How populists beat the traditional left.

Or why “workers” vote for populists, leaving the left in the dust. A Fillon vs Le Pen second round would be a right vs left confrontation, with Le Pen representing the left (H De Bodinat, Challenges.fr).

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– We used to be despised for being fascist rednecks with racist and reactionary ideas…   – But since we vote FN we are respected as poor lost voters victims of life’s harshness. (via pcf84danielecasanova.fr )

Say anything to please voters, whether it makes any sense or not. The left’s ideology (or the right’s for that matter) is only a nuisance, better to be free of any coherence to promise what they want to hear. It’s globalization’s fault! It’s the immigrant’s fault! Doesn’t matter, it’s anyone but the poor chouchou voter’s fault. Want the sky to be pink? We’ll make it so, and made in France / the US / Brexit too.

Be angry, as any good representative of angry mobs should, and vociferous: I am one of you, angry people! We need action! We will take our country back! Even if none of that means anything, and even if that trick has been played on you before (by Sarko).

Because there’s a vacuum that needs to be filled, in this case Macron is too docile and vague, Valls is another Hollande type grey bureaucrat, the ecologists are irrelevant and Mélenchon is another left wing ayatollah completely divorced from reality. The left in France has no solutions, is hampered by compromises; the right doesn’t mean much except in opposition to the left, and is thus stronger after weak sauce Hollande.

So the “sane” choice will be right wing light populist Fillon, sure of his values about order, morality and free enterprise; none of which solves anything, but would be preferable to le monde à l’envers, a Le Pen representing workers.

The interesting thing would be for Macron to realize these three steps and take action accordingly:

Appeal to self esteem and national honour: We are better than this; oh and in passing we are better than unitestaters, italians, and brexiters: that should clinch it.

Be just as angry while denouncing the other’s stupidity: we want our country back!

Fill the vacuum, present yourself as the one choice to break the stalemate: the old ways aren’t working, let’s try something new that makes sense and has a direct impact on the bottom line for each voter: employment, security, a sense of autonomy and fulfillment. Big tasks for a big job.

 

The age of stupidity: the Italian chapter.

Italians voted no to reform; because they dislike Renzi; because they didn’t want him to have more power; because they wanted to protest; because they woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Because just as Brits and Unitedstaters before them, they would rather vote for their pet issues than for what their country desperately needs.

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Except this time it wasn’t the captain’s fault. (Costa Concordia via The Atlantic).

Perhaps Renzi could have sold it better, perhaps he should have taken it easier; but then he knows reform is urgent, and simply wasn’t prepared for the level of stupidity so many other countries have fallen for.

What follows? More of the same: governments that last on average a little more than a year; an economy in dire straits; unemployment; whole cities in the hands of the mafia; a feeling that Italy isn’t really part of the EU.

In general this is a problem democracies everywhere must solve.

Is it the EU’s fault? Time for more hand wringing? Or time to undo the tendency, and ask people small issues which cannot be construed to be anything else.

Trump back on planet earth

Reading the leaves from the NY Time’s interview.

(+) He met with the NY Times! By world standards the NY Times is tame and lame, in the US they are considered leftist radicals, which says a lot about the poor level of political discourse. By meeting with them Trump has proven he is not completely insane, orange face and yellow hair notwithstanding.

By not falling into the trap of an off record interview the NY Times showed their experience and the importance of some way of holding Trump accountable.

(-) Trump’s relationship with the media is toxic. He thinks they are there to cultivate his image, has no inkling about the importance of the balance of powers. Trump’s attitude debases US democracy. None of this means US media are sacrosanct or even any good at their job, or that they can survive advertising armageddon.

(-) He’s making it up as he goes along. Trump the candidate was effective at winning the election; that doesn’t make him the best person for the job. None of the other candidates were either, but the fact remains the political game is only good at producing political jockeys, not Statesmen. You wouldn’t expect the most popular loudest, most annoying guy at the party to be a good CEO. And in case there’s some confusion: running a country has absolutely nothing to do with running a company, no matter how big.

Making it up as he goes along represents in itself a negative for the US and world economy, as companies cut investments until they know what will happen. The grown up solution is to decide as soon as possible, explaining the rationale behind these decisions, beyond what seems obvious to him.

(+) He says he’s keeping an open mind. This is actually a positive, given the low points of his campaign and the loud fascists who endorsed him. The question of course is how quickly and completely he’ll get captured by the lobbies. The way not to fall for that trap is by keeping score: who runs the country, and for whom?

Given his toxic relationship with the media, the other question is whether he actually means it, or if he was just playing a charade.

