Friday, November 17, 2006

What is American about Segolène Royal.

Tonight, the French media are all hype about Segolene Royal’s huge victory in the socialist bid for the presidential candidate. It is undeniable that these elections are a sign of major changes in France. There are even a couple things in direct connection to our Franco-American perspective.

First, as we mentioned previously, the socialist party is the first French political party to choose its candidate through a US-style primary election (other countries have recently done the same, Italy for instance).

Second, this is so new in France that it almost feels like this is actually a national election and that her speech to the party (televised live on every French channel) resembles an American inaugural address.

Her words were very inclusive but also a mix of old socialist rhetoric and a more modern tone, including the need to reform.

She is hard to figure out though. On the one hand, her campaign has been inspired by Tony Blair (whom she has said to admire) in its emphasis on moral values, great sense of media opportunity and her ability to connect with the public. On the other hand, her economic views are much more in the tradition of French orthodox socialism. While she speaks of the need to break with the "French way", she also talks about the need to protect jobs and increase security in the face of “globalization”.

It is also unusual, in centralized France, for a politician to give a major speech from a small town outside Paris, as she spoke from Poitou-Charentes, the region where she is the regional president.

Her words have emphasized another very American theme – looking to the future and change with bright optimism and building a grassroot movement:

The world has changed. France has moved, so politics must change. I do not only want to embody this profound change but to build it with you. The French are ready for reform, but they're not going to consent to decisions imposed on them without their involvement.

Her speech was very inclusive - something you always see in American political speeches after primaries:

France must completely recognize -- as its own, legitimate children -- all the young people whose families came from abroad, who are today French in their own right. France's diversity must bring a formidable energy.

It is also worth noting that she has clearly hinted at Kennedy whom she has also said to admire (here in French):

We shall climb the mountain up to victory. We are supported by a cause that is greater than us. So I call for all the French, men and women of our country – unite and rally and ask yourself what you can do for your country.
Let's imagine a France that has the courage to face changes without renouncing its ideal of liberty, equality and fraternity.

That is definitely a break from old French political rhetoric. Now we’ll see if she acts accordingly. Whatever she might say, there is a consensus that above all, she is much more pragmatic and ideological. That too, is a very American trait. Maybe just what the French need in this day and age.


At 18:23, Anonymous Chili con carne said...

There is a major concern about Segolene Royal : Is she really able to handle economic issues or international affairs. Up to now, she played with the media, giving only pieces of what she plans to do.
Her strategy is just to pick a small part in a whole subject ( child abuse from teachers for example) and stick to it. She did not let in the memories a very good impression while working in Jospin's government. So please do not join the mass of Sego's followers who have not the single idea of what the future shoul look like. Think and then act following an idea or just a goal. French do not need Segolene but someone who could draw some guidelines for the future.

At 19:40, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

Oh do not worry, I am not joining "the mass of Sego's followers" and I am not falling for what is now called "Segomania". As I pointed out in a previous post, my choice was Strauss-Khan not Royal.
Also, I am quite aware of her incompetence in one field I happen to know something about. Her views on Education have clearly established her ignorance of a topic that she, of all subjects, should know something about. That is no good sign for all the other areas where I don't know anything about but where I can assume, she knows even less.
My only hope is that she will surround herself with competent people. Given the precedent of G. W Bush, I remain skeptical.
At the same time, I think Sarkozy is just as bad if not worse. So the choice is really going to be between plague and cholera, unless centrist Bayrou comes out as a serious alternative.


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