Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lean To The Right

The French rule the fashion world. They set the pace for culinary excellence. For a long time, they were the standard bearers for European socialism. They're not quite so left-leaning any more, but the food is still outstanding.

The political battle between Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal was touted as the great ideological struggle between Right and Left, between the more Anglo-American model and the post-WWII love of socialism. All things on the right were decried, all the evils of crass commercialism and greed, while the left leaning politicians promised a bright future with something for everyone and a poulet in every pot.

The inconvenient truths of economics intruded on the French idyll, as socialism revealed itself to be a budget busting and costly venture that could not sustain itself. Due to restrictive laws that were supposed to protect the worker, it was getting more and more difficult to get a job. With everyone promised a place in university, a university education became meaningless with the need to dumb down the program to fit all. The French looked over what they had created, and decided that this was not, after all, what they had in mind. So they voted Nicolas Sarkozy into office.

Now the legislative elections have come and gone, and the Socialist party of Segolene Royal and her partner Francois Hollande has been trounced. 577 seats were contested, and Mr. Sarkozy's colleagues took all but 110 of them. By any account, that would be a resounding majority, a mandate (to steal a phrase) for change, for a lean to the right.

Socialists now preach fear, warning people that democracy will be smothered because Sarkozy's party has such an overwhelming majority. "Respect for basic rights (is) in peril" Mr. Hollande says, because he, as party leader, screwed up royally.

But what did the socialists have to offer to the French people, who live with their weak economy and high unemployment every day? That's the problem, right there. They had nothing to offer. Except for more of the same, that is, because it's socialism that brought France down and the French people have clearly had enough.

When it next sits, the French National Assembly will look rather like the American Congress, with one party in the majority and the other in opposition. The small groups, like the communists and the far right National Front, are represented in such small numbers as to be nearly extinct.

Will they be able to bring about the hard-nosed changes that are needed to get France back on solid economic footing? Will they weather the protests and riots that are sure to erupt when they try to change the wrong-headed laws that have weakened the economy but promised the moon to the average citizen?

How much did Congress get done when it was controlled by Republicans, with a Republican in the White House? Plus ca change, and all that.

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