(uncertain) Deregulation, tax cuts. Deregulation seems like a tool to get a result, which is to get US companies to produce in the US. The goal is laudable, and speaks of a practicality traditional politicians lost sight of; the means less so, because it can imply even lower standards: toxic, dangerous product? No problem, this is ‘murica!

The smart way to replace regulation is by introducing smaller, smarter regulations, that make product quality and its effects on the environment transparent, so it’s consumers themselves who police the product. Toxic product? No problem, just don’t expect anyone to buy it, and getting rid of waste will have a cost. Cheated? Expect to pay a heavy price immediately. Replacing regulation is not the same as eliminating regulation willy nilly, and would have the additional advantage of replacing the expensive, unfair system of “justice by lawsuit”: Less lawyers, better world.

(-) Import duties, such as those he could impose on companies like Apple, look like an easy, popular choice; except companies can’t change their supply chain that quickly or at the same prices. This would involve steep price increases for US consumers. Hello, $1,500 entry level PC, $3,000 iPhone. Thanks to a supply chain expert like Tim Cook, Apple might actually be uniquely positioned to survive, but others might not: Goodbye Dell, so long HP? If you are a car manufacturer, why would you go back to producing in a stagnating market when the opportunities for growth are in other countries? Businessman Trump seems to have no experience in actually manufacturing products and may put US companies in danger.

(+) Infrastructure is something most people would agree needs to be improved; most people except those hitched to radical positions for electioneering purposes, like the republican party. The main problem is infrastructure requires people willing to work long hours in harsh conditions, people like the very migrants Trump wants to keep away. Why would your average unitedstater spend eight under paid hours under the sun or in a snow blizzard, when he can more easily peddle drugs? This will probably be the biggest shock for Trump: the ones screaming the loudest don’t want to do an honest day’s work  anymore.

(-) Immigration. Migrants are an easy target for election purposes, but they happen to be the ones who grow the food and build the houses in the US. A pragmatic approach would be to acknowledge the needs of US businesses as well as the security implications of illegal migration. It’s not only migrants who are illegal, it’s also US businesses that are performing illegal activities, so any solution needs to cut both ways. If implemented, the crazy wall plan would mean food scarcity in the US.

The smart move would be to establish formal seasonal permits so workers have clear paths to secure, safe jobs in the US (again, jobs no one else in the US wants) with access to banking, health care, decent working conditions and clear incentives to return to Mexico: these are people saving money to send back home, so staying in a more expensive country when they are not working doesn’t make sense. In other words, make it way more advantageous to be in the new system, as opposed to being illegal. None of this requires spending money on walls, surveillance or more border patrols.

Grateful migrants would be a better bulwark against actual terrorists seeking to enter and damage the US.

(-) Old fashioned view of the economy. The biggest advantage for the US has been its middle class, which has been able to buy consumer goods; they were able to do so thanks to corporate jobs which don’t exist anymore, and good old successful socialist practices like farm and mortgage subsidies. The biggest opportunities in the new economy are unleashing the information, knowledge and contributions from consumers, to produce the right products in the right amounts at the right time time; not in manufacturing.

The other big change is that the global middle class is now a big part of sales opportunities, so cutting off the US from this market because of retaliatory import duties from other countries would hurt US businesses.

(-) He doesn’t seem to get the importance of cutting off all business ties. This is dangerous for any democracy, and is a basic test of how much you really love your country and understand the importance of the job.

 

60 million “Americans” acted stupidly.

An Absurd and Dangerous President (Der Spiegel). Strong words from one of the US’s most staunch allies.

First problem: with his disregard for plain truth, Trump is a menace for democracy in the US and everywhere else.

Second problem: The US no longer represents our civilization, or what’s left of it. Authoritarian regimes and populists rejoice.

Third problem: by retrenching, the US will leave many spaces open to fanatics, populists and dictators; common sense, common decency, plain logic are the exception. The countries that have coasted on the tails of the US will need to step up or suffer the consequences.

The first likely scenario is that Putin will test Trump, who will let him do as he pleases since “it’s not our problem”, which the EU will need to tackle head on. Japan might be blackmailed in the medium term to pay for defense, which is of course different from paying for the whim of the US.

 

What can we expect of Macron?

A new kind of anti system contender? Letter to a possible Statesman, whether Emmanuel Macron proves to be one or not.

Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron: Game on?

