There are some things so obviously related that though they exist or occur a thousand miles apart, or a thousand years apart, the relationship is obvious. Then there are things that exist or occur right beside each other at exactly the same time with, quite bizarrely, no causative relation to each other at all. And then there is the rise of Emmanuel Macron to the Presidency of France and the subsequent (delayed) downfall of the most electorally successful political party in Western Europe since the Second World War. Nothing is obvious about this now, and yet after it has happened nothing will seem bizarre about it either.
The Most Interesting Candidate
At first sight the most interesting Presidential candidate in France for the term 2017-22 was Marine Le Pen supported by the most interesting party, the Front National. By every conceivable calculation this seems to be the case. An obscure argument can be made for Melenchon, but upon examination he turned out to be just an old style Communist who gathered the vote of the collapsed establishment Socialists. No, Le Pen would seem to have it by every measurable.
She was the candidate of the “Far Right” in the year after the media told us the “Far Right” were sweeping the political board. They also told us that the same ideology had failed in Austria despite being just two percentage points short against absolutely everyone else, and that Geert Wilder’s party had failed in the Netherlands despite increasing its parliamentary representation by nearly a third. Never mind the accuracy of the ideological or factual description, in sheer column inches and broadcast minutes she was the centre of attention.
She was and is a woman, by itself supposed to make her interesting, insofar as Hillary Clinton ran almost an entire campaign on that fact, the rest of it on not being Donald Trump. Marine would, after all, have been the first female President of France and thus a break-through for feminism, if feminism meant equal rights for women, which it doesn’t. Right wing women don’t count as real women for modern feminists, which is not surprising considering the obvious amount of testosterone present at your average women’s march.
Marine Le Pen, the story goes, had done much to detoxify the Front National, assuming you buy into the narrative that it was toxic in the first place, which ironically probably means you also think she didn’t because it can’t be done. Liberals who read the last sentence will understand what I mean much better than conservatives. Just because it makes no sense doesn’t mean it’s not sensible to them and I’m just following the path of the mind-set, where logic is no help.
And her defeat was “catastrophic” for the aforementioned and so-called “Far Right”. The fact that nearly 11 million people voted for someone they were clearly and unambiguously told, by everyone worldwide whose opinion is supposed to matter, was a Fascist, is not the point. If you think it is you’re still not caught up with the narrative. They were crushed, destroyed, smashed, distraught, broken, and dishevelled even. Whatever….
Neither the Front National, nor Marine Le Pen is any of these things, any more than the Austrian or Dutch Freedom Parties are. Though there is a certain bravado required to conduct an election campaign, no one seriously believed she would win in 2017, even Nigel Farage gave her at once his endorsement and no chance, not this time.
But does any of this make her the most “interesting” candidate? I’m uncertain that it does, as I am uncertain that it has anything to do with Ireland, and as I am completely certain it has nothing to do with Fianna Fáil, much less its demise.
The candidacy of François Fillon was clever in its own way, but completely orthodox, and uninteresting for the student of the truly new and daring. There was clearly a sizing up of the danger posed by the Front National in the wake of regional elections which had seen them gain everywhere. Some places more than others but in not one single region had the FN vote declined and in some cases it had increased dramatically. It was all very well to play the media line that the failure to win an outright majority in any one region was a devastating blow etc., but realistically no one in France believed that, and certainly no one in the political establishment did.
So came the clever but ultimately predictable counterstroke. The Front National, for all the drivel about “extremism”, was and is a profoundly conservative party, its support base is largely traditionalist in outlook and for all the reaching out towards the middle it remains so. Previously Nicolas Sarkozy had taken them on with some degree of success by appealing to its “moderates” who were nonetheless concerned by mass immigration and the general breakdown of law and order which accompanied it, if it wasn’t entirely caused by it. As a tactic, fine. Problem was, Sarkozy couldn’t deliver except on the cosmetics, and as a strategy it was disastrous as his failure to deal with the problems would send that support back to the Front National where it was unlikely to be fooled again.
In reforming the FN, however, Marine Le Pen had opened a number of deep divides in the party, only papered over by the prospect of imminent victory and of course the lack of an alternative.
And so hatched the plan, a good plan, novel to France anyway. Instead of pushing the Front back would it be possible to out Right the Far Right, and if so, where and how? Enter Mr. Fillon, a conservative in every sense of the word, a practising Catholic in a country where the question of Church and State has been fraught since the Revolution, and where every party is secularist, extremely so, even the FN.
