How excited should we be by M. Macron’s victory in the French Presidential election? Trawling through the acres of commentary, the answer seems to be ‘not very excited at all’.
The BBC news last night, and more surprisingly Channel 4 News as well, focused on the uncomfortable fact that 11 million French men and women voted for Marine Le Pen. In addition, a huge amount abstained in the second round: roughly a quarter of the voters, faced with the prospect of Le Pen, still could not bring themselves to vote for Macron.
As for those who voted for Macron in the second round, many of them would have been voting against Le Pen, rather than for Macron. So, while the two-to-one victory is the second round looks like a resounding victory, it is not so impressive on closer inspection. There are an awful lot of people in France who are far from happy with the prospect of President Macron.
Marine Le Pen managed to land two significant blows on her opponent during the campaign. First of all, she said Macron was the continuity candidate, and seeing him walking side by side with his former boss, M. Hollande, this seems hard to deny. Macron was a member of the former deeply unpopular government, but skilfully presented himself as someone new. In addition, he is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, France’s elite university which has produce most of the ruling class from time immemorial. That, and having worked for Rothschild’s, hardly constitutes an inspiring back story. Macron was most definitely not the insurgent candidate.
The second blow was in the words: “Whoever wins, France will be ruled by a woman – me or Madame Merkel.” When Macron did his solitary ‘walk to victory’ through the courtyard of the Louvre, he did so to the sound of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which is of course the anthem of the European Union. Opening impressions can never be cancelled, and this deliberate choice to underline his enthusiasm for the Union may well come back to haunt him.
For the real test for Macron is whether he will be able to deliver the reforms that both France and European Union need. No preceding French President has succeeded in doing so: will he? If he does, he will be the greatest French President ever. If not, then the next election will be even more traumatic than this one.
As for the Catholic angle, this is not encouraging. To quote elsewhere in this magazine:
French writer Samuel Pruvot, who interviewed the new president at length for a book, said Macron sought baptism at age 12 under the influence of his Jesuit teachers, but viewed the Catholic faith “more intellectually than spiritually” and would “distance himself as much as possible from church, faith and Catholicism” as president.
“He’ll be diplomatic with the church, treating it like an elderly aunt whom he hasn’t seen for a long time, and who’s left his life, but for whom he still retains some affection,” Pruvot told the Catholic online portal Aleteia May 4.
“Macron recognizes there’s a law of God and a law of people, which aren’t the same and reflect a different hierarchy of values. … He recognizes this, but doesn’t adhere to it, since he considers that the truth is inaccessible and one must simply seek a consensus so people can calmly live together.”
Macron is supposed to be very clever, and all signs are that this reputation is deserved. But if he really does believe that truth is inaccessible, then France has a president who believes in the dictatorship of relativism. And that is the most depressing thing of all.