A Way Out for France’s Socialist Party?

About the only thing I can think of that promises to be a more difficult and painful task than rebuilding the French Socialist Party is rebuilding the NY Knicks, which explains why I haven’t been covering the PS’s recent efforts to make Bush v. Gore look like a lovefest much. But Art Goldhammer has been, and he offers both a sensible proposal for a shortterm compromise, as well as the likely consequences of a failure to do so.

Meanwhile, Real Clear World’s Marc Desnoyers cites Le Monde as identifying far-left Olivier Besancenot and center-right François Bayrou as the two big winners of an eventual PS meltdown, which pretty much echoes my gut reaction over the past couple of weeks. The difference between the two is that Besancenot is charismatic and convincing enough to make his program, which lacks any meaningful attachment to reality, seem perfectly plausible, whereas Bayrou, as a friend once put it, has the charisma of a sofa, with obvious consequences for his ability to advance his coherent policy analysis.

As for Sarkozy and the UMP, while they will almost certainly benefit from a shortterm bounce, it’s important to remember that Sarkozy’s recent gains in popularity are at best fragile and most likely misleading. Once the French EU presidency comes to a close, he will be forced to return to a domestic policy that not only hasn’t rallied French voters behind him, but has caused a good deal of grumbling within his own party.

Perhaps the only advantage he has over the PS is that there are no credible challengers to his control of the UMP, with the possible exception of Dominique de Villepin, should he ever put the Clearstream affair behind him. But with every passing day, the “inheritor of Chirac” becomes about as relevant a claim to power as “the next Patrick Ewing.” So the UMP will sink or swim with Sarkozy, meaning that the race to see who can reach the bottom of the pool has now begun.

More World Politics Review