Where Le Pen spoke of defending the values of the Republic, Mr Fillon steeped himself in the language of family values, and explicitly “Christian values”. He was personally opposed to abortion, though he wasn’t going to do anything about it as such, he voted against gay marriage though he didn’t believe in actually repealing the law there, and he was promising a quota on immigration but he wouldn’t give a figure. Fillon was the French translation of Fianna Fáil. Unfortunately, for his backers, he was that in all senses of the word and credible stories emerged that he had been a man “on the take”. He had out Righted the Far Right on rhetorical social conservatism and then fallen for the money. His campaign did not for that reason collapse so much as narrowly miss the window of opportunity.
Emmanuel Macron on the other hand is a fascinating phenomenon.
The Mystery of Emmanuel Macron
At first sight, there is nothing interesting about this man. At second sight still not much, an unusual age gap between his wife and himself, twenty-four years, nothing bizarre but the measure of unusual is that a thing be uncommon, and it is that. Despite his claims, there is nothing homophobic or misogynist about this observation, if he were the older one it would still be uncommon. It’s not the gap though, it’s that he was fifteen and she was thirty-nine when they met (co-incidentally the legal age of consent in France) and she was his teacher at the French equivalent of Secondary School. It’s a little creepy.
But a little creepy more than two decades ago hardly makes for interesting now, it is even a deflection. Emmanuel Macron is fascinating precisely because he is so tiresomely boring, and by any logical measure should not even have existed as a credible candidate, much less the eventual winner and now, for five years at least, the President of France. He did the improbable, if not the impossible, or so it would appear. But what if it was never improbable, what if in fact it was nearly inevitable?
We aren’t here entering the realm of science fiction, he is flesh and blood as such, a human being. But as a political figure he appears entirely “created” and his political party, En Marche!, an entity of money and show without either grassroots organisation or even the normal trappings of a political party. That is supposed to be its appeal, slogans, vague rhetoric, a marketing invention and moreover a test, a prototype if you like and a successful one at that.
If the theory is correct then Macron, the President, was not created as an ad hoc means to defeat Marine Le Pen or confront the Far Right at all, since his preparation and tutelage go back much further than a serious threat from the Front National could have been anticipated. He has been Left, he has been Right, and he has been Centrist, but unusually for a modern politician these definitions have not coincided with major changes in conviction, the label changed, the substance never, as you would expect from a carefully packaged product.
For Monsieur Macron “the real divide in our country … is between progressives and conservatives” and in that he has never wavered. And he has a strict dictionary definition of conservative, (as opposed to how it’s normally used in modern politics), a conservative is therefore someone who continues to think what he or she has always thought, and thus a Communist can be as much a conservative as a member of Fillon’s Republicans, if they continue to think and act Communist, as opposed to “progressive”. Melenchon by the definition is more conservative than Le Pen who is presumably “regressive”, though who can be sure.
In any case, candidates who wish to run in tomorrow’s Assembly elections under the label of “La République En Marche!” are not even required to relinquish membership of their current political party, they have only to display “probity”, “political plurality” and “efficacy”. So the party is not a party, but it is most definitely a party, a “trans partisan” party. And it has ideals, though they don’t have to be the same as each other. Confused? Don’t worry, you’re supposed to be, as is all of France. This isn’t new. Macron declared his Presidential bid in November, had no policies at all until the following March, and then suddenly produced a one hundred and fifty page bewildering document from which no one could decipher a single actual declaration of intent.
Despite this he had already accumulated a vast array of endorsements, from the traditional Far Left to the Centre Right and significantly the Grand Mosque of Paris. He has indeed led a charmed life, which is not to say he is not bright, but he has gotten further and gotten there quicker than might reasonably be expected, somewhat like a certain Barack Obama, whose rapid political progress may well have been the less ambitious prototype for Macron. Those of you thinking that the Presidency of France is a much lesser office than the Presidency of the United States are forgetting that we are in the first place talking about ambition, in the “what can be achieved” by political manipulation sense, and in the second place, executive power within France is greater than it is within the US.
That Macron had links within the world of International Finance through not only his work with Rothschild & Cie Banque, but even earlier as a senior civil servant at the Inspectorate General of Finances is well known. There’s nothing puzzling about that in the context of his meteoric rise. What few enough know is that although he was a member of the Socialist Party from 2006 to 2009, it was as a declared independent from 2009 to 2016 that he was appointed Deputy Secretary-General to François Hollande in 2012 and to Minister of the Economy in 2014. This was while never having run for, much less been elected, to public office and not being a member of the ruling party. How odd.
