Political Animal


May 07, 2012 9:25 AM Euro-backlash

By Ed Kilgore

There was some suspense thanks to a last-minute polling trend in favor of the incumbent, but in the end Socialist Francois Hollande edged Nicolas Sarkozy to become president of France, dealing a direct blow to “Merkozy”, the German-Franco alliance sponsoring EU austerity policies. Since it was accompanied by an absolute meltdown for the governing parties in elections in Greece, the French results indicate a new departure in European politics, notes Paul Krugman:

Both countries held elections Sunday that were in effect referendums on the current European economic strategy, and in both countries voters turned two thumbs down. It’s far from clear how soon the votes will lead to changes in actual policy, but time is clearly running out for the strategy of recovery through austerity — and that’s a good thing.
Needless to say, that’s not what you heard from the usual suspects in the run-up to the elections. It was actually kind of funny to see the apostles of orthodoxy trying to portray the cautious, mild-mannered François Hollande as a figure of menace. He is “rather dangerous,” declared The Economist, which observed that he “genuinely believes in the need to create a fairer society.” Quelle horreur!

Angela Merkel’s party also experienced a setback in a state election in Schleswig-Holstein that was widely viewed as a table-setter for next year’s German national elections.

All in all, it’s a bit of a muddle for those in our country who view the European political landscape as one of virtuous, powerful austerity advocates taming financially bankrupt reactionaries hanging onto “unsustainable” welfare state policies, with the United States eventually facing the same choice of austerity or ruin.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Rich on May 07, 2012 9:47 AM:

    A muddle? Sarkozy should have easily picked up the right wing votes. He didn't. Austerity clearly is not a winning strategy and the results so far shouldn't hearten anyone.

  • c u n d gulag on May 07, 2012 10:13 AM:

    France being led being led by a real Socialist will cause another backlash here, from our reactionary righties.

    How long before we return to THIS silliness:
    "Freedom Fries" with burgers.
    "Patriot doors" from one room to the other.
    "Liberty kissing" - but only if you're not gay.
    "Founding Fathers onion soup."
    Dip your roast beef sandwich in "Independence Dip."
    "Minuteman ticklers."

    And, for the 2012 election, featuring something new on the menu:
    "Obama's toast," with a heaping helping of sprinkled WHITE confectioners sugar.

  • researcher (on relax time) on May 07, 2012 10:58 AM:

    Gulag nails it.

    Ane we know that republicans, including Romney/Ryan, favor and support such austerity policies/procedures.
    What happened politically in Europe, with voters overthrowing austere rulers, has brought the conversation to this country today--big time.
    I am at the beach, laptop handy, with time to listen to cable tv/browse the internet. I suspect the story of European elections is to be repeated over and over again as part of our own political discussion-- likely reaching even the low information voter--and showing Romney/Ryan clearly representing austerely devastating policies of cutting social programs, aid to the poor and unemployed, and Bain-like companies even with extensive cash holdings apt to cut jobs/pensions/health benefits....and republican governors continuing to slash state employees jobs/job opportunities as wealth is directed in their states to corporations--as we see in Pennsylvania/Wisconsin for example.

  • golack on May 07, 2012 11:07 AM:

    but...but...but...it will create "uncertainty"

  • Dredd on May 07, 2012 11:28 AM:

    It is instructive to watch these European voters express their viewpoint.

    Austerity here in the U.S.eh? means the 1% boot on the necks of the 99%, and evidently the Europeans saw it that way too.

    The plunder barons may have to go back into hiding behind "state secrets."

  • Joe Friday on May 07, 2012 11:29 AM:

    Hollande wants MORE government spending, an INCREASE in the minimum wage, and to hire 60,000 additional teachers, to stimulate the French economy.

    He wants to RAISE taxes on the Rich & Corporate earning over one million euros annually to pay down the debt.

    He wants to LOWER the retirement age from 62 to 60 for many workers which will open-up jobs for the unemployed.

    Sounds like a plan to me.

    Of course, it's the exact OPPOSITE of what the RightWingers, the Rich & Corporate, the financiers, and the Very Serious People, all over the globe have been advocating (which has been a dismal miserable FAILURE).

