French have buyer’s remorse for electing a socialist president

Attorney and former public defender Jay B. Gaskill is a member of this Consortium of Defense Analysts.

Mr. Gaskill just returned from a trip to Norway and France, and reports to us that the French, like many Americans, have buyer’s remorse for electing a socialist to the presidency.

Francois Hollande with the POSTwo socialists: François Hollande and Barack Obama


Analysis by Jay B. Gaskill
Oct. 29, 2013

Data is just raw information but gut level knowledge is fundamentally mined from anecdotal evidence.

Sometimes you are able to see the USA with fresh eyes after time spent away from home. Sometimes the experience is illuminating. Our recent return on an 11 hour flight from Normandy, the banks of the Seine, and Paris, was such a moment for me. Having returned from 11 days in France, I bring some anecdotal tidings.

A year ago, the French people fired the conservative and hired a socialist to lead them. They now regret it. The French voting population (birthrate 2.1 – that’s below replacement) got tired of their moderate center-right leader, Nick Sarkozy and dumped him in favor of a milquetoast puritanical socialist, Francois Hollande.

It was a rebound romance. The French people are disenchanted and embarrassed by their most recent choice for President. But this was not some flaky boyfriend– they are locked in an electoral marriage that lasts until 2017.

Hollande’s popular approval is below 30%, the lowest in 32 years. But the more important “tell” for me was the climate of French embarrassment I detected – I believe it reveals a deeper policy/ideological shift in the making.  Most French citizens are fiercely proud of their country and are deeply embarrassed that their movie icon, Gerard Depardieu, had to flee the country for Russia to escape France’s confiscatory tax rates (Holland sought a 70% plus income tax on top on the national value added tax of 20%).

I recall American embarrassment when Vlad Putin bailed Mr. Obama out of the foreign policy thicket he’d got himself into over Syria. Do you sense a pattern here?

Let’s compare France and Argentina for a moment. Argentina, a less developed country (for now), has a population of 41 million with a GDP of only $ 716.4 million, and has enjoyed double digit growth over several of the last years. France, a late-stage developed Western democracy, has a population of 42 million with a GPD $ 2.3 trillion, but has been experiencing chronic flat growth – both in population and prosperity over the last several years. Argentina’s government is run by the widow of a Peron-style socialist, Cristina Kirchener, who is serving her last term, but faces growing voter unrest.  Growth has slowed, the quality of life has slipped; crime is up; the people are discontent.

“The latest news is the very recent rise of The Renewal Front party, and Sergio Massa. ‘This signals a clear beginning of the end for Kirchner rule,’ said Sergio Berensztein, a pollster and political commentator. … The rise of Mr. Massa and opposition figures in other pivotal provinces represents a ‘jump toward moderation,’ Mr. Berensztein said.” {New York Times 10-29-13}

I just love that phrase, ‘jump toward moderation.’

There are many other recent examples of discontent with socialist rule, but this is what I see in the big picture:

The later 19th and early 20th socialist experiments in centralized planning are failing. This was the Grand Project to remake the human condition by using the power of government. The inevitable results were, are and always will be toxic to non-compliant businesses and sustained economic growth. The fully centralized economies of the old-line communist countries have already cratered.

The “mixed-economy” utopian compromise model is next in line to fail because the egalitarian expectations of the left that a mixed economy can be tweaked deliver all the socialist benefits to everyone are unattainable in the real world. But the attempt to do the undoable inevitably drives the compliant political class to make expensive compromises.  This in turn generates pressure for punitive tax rates and irresponsible public borrowing; and, in the bargain, it elevates an elite regulatory class to power (in the illusion the mere regulations are cost free). The members of the new regulatory class are self-tasked to impose puritanical political correctness on the rest of us.

Rarely has the left been so out of touch with the “common people”.

As a result, the Grand Project has almost run its course in the most of the developed and rapidly developing economies in the world.  The educated populations, thinking now of the French people I just talked with, are becoming less complacent, more aware of the unfair burdens imposed on them, and much more aware of the need to rise up. I heard “if necessary we’ll have another evolution” more than once.

So the natives are starting to grumble. Will the reaction be a jump toward moderation? …Only if it is early enough.  My strong sense is that here in the USA and elsewhere, there is a growing populist backlash, one propelled by members of the threatened and former middle class. It took responsible form in the so called Tea Party movement in the USA, the demonization of which by the left was ludicrous.

In my opinion, the members of the hard left actually fear a responsible aroused population. Only by scaring people sufficiently with a real catastrophe, can the resulting chaos be exploited by the utopian authoritarians – or others. Those who are waiting for a “real” crisis to “wake up the people” are playing  a dangerous game.

There really is a tide in human affairs. The tide is changing. Conservatives cannot save the day alone.  They/we all need the support of the old fashioned, constitutionally grounded liberals, the sane, freedom-living moderates, and the struggling working people who are or aspire to be part of the American middle class.

Only a grand coalition of the “not-leftists” can prevent the collapse of the Grand Project from becoming the pretext for something far, far worse than a jump toward moderation.

The Fabian socialists of England took the better part of 40 years to tip that country into a sclerotic, quasi-socialist failure. And it took Dame Margaret Thatcher, daughter of a grocer, the better part of two decades to begin the turnaround.  It will take determination, humor, work and a little patience, but knowing that the tide is with us, we can spark an American Renaissance of freedom, prosperity and creative accomplishment.  When my wife and I were met by a young, beautiful French speaking African woman maitre d’ who asked would we like to be seated for breakfast, on impulse I answered “Yes we can”.  She grinned and repeated the phrase happily and she escorted us to a table.

The table is set for the friends of freedom and the middle class.  Can we make this happen for America? Yes we can.



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