Many American voters lamented that our election choices came down to two highly unlikeable candidates – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
But France’s recent election wasn’t much better. The two leading candidates were Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Macron is a “centrist,” which, by French standards could be someone to the left of Fidel Castro. Le Pen is described by media as “far right,” the term used for anyone with views that are not widely accepted by the media, such as not endorsing socialism.
Center-right Republican François Fillon might have been the new president if he hadn’t been “formally charged in a widening embezzlement investigation” due to allegations that he paid his wife and children “hundreds of thousands of euros from the public payroll for little or no work.” Even in often-forgiving France, nepotism is unpopular.
Macron France’s Youngest Leader
Macron, who was decisively elected president, is France’s youngest leader ever, having been elected at age 39. He is “an outspoken EU supporter who wants to establish a command center for the Continent’s defense, create a border police force, loosen France’s rigid labor rules, cut payroll taxes and reduce French public-sector employment by 120,000,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal also describes him as “a political pragmatist who has long cast himself as an outsider. He was a musician to his banking colleagues and a capitalist inside a Socialist government before squaring off with nationalists as a pro-Europe candidate.”
Macron married one of his high school teachers, who is 24 years older than him; he was 17 when he told her he wanted to marry her, but Oedipus complex aside, it’s no wonder that French voters are glad to be rid of Socialist President François Hollande.
Socialism Loses Out in France
Whatever his merits, Macron benefited from an anyone-but-Hollande election. Hollande was so unpopular, he decided not to run for re-election and the Socialist candidate for election, Benoit Hamon, was knocked out in the first round of the election with just 6.36% of the vote.
Still, Hamon was far more popular than Hollande, whose approval ratings were so low he would be envious of Donald Trump. Shortly after he was elected, his approval rating was about 63%. By the time he ended his time in office, it had fallen to about 4%!
The Washington Post, which is always good for a laugh, noted that, “His opponents would mostly point at Hollande’s allegedly unsuccessful tenure: The country’s economy has only gradually recovered from recession, and many of the nation’s problems remain unresolved.”
President Obama was the first president in U.S. history not to see a single year of economic growth above 3%. Growth averaged about 2% during his administration. In France, during Hollande’s reign, economic growth never even reached 1%. In fact, it averaged less than 0.5%.
Meanwhile, not surprisingly, the unemployment rate was consistently high during the Hollande years. It was about 9.5% when he took office in 2012, it jumped to about 10.5% in 2015 and now it’s about 9.6%.
In addition to more than 3.5 million people in France being unemployed, another million and half are underemployed, according to Euronews. France has some of the most persistent structural unemployment in the western world.
Note that, in comparison, the Federal Reserve Board has suggested that the U.S. is close to full employment with a U-3 rate of 4.4%, but the U-6 rate, which includes part-time employees and those who have stopped looking for work as unemployed, is still 8.6% as of the end of April. However, that’s down from 9.7% a year ago.
It didn’t help that Hollande blamed just about everyone but himself for his failure. In a 662-page book published by two journalists and based on extensive recorded interviews with Hollande, he “called the judiciary a ‘cowardly institution,’ the national football team ‘badly brought-up kids,’ the poor ‘toothless.’ He belittled the stature of Claude Bartolone, the speaker of parliament, and the education of Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, his education minister, neither of whom—unlike Mr. Hollande—went to the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, the elite civil-service graduate school. En passant, Mr. Hollande admitted to having authorised four targeted killings by the French secret services.”
After publication of the book, Hollande sent eight letters of apology … “claiming, creatively, that his comments bore ‘no relation to the reality of my thinking.’”
Book aside, Hollande’s tenure was a failure, offering further proof that socialism is a bad idea.
Leftist Americans, including those who regret that Bernie Sanders failed to capture the nomination for president, should take note.