In this article, I will try to give you an insight on president Macron from a critical French perspective. Above all, we will briefly go through his political communication and some of his public declarations, and we will go down to what Macronism means in practice, in terms of laws and administration. This article also aims to be a friendly warning at a fringe of the populist and anti-immigration right, which may seem seduced by some of his speeches and public positions.
First of all, it is important that you keep in mind that Macron is the perfect product of politics in the 21st century: he lives by and for communication and political marketing. During the 2017 presidential campaign he was the last candidate to publish his program, less than two months before the first election round. That means that he actually campaigned on his political image (he entered politics less than 2 years before) and essentially on nothingness during most of the 2017 election campaign. He was largely and justly criticised for that fact. In the meantime, he benefited from largely positive media coverage essentially focusing on his youth or atypical background, and it was made public that many businessmen and newspaper owners ( such as Le Monde or L’Express ) were openly supporting him.
From December 2016 to the end of February 2017, he rose from 15% to 23% in the national polls, and from the third to the second place, without having published any form of programme. That is why his capacity to seduce people with his serious and somewhat charismatic appearance, and then get them to like him with a few and carefully weighted meaningless declarations should not be underestimated. This ability of him to say complicated but essentially meaningless speeches (that consequently engages him to nothing) would even come to cause problems to Macron himself, after he got lost and left perplex in the middle of one of his abstruse speeches. Those speeches would often consist of overly complicated or technical terms, abusive figures of speech, double-meaning discourse or even sometimes the use of English terms.
These facts should always be kept in mind when he declares things that at first you may be tempted to like. He is the anti-Trump, he thinks and weights carefully what he says, with a clear objective, and probably never speaks his mind.
Secondly, it is also very important to remember how he got elected. With his centrist position, « neither left, nor right » as he said multiple times, he attracted electors from both the centre-left and the right. Centre-left electors who were demoralised after the Hollande disaster and the election of a hard left-winger as presidential candidate for the centre-left socialist party, and mostly right-wing retirees who were disgusted by the centre-right candidate, Fillon, and his scandals, and were seduced by his economic program. This was a true political seism in France, where centrism had been in agony for years, and centrists forced to seek political alliances with the left or right to obtain seats in the parliament.
With that in mind, you could easily imagine how important it is to him to constantly try to appeal to the left and right, which is why he sometimes needs to make careful declarations aimed at the right-wingers, to make sure they stay onboard with him, while his politics continue to be nothing else than liberalism. This, I believe, was the aim of his declarations about African birthrates, his (not staged at all) discussion with a soon to be deported Algerian woman, his recent meeting with catholic bishops and a few others. During a meeting with African students, he was accused of adopting a paternalist tone when answering a quite aggressive question revolving around colonialism. Since we know it wasn’t scripted, it says things on his personality and what he really thinks behind the mask, but this attitude or spirit can not be found, for the moment, in his policies.
President Macron has been in charge for a bit less than a year, but his early policies already give us an insight on what is to come, and on what constitutes his political doctrine.
Economically speaking, he is a liberal as we would call it in France, or a free-market advocate as he would be called in the US, which is quite new in France, and he is an open supporter of globalisation. His attempts at reforming the public railroad system are already causing uproar among the left, but I will not go into further details about ‘Macronomics’ as it is not what interests us the most.
On the European questions, he is undoubtedly a pro-EU, and it is clear than he wants more of it. He declared himself in favour of a European finance minister for the Eurozone, and in favour of the creation of an EU military force. He also proposed trans-national candidates for the European parliament elections, meaning that real European political parties would be created and that a French and Estonian could vote for the same candidate, effectively destroying national boundaries.
Some of these propositions even caused Merkel to step in and oppose him, although not publicly of course. Sadly, he also supports the infamous refugees quotas and the sanctions against east European countries that revolted against this system.
On the matter of immigration, there is nothing for us to cheer about either. Legal immigration to France increased by more than 13% in 2017 and reached an all time high since 1995, although he was in charge for less than half the year. In the early months of his presidency, he also decided that the French government would directly feed the illegal aliens in Calais, instead of charities. He announced that France would considerably increase its capacities to shelter refugees, by opening new centres and directing more of the taxpayers’ money into it.
You may have heard of his measures to counter illegal immigration, that caused the left to completely overreact, and contributed to making him look tough on illegals, but it is unfortunately far from the truth. The toughest measure would consist on lengthening the period that the police can keep an illegal in custody, from 40 or so days to 80. However, judges need to be asked the permission to do so, and they rarely give their approval. Moreover, the main problem encountered by the French authorities is that they very rarely deport arrested illegals, due to either opposition from their home country or clear absence of will from bureaucrats. Consequently, less than 7000 illegals were sent back out of the EU in 2017, which is minuscule in proportion to the total illegal population in France. Those measures described by the far left as inhumane are therefore largely cosmetic ones.
Macron has so far manifested no will to reduce legal immigration either or to reduce the many benefits that legal or illegal immigrants can have, such as free healthcare (AME in French, which roughly costs near a billion euros a year), and he spoke to North Africans about installing a « road of responsibility » from Africa to France.
Lately, MPs of his majority even voted to considerably soften the penalties for citizens who shelter and drive illegal migrants around, making it effectively legal to help clandestines by giving them car rides and shelter, which often helps them to escape the police. Macron was nowhere to be seen.
With those elements in mind, we can safely say that so far there is nothing that anybody remotely right-wing could effectively like in what Macron means in practicality. If I were to be cynical, I would say that considering his Rothschild banker background, as well as the kind of mentors he had (Jacques Attali and Alain Minc, or the French equivalents of Bill Kristol, but worse), we knew it from the very moment he got into politics…
So this is why I implore the right, especially foreigners, not to fall for Macron-mania or the phantasmagoric but appealing idea that he could be a sort of right-wing mole far undercover in liberal politics. If anything, his early actions seem to indicate that he is well in his element.