Is the French left living its American turn?

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Apprehended day by day, the difficulty of the parties which form the French left to designate a single candidate is difficult to understand. The choice of the wide angle and, more particularly, the comparison of the modalities of the French and American elections make it possible to show that the obstacles encountered by Anne Hidalgo hold at least as much to a crisis of the Socialist Party (PS) as an organization as to the lack of audience of a government project whose bill is, this time , very classic.

This confirms a hypothesis which could already be posed the day after the failure by Benoît Hamon in 2012 . The renovation of the program by the introduction of the demand for universal income was not enough, nor to impose Hamon as the sole candidate of the left nor to ensure him a score much higher than that promised in 2021 by the polls of the mayor of Paris, i.e. around 6%.

The progressive candidates who left the ranks of socialist governments, have succeeded in obtaining the confidence of a significant part of the traditional electorate of the Socialist Party, are Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Mélenchon .

If the contents of their respective programs distinguish them, they share the having given up relying on a traditional construction of federations and sections to which they preferred the fluidity and agility of movements resorting to door-to-door, forms of mobilization spontaneous ion, to local participation as well as to the latest products of electoral technology.

An evolution of French progressive organizations

One such evolution in the business model of French progressive organizations is reminiscent of the modernization of the American campaigns launched under the presidency of the Democratic Party by Howard Dean before the election of Barack Obama .

The pollsters do not envisage a victory for La France insoumise (LFI), credited from 8 to 04% of intentions vote in November 2022. On the other hand, if the President of the French Republic keeps in 2021 the confidence of a sufficient number of ‘Socialist voters, the national political landscape might resemble that of the United States a little more.

It would then probably be dominated by the opposition between a progressive liberal force which would succeed, in accordance with one of the scenarios described by Bruno Jeanbart , at the PS, and a Republican party having difficulty convincing the most radical fringes of the right. However, the play is not performed as evidenced by the impact of the candidacy of Valérie Pécresse on the distribution of roles.

The personalization of power

France and the United States are obviously countries with different cultures. However, grasping their convergences is important in order to understand the constraints of their political functioning and the state of the economy.

The foundation of these two nations at a revolutionary moment in the 18th century e century does not summarize their similarities. Among these, the institution of a Presidency of the Republic , characterized by an election by universal suffrage, has a decisive influence on the organization of political parties although these do not exist for this election alone and also operate within the framework of national and regional parliamentary structures. The presidential function was secondary under the IV e Republic as for many American constituents overnight of the R evolution .

The disappearance of Charles de Gaulle, who was able to gather a majority beyond the borders of the left and the right, favored in the years 1093 imitation of the American model. Its strengthening induced a personalization of power at the same time as a bipolarization of the partisan field that organizations must master to achieve the required electoral score. It is this capacity which is being tested today in France. In the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties are experiencing significant divisions, but these do not call into question their existence.

In France, the disappearance of Charles de Gaulle , who was able to gather a majority by – beyond the borders of the left and the right, favored in the years 1093 the imitation of the American model of organization and the construction, with a view to the presidential race, of two alliances with a majority vocation, dominated by a charismatic figure.

The advent of presidential parties

The establishment, in 1972, of a common program with three formations as well as the evolution of the sociological composition of the wage earners to the detriment of the communist workers’ movement allowed the ection of François Mitterrand in 1972. She will ensure the installation – at least until 1988, otherwise 2012 – of the PS in the role of “presidential party” on the left. At the same time, the affirmation of the neogaullist movement dominated by the figure of Jacques Chirac on the Union for French Democracy (UDF), inspired by the Christian Democracy of Valery Giscard d’Estaing , federated a sufficient number of right-wing voters to form another large presidential party.

The latter was able to overcome the defeats of 1972 and 1988 before winning a succession of victories between 1988 and 2012. It continues today under the name The Republicans (LR) within a competition that opposes him to the National Rally (RN) of Marine Le Pen, or even at the initiative of Eric Zemmour .

Contrary to the American case, the existence of two formations capable of bringing together, each on its own behalf, a little more or a little less than half of the voters was not accompanied in France by the disappearance of competing organizations . In the United States, the posture of the third man is rare. Recently adopted by Donald Trump , it led to the dubbing by the Republican Party of the famous businessman.

Upset electoral practices

The difference between France and the United States finds different explanations that complement each other. The financial question constitutes a first element: an election on the scale of a continent supposes significant resources and consequently the concentration of these at the service of a small number of participants in the competition.

Institutional uses are another. The American tradition of a primary to which the candidates agree to submit contributes to limiting the number of parties competing in the presidential election proper at the same time as it ensures the expression and the measure of differences. It is also an opportunity to test the talent of personalities who can already have experience as governors, as heads of state.

In France, the difficulty of rooting the primaries in the electoral practices and historical pluralism from the left do are not sufficient to explain the number of candidates.

The guarantee of reimbursement by the State of campaign costs as soon as a score the relatively low minimum is reached contributes to the explanation. This will undoubtedly be the case as long as a method of financing, inspired by the proposals of the economist Julia Cagé , will not reserve to taxpayers the responsibility for the distribution of financial resources among the candidates before the election.

But more fundamentally, the current number of French candidates commonly cataloged as left-wing results from an inability of political “small and medium-sized enterprises” which, although sharing a social and ecological sensitivity, to s ” aggregate and address with one voice and intelligibly to citizens. This weakness of the entrepreneurial spirit of the left breaks with a past which saw construction, in the XIX e century, by a unitary “social democracy” of international organizations networking the parties workers.

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