  • dalloway on May 07, 2012 11:35 AM:

    If Romney is elected and Republicans take over Congress in 2012, this is a preview of the U.S. election in 2016. Heh.

  • RalfW on May 07, 2012 11:54 AM:

    "...the same choice of austerity or ruin."

    So, a choice of the same thing, twice, eh?

    Thanks, but no.

  • karen marie on May 07, 2012 12:44 PM:

    He is “rather dangerous,” declared The Economist, which observed that he “genuinely believes in the need to create a fairer society.”

    This kind of statement makes my jaw drop. Do these people even listen to themselves?

  • rrk1 on May 07, 2012 12:45 PM:

    Let's hope Hollande has more of a spine than Obama. The same forces that stagnate and paralyze our politics are at work in France, and the French right-wing will now reorganize and become more militant under LePen's unchallenged leadership. The new president will have to be very adept and determined both at home and with Merkel if he's to make good on any of his reasonable plan to sort out French budget issues.

    The austerity crusaders have to be shown the door everywhere, and if that starts in France so be it. France will, of course, once again become the foil for American gingoism. Our spineless politicians supporting similar solutions will dive under the table.. After all, we wouldn't want to be like the French, would we? Or would we.

  • gdb on May 07, 2012 2:37 PM:

    JoeF, dal an rrk are correct. The problem at present in the US for November of 2012 is that Mittens policies are a disaster re Keynesian solutions needed-- but BHO's are inadequate with no plan. The James Buchanan or Neville Chamberlain of our time. Like BHO, nice guys, but with inadequate personalities or policies to deal with the crises and intractable opposition that they they faced.

  • Joe Friday on May 07, 2012 3:22 PM:

    The difference is that with a majority in the French parliament (and the exit polling indicates the Left way ahead for the June elections), Hollande will be able to enact his agenda into law, with no filibusters by the RightWing to block him.

  • smartalek on May 07, 2012 3:25 PM:

    gdb, with all due respect, it does matter that here in the US, our economy IS growing, and the numbers of unemployed and underemployed ARE -- albeit far too slowly -- shrinking.
    We are not Europe -- and that is almost entirely due to Obama, despite the worst efforts of the Publicans and the corporate media.
    Credit where it's due.
    Obviously, Americans need, and deserve, more.
    And two days out of three, I'm tempted to support Rmoney, so that the TeaBeggars will see just how thoroughly they've been lied to and used. (Since even 8 years of miserable failure clearly wasn't enough for the 30% to really understand, and remember, reality.)
    But we just can't afford to have American small-businesspeople, or taxi-drivers, or pensioners, immolating themselves on the Capitol steps. That's too high a price to educate the slower of our fellow-citizens.
    There has to be a better way.

  • Bigtuna on May 07, 2012 3:53 PM:

    This was touched on above, but Mo Dowd in NYtimes hit it yesterday. Part of the dynamic was that Marine LePen - the leader of the right wing, told her acolytes to sit on their hands - she very clearly said it did not matter if Hollande or Sarky were elected. So, many right wingers stayed home. SHe is angling to drive wedges, and build her support, and this election was "won" by Hollande in part due to a much longer game that the right wing is playing to carve more support from the right end of Sarky's party.

  • Rick B on May 07, 2012 4:16 PM:


    Let's hope Hollande has more of a spine than Obama.

    You don't get it.

    Obama knew if he demonstrated "spine" then his ability to get any governing policies passed at all were ended right then. The report in Robert Draper's book of the inaugeration day meeting of the treasonous Republican Party of NO proves that was the case.

    So Obama has governed for three crisis-filled years by catering to the Republicans when he had to. This year the Republicans have pulled out all the stops and Obama has moved into campaign mode.

    There is no effective governing from Washington now until after the election and probably not until Congress regains a Democratic majority in both houses - with no blue dogs in positions to hamstring the nation.

    This is going to be a very interesting election. The Republicans are blatantly proving their treason and their incompetence, and the MSM is going to be reacting to Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein's book It's even worse than it looks. Since Ornstein is one of the MSM favorites they are going to have to react to his accusation they they have failed to expose the Republicans with their "both parties are at fault" faux even-handedness.

    Is Obama center-right? Yeah, probably, but I doubt he has much room for that after this year. The real question is what is going to happen to the Congress in November.