France: Inside Edition

Art Goldhammer picks up on my post about a potential realignment in France’s domestic political landscape, adding the important insight that disaffection with French President Nicolas Sarkozy is not limited to his populist constituencies, but extends to his elite constituencies as well.

Goldhammer suggests, and rightly so, that the scenario I outlined creates an opening for the French center left, as represented by the market-liberal elements of the Socialist Party. The circumstances of the global financial crisis also play better to a social democrat political agenda: a regulated but nonetheless free market combined with an improved, if not necessarily expanded, social safety net. In other words, center left rather than center right.

The problem is twofold. First, there are too many potential candidates in the center-left bracket that Goldhammer proposes:

Add Moscovici, Valls, and the long list of center-leftists who havesigned on with Sarkozy (Bockel, Besson, Hirsch, Lang, Jouyet, Allègre,etc.) and you’ve got the nucleus of a new party to the left of Modemand the New Center but to the right of the ever more muddled PS. It’s along shot, but I’m sure that some of these ambitious men see the voidand wonder if they might fill it.

My hunch is that all of these ambitious men see the void and are convinced they might fill it. So while a center left party might flourish, a center left presidential candidate probably won’t.

The second problem is that François Bayrou has already positioned himself to champion the kind of social democratic agenda that will play so well. Goldhammer writes Bayrou off without really explaining why, but I tend to agree with one Goldhammer’s commenters:

Why not Bayrou? He’s socially progressive but fiscally conservative, consistent, professional. (Something these current PS leaders don’t seem to be.)

He’s also got his very credible 2007 candidacy to build on. Morin complicates things for Bayrou, but complicated doesn’t mean impossible.

As an aside, I predicted Bayrou would be the next French president back in 2003. Needless to say I looked like a genius in March 2007. (Less so following the actual voting in April.)

My audacious prediction for 2012? Sarkozy will not run for re-election. You read it here first.

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