In April 2016, while still a Minister in a Socialist Government he founded En Marche!, his own political party and remained in the government until resigning in August. By March 2017 this “new” party had accumulated over nine million euro in donations with over half coming from just six hundred donors. Wow!
So with this man the question is not so much who is he, but what?
The Synthetic Politician
His CV is filled with just enough positions of power, money and influence to give him gravitas, but not enough to ever have made a serious mistake, or even taken a correct stand which required nonetheless some courage, either personal or political. He has not so much defied definition on the traditional Left/Right spectrum as he has been at some point, and briefly, everywhere on it, except the extremes. No one outside of France and few enough within would have recognised his name twenty-four months ago. And yet he sleeps, one presumes soundly enough in the Élysée Palace, (of mild note, once known as the “Home of the King’s whore”) as the Saviour of the Republic, acclaimed by the media and commentariat, who invested a good deal of time, effort, and money convincing the French people that he was exactly that, but mostly introducing him like a guest at a party who had arrived at the last minute, and whom no one knew.
What is he? My controversial assertion is no less than that he is the future of politics in the Western World! Not him, the man, but it, the product. Emmanuel Macron is not so much a man who became President but a totally fictitious character, the first completely artificial politician, not even dishonest, but synthetic.
Why is he? So that normal politics can be dispensed with, and democracy, understood as the will of the people asserted through the ballot box, can be replaced with deep state governance, a parade of insignificant and disposable faces placed before the people as leaders while the permanent government can get on with the business of making the actual decisions.
Some of the more cynical among you will believe that there is nothing new about this at all, but as a person with some limited political experience I can assure you that it is. Unique even. Most political careers start off organically enough, a public spirited young man or woman, with a few interesting if unspectacular ideas on how to make the world, or their part of it anyway, a better place. A fairly basic public speaking ability will bring them to the attention of one or other of that country’s establishment parties and they will either be recruited or will be welcomed as a recruit. Enough effort, energy and time and they’ll be up the first rungs of the ladder without anyone really noticing. But if they are noticed, and when they are noticed, they will be brought to one side by an older, equally well meaning, if cynical, member of their new party and the realities of life will be explained to them. Both the limits, and the possibilities.
Of course they must say the right things in the right places, shake all the right hands and above all else gain an understanding of the “practicalities”. Politics is as Bismarck said “the art of the possible”, but the possible quickly narrows in terms of what can be done and just as quickly widens as to what can be done for them if they learn to play by the rules. It’s rarely bribery in the straight sense, no envelopes exchanged or anything crude like that, just life lessons in how the real world works. The brighter catch on immediately and their advancement is speeded up. If they have a few personal weaknesses all the better, nothing will be said unless it has to be said.
The problem with this kind of politics from the point of view of the deep state elite is human beings rarely work as smoothly as the plan. The most cynical politician having risen to the highest office may begin to feel qualms of conscience, or, especially as they reach the end of their career they can have a tendency to revert to nostalgia as to why they became involved in the game in the first place. Thus a Dwight Eisenhower can begin to talk of the dangers of “the military industrial complex”, John Kennedy hint darkly of “the gnomes of Zurich” and let’s face it Richard Nixon went right off the script altogether. This side of the Atlantic, love or loathe, Margaret Thatcher was set for big things when she led the Conservative “Yes” campaign for the Common Market, and the writing was on the wall with “No, No, No!”
Macron is a different breed altogether, there is no record of him having been a member of any political party at all until he was twenty-nine, and without appearing to work very hard in it he left within three years. Yet the same political party raised him to high office within another three, without even asking him to re-join the party. A purer example of no hard feelings it would be hard to find. Doesn’t his time with the Socialist Party look more like a serving of apprenticeship, than political conviction disappointed? A glittering academic career, a time in civil service management, a little training in International Finance, some political toe dipping, then Ministerial office, a betrayal no one seems too bitter about, and then his own political party, created from nowhere and nothing, except huge amounts of money and the widest of endorsements and believing in what? “Being progressive”. Plus twelve months:
Voilà, Le Président de la République Française, Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron
Now logically if the hypothesis is to stand up to scrutiny those who have embarked on this experiment cannot have relied on him alone, after all the man might just up and die on them. It happens, and in this instance is considerably more likely than betrayal. So it follows that there must be at least a number of other “Macrons” just in case. A presidential term is five years now (it was previously seven) and two terms are permitted presuming he is not forced to resign for one reason or another. If not, the others are just going to have to wait, and wait without guarantee since who knows which one will be chosen. Not to worry, they can stay working in the bank they are currently in I suppose. It follows too that if the experiment is to have any purpose it must be intergenerational as well, he must be succeeded and then his successor must be succeeded again and so on. One can easily imagine then some fifteen year old boy or girl in France is even now being approached by a teacher who will have a very influential role in their lives.
