way English is. In contrast, Sarkozy didn't hesitate to point out France's shortcomings. "France is lagging behind Britain because we work less than the British," he said. With his country mired in high unemployment and low growth, he urged the French to "work harder and make France competitive again."

Meanwhile the Socialist Party behaved as if it were the ruling party rather than the opposition, campaigning to keep the status quo and singing the party's past glories. It didn't press for change the way other European socialist parties have. Under Prime Minister Tony Blair's "Third Way," Britain's Labour Party guided the economy to a 10-year-long economic boom. In Germany, the Social Democratic Party's former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder pushed for reform and laid the foundation for the economic recovery that Germany is enjoying today.

But the French leftists weren't about change. In fact the Socialist Party called for re-nationalizing the public corporations that have been handed over to the private sector -- at a time when even China, a nominally communist country, is changing at a breakneck pace. With France wallowing in debt, the Socialist Party wanted to raise the minimum wage even further and keep the 35-hour work week.

An election is a business that retails dreams and visions. Faced with unpopular sentiment towards his ruling party, Sarkozy came up with attractive new commodities. But the Socialist Party just repackaged its old merchandise by wrapping it in the pretty packing paper of Segolene Royal.

As a result, the conventional wisdom that those with vested interests will always support the right while workers will always support the left proved wrong. In this election, 49 percent of white-collar voters and 46 percent of blue-collar voters supported Sarkozy. Fifty-seven percent of the young voters between 25 and 34 who wanted change backed Sarkozy. On the other hand, 55 percent of those with vested interests between 45 and 59 voted for Royal. Only belatedly has the Socialist Party examined itself and realized that it hasn't changed at all over the past 50 years.

At the End of History the Second Wayers have no choice but to be reactionary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 14, 2007 12:00 AM
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