Macron is an unknown entity, but then known entities have proved toxic (Sarko, Trump) or useless (Hollande). The ego trip can be too intoxicating, but here are three topics he could use to distance himself from the pitiful lot of the usual suspects:

Hope in the age of stupidity. Because France is about to fall for the same trap as Brexit and the US: a populist who can only appeal to the worst in us. Because this solves none of our very real problems, and makes many even worse. Because if you love your country, it is simply unacceptable to fall so low. Because you’ve already had a taste of populism with hypernothing Sarko. Because thanks to its différence and quirks, in spite of every obstacle and expectation, France might actually pull it off and become the beacon of hope everyone sorely needs.

You need to appeal to citizens, show the way; they know the old ways are broken, you need to reiterate how, but you also need to show something positive and very appealing. Saying the GDP will grow and inflation will be low is not enough. People rightly want more, and you can show them how they can achieve it. Look at your own life and those around you, ask yourself what we could achieve if we weren’t stuck in our dreary jobs and were able to develop our full potential.

“We”, not the paternalistic “them”. Your team needs to be be on the same channel and contribute to this conversation.

Beat the system at its own game. You are here to win the election, not to look like a nice guy; which doesn’t mean becoming spineless and appealing to the basest of the electors’ instincts, like Sarko and Trump. Populists have shown that winning an election can be done, even if they debase democracy in doing so.

You need to attack the system relentlessly, envision your audience and what appeals to them, become their champion. It is possible to seek the best for the nation even if it is impossible to appeal to every single citizen. Keep a healthy, positive ambition, but steel yourself and your team for the worst.

The first enemy is abstention. We cannot stand and do nothing while the nation goes to the dogs. The challenge is huge, it is something no other politician has managed since De Gaulle, but it is the key for the election. Tired of the same old problems and the same old politicians? Vote! Do something! Feel alive! La patrie est en danger.

The old, crusty left: A banker? Impossible! A guy wearing a suit? No way! These are people too comfortable in their supposed rebellion to actually do something; you need to show them in all their stupefaction while appealing to those who can see the folly of a good for nothing Mélenchon, the limitations of the ecologist movement. Try your best for them, don’t expect to win over the ayatollahs of the left, cozy in their t-shirts.

For the right you might be a shoe in, simply because they can identify with you, but you need to clearly distance yourself from the reactionaries, while striking hard at technocrats: managing the ongoing crisis is not enough.

In many ways the right exists more by opposition to the left, even if it can be easily manipulated with such nonsense as la manif pour tous; many don’t choose to be entrepreneurs, they would simply hate being bureaucrats. Appeal to the best, to freedom, to the immensity of France’s ideals, give them a positive outlook, a way to identify themselves not simply defined by the left or the tired slogans of the fascists. Rights? Yes, but responsibilities too, towards your fellow citizens and towards the nation.

Dyed blond Trump.

Because he’ not worth it.

Right wing populists with pitiful fascist tendencies have been around for so long they can be bundled with the system: they are part of the problem. Screaming hysterically will solve nothing and looks plain silly, attacking Europe while taking its money is less than zero, even if you dye your hair blond.

Your team needs a communication strategy and specific tactics for each group; they also need to be prepared for outside manipulation on social media.

Go beyond the election. Winning an election is not the same as reforming or refounding the system. The problem with populists is they don’t know what to do with power once they win; they are small p politicians not up to the task of a Statesman. The country’s old problems remain, made worse by the lack of results.

There is a new economy, and you can use it to deliver on your promise of changing the system, and help people improve their daily life and outlook; it has nothing to do with technology or silicon valley, it is about freeing both producers and consumers, going beyond the shackles of our current brand of capitalism; yes, you need to reassure citizens that we seek to build on “acquired social rights” instead of doing away with them; but they will need to be adapted for our own good.

The election is the easy part. Changing the system so people retake democracy is going to take a lot of effort, and not just from you. You need to show the way but also coordinate a team that embodies that change and is sufficiently professional to get things done. Choose it well, establish positions not as a prize but as a set of responsibilities, filter ruthlessly those small p politicians who contribute nothing but noise, those technocrats who can only play the old game and undermine the project.

This project is necessarily big, you are probably talking about the end of the fifth republic, but you need to adapt your results to every citizen’s daily reality, so they can see change, or at least its beginning, lest they confuse it for empty promises.

What if Trump didn’t want or expect to be elected?

Donald Trump would have preferred not to be President. (Alain Mabanckou, nouvel obs, in french). We have in fact already seen this reaction with the Boris and Fromage show.

Trump the victor now represents the establishment Trump the candidate hounded; the establishment is in fact wrong, in dire need of more than reform, but representing this power with so little preparation will chain Trump to the system, and thus Trump the candidate is destined to fail. A loser even in victory, could there be a worse fate for the orange tinted one, he who now embodies the decline of the US?

What follows from Trump? What low life, spineless, venomous creature awaits in this uniquely american hell?