Could It Happen Here?
The important thing is nothing like that could ever happen in Ireland? We are too small a country, not just in significance, but more practically, the thing just wouldn’t work amongst a population who very nearly know each other personally. Amongst whom “parish pump” politics is no relic, and where attendance at sufficient funerals is still a pre-requisite of future political success. Or?
Consider the career of Katherine Zappone. Born in the United States she became at some point an Irish citizen, no one seems to know quite when, but she says she is, and on this much at least I would take her at her word. It has hard though to escape the reasoning that no one knew because no one cared to know. Then she and her ”lesbian life partner” sought to have the Irish State recognise their Canadian “marriage” in an unwinnable case given the Irish Constitution could not allow for such a recognition. The laws and customs of pretty much everywhere and everyone didn’t either, until very recently, but that’s another matter. A few people knew her name.
In 2011 she was given a Taoiseach’s nomination to the Seanad by Enda Kenny at the recommendation of Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore even though she was to sit as an independent, and was neither a member of Fine Gael or Labour. Indeed she spent much of her time as a Senator castigating the government, even joining public protests against government policy. Politically dead? Not at all. The same sex marriage referendum in 2015 finally made her actually famous, even if it was as “that American lesbian one” who’s a “something or other”. She ran for and won a Dáil seat, again as an independent, in 2016, declined to vote for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach on two successive occasions, voted for him on the third, and was made a Minister within a week. Minister for children no less though she has none herself. Beginning to sound a little familiar? Academic career, a little political toe dipping, and betrayals no one seems too bitter about, elevated from nothing and nowhere?
Not that Katherine Zappone is Macron or even, more precisely, Ireland’s equivalent. But she was and is a prototype, a primarily fictitious character, a completely artificial politician, synthetic. She is proof positive that it can be done here too!
And what can be done will be done. Organic political figures are notoriously awkward characters; they have a very real support base, usually some actual ideas and a sense of themselves as being real. Organic political parties are even worse, their support base runs deep, they have to have some ideas even if they would prefer not to, and you can’t just cast them aside at a whim with a few sarcastic op-eds. If either decides to be difficult they can be very difficult indeed, and you never know for sure exactly when they are going to be, and how important the matter on which they so decide will be, in the broader scheme of things. They can be brought low to be sure, but it might take some time and it might be too late for a particular project at least. Better by far just to have completely made up ones.
Of all the political parties in this country Fianna Fáil has at once proven the most successful (at winning elections anyway) and the most elusive in terms of what it is. It is the jelly party that cannot be nailed to any wall, it mutates into whatever it needs to be to survive and survive it has. It also has the tendency to be awkward. It can do foolish things the deep state doesn’t want it to do, and it can be denounced from every quarter and still somehow exist, even thrive. It believes in nothing of course but the problem with that is that it is always ready to believe in anything. It can be “conservative”, though not always. More significantly, although it can be “progressive”, it cannot be counted on to be. Fine Gael is all of these things too but to a lesser extent.
Better to be rid of both? Well yes, but is that possible? “La République En Marche!” says it is, Macron proves that it is, and Katherine Zappone’s political existence says it can be replicated in Ireland at any time.
By tomorrow night the French Assembly is most likely to have an overall majority support for a political party that didn’t exist a year and a half ago, and in some senses doesn’t really exist today. The Front National will be genuinely reeling from an actual defeat – I’m going to guess 16 per cent. The Republican Party however is the one most likely to cease to be, and the Socialist not far behind. Within another year the Socialist Left will go fully Left, the Republicans will be absorbed altogether, and only the Front National in some form, though traumatised, will remain to confront the master stroke of the Globalist Deep State. Count on it.
I give our own “Republican Party” two years to coalition with Fine Gael, ten at the outside for a complete merger, called something (who cares what?), within fifteen the merged entity will be swept away by a man or woman leading a party that is already being prepared and that no one has even heard of, it may not even have a name yet. It will have money like Irish politics has never seen before, the complete adoration of legacy media and their agents, and it will be “progressive”. Civil War politics will be at an end finally, and yes it will be the end of Fianna Fáil (and Fine Gael and Labour etc.) Will it sweep all before it? The fringes of the Left will exist as such, but in compliance and collaboration.
And maybe there will be a real confrontation with the National Party. But that remains to be seen, and more importantly, done.
— Justin Barrett
Uachtarán An Pháirtí Náisiúnta