The first historical reference that occurred to us at TAS, when reading of French president Emmanuel Macron huddling in the Elysée Palace with his inner cabinet and security officials to figure out what to do in response to violent riots across France was: Well, he didn’t hightail it to Baden-Baden.
Maybe he should have. But it was a different time, and it would have been in vain.
The last time a riot in Paris shook a presidency to its socks was 1968. President Macron, the author of a political autobiography of sorts titled Revolution, was not born then, but he invested considerable time this year commemorating the 50th anniversary of what are euphemistically called “the events of May.” He joined the aging soixantehuitards generation in assuring that France became a nicer, better country thanks to that spasm of nihilism and the reforms that followed.
Flattery and self-satisfaction are poor substitutes for leadership.
The tax revolt of the past three weeks caps a year that had not gone well for the French president. Though he gained a parliamentary majority in the wake of winning the presidency in 2017, his ad-hoc party, La France en Marche (France on the Move), is made up largely of amateurs and opportunists with little loyalty to the boss and probably even less sense of what he stands for. But as reforms proposals have stalled, the suspicion arises that neither does he.
He seems to have even less sense of his own countrymen’s alienation from the political class and the changes in French society that they have dealt with for the past two or even three decades mainly by kicking them down the road or bailing out one sector or group of people by taxing the others. Fittingly, it was an increase in the tax on fuel, already at between seven to eight dollars a gallon, that provoked a truckers’ revolt.