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