The French Election: Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and her independent centrist counterpart Emmanuel Macron advanced to the second round of the French presidential election yesterday. As neither Macron nor Le Pen is from a major party, the vote looks like a clear rejection of the political establishment; it also marks the decline of the French Socialist Party, whose candidate trailed far behind the winners. As the country prepares for the next round, Macron is expected to win by far—yet in expanding her populist party’s influence, Le Pen has already succeeded.
Let’s see, the establishment was rejected in Britain in the Brexit vote, the establishment (both Republicans and Democrats) was rejected in selecting that nitwit Cheeto-Head in the United States, and now the French have rejected their political establishment in both their runoff candidates. There is something going on here and it is not what you think. It is economic malaise across the board. The sad thing is that Brexit and Cheeto-Head were elected to attack the wrong targets, change and immigrants. That is what Marine Le Pen is also running on, but the French may be way smarter than we are. We will see in a couple of weeks.
Here is what I think, no, know what is going on. Our economic system does not work for most of us anymore. It has nothing to do with immigrants, or rapid change, sending jobs overseas. Okay, they do cause problems, but easily fixable, and yet not much will change. As long as the wealthy keep sucking up all the air in the room, nothing is going to get better. That is what establishment politics has missed.
There is a reason for that. I will borrow here from Upton Sinclair via Paul Krugman, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” They are all part of the system that profits from wealth accumulation. So they can’t imagine that our economic system throughout the world today is the problem. They just want to tweak the system, which is why establishment politicians are being roundly rejected. Nothing changes.
Anybody remember French economist Thomas Piketty? Back in 2014 he was all the rage when he pointed out that our economics of wealth accumulation is maybe a natural outcome of capitalism and it usually leads to the decline and fall of empires. He was attacked from all sides. See Upton Sinclair’s wisdom above. But Piketty’s data holds and we continue to concentrate wealth. The chasm between the super rich and the working class is obscene. There is no coincidence that the two most pressing threats to our survivability, global warming (because it is changing the climate and upsetting economies everywhere) and increasing economic inequality are both disparaged by Republicans. They got theirs.
Yesterday, or was it Sunday, anyway I blog about what the Democratic Party needed to resolve, what are they really about. Well the warning lights are on and flashing. People are turning away from political establishments for new solutions to their problems because nothing ever changed. The stage was set for the hucksters, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, and Marine Le Pine, selling their fear, hate, and isolationism. But they are not looking at the real issue, reinventing our capitalist system to more fairly distribute the bounty. And that has to be the core of the Democratic platform.
That will be a tough message because the moderates do not want to hear it. That is the Howard Dean crowd, and actually most of the establishment Democratic Party. Hillary was the classic example. Even President Obama was an establishment Democrat when it came to economics. None of them really wanted to take on a runaway economic system. Bernie did and then he got slammed by Black Lives Matter about not considering their interests. His first reaction was the same as mine, that economic inequality and making the system fairer includes blacks, women, gays, you name it. But he was a savvy enough politician to try to bring them in. But it is interest group pandering that gets us nowhere and generally doesn’t really change anything.
The theme that will create a new Democratic party is to recognize that economic inequality is the mother of all the other inequalities. To start to share the wealth of our economy with all those that participate creates spending. To do this means taking on the whole establishment. But if you are seeing all the flashing lights, the establishment is being resoundly rejected. We don’t need a more tweaked and refined establishment with better tactics and talking points. They need to recognize that there is a new message altogether and start reforming capitalism. If they don’t, it will not be pretty. Brexit and Cheeto-Head were just the beginning.