As predicted nearly everywhere, the French have elected a member of the Socialist party as President, replacing the man who earned the sobriquet of President of the Rich. As The Guardian’s article says, “French president François Hollande promises ‘a new start’ for Europe”. The subtitle reads, “After victory over Nicolas Sarkozy, Socialist says he will fight back against German-led austerity measures”. John MacArthur wrote a helpful background post at Harper's but I think it's behind a paywall; I subscribe so it's hard for me to tell.
Here in the US, the attitude to this momentous change in Europe seems to be that this does not bleed, therefore it does not lead. In addition, it does not lead in power-structure enhancing directions for Americans to contemplate what other people are doing to the governments trying to enforce austerity measures designed to solidify the hold of the 1%. (Of course we’re really talking about a small subset even of that 1%, but it’s an evocative name and useful where precision isn’t of the essence.) In the States we have a government doing the same thing with hardly an interruption over decades, yet we keep going back and forth between one faction of the 1% and the other, unable to get off the seesaw. In France there are enough political parties that 80% of the voters found someone to vote for in both the first and second rounds. Eighty percent! Has any US national election had an 80% turnout? Because everyone knows that both parties represent the rich, and the differences between them are based less on actual policy and more on style and philosophy.
Hollande’s manifesto is based on scrapping Sarkozy’s tax breaks for the rich and levying more from high earners to finance what he deems essential spending, including creating 60,000 posts in France’s under-performing school system. He has pledged to keep the public deficit capped but for his delicate balancing act to work he needs a swift return to growth in France, despite economists warning of over-optimistic official growth forecasts that need to be trimmed.
Downing Street said David Cameron had called Hollande to congratulate him. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said: “This new leadership is sorely needed as Europe seeks to escape from austerity … He has shown that the centre-left can offer hope and win elections with a vision of a better, more equal and just world.”
That last bit is hilarious coming from the Labour party, whose Blair/Brown combo was known more for poodle-ism and illegal wars than for equality and justice. But when you’re on the sidelines it’s as easy to find fault as to see firm support in shadows.
What I want to see more of is discussion here in the US about the issues that the French and Greeks have voted on today.
In parliamentary elections in Greece, governing parties backing the EU-mandated austerity pact were on course for a major drubbing as hard-hit voters defected in droves, according to exit polls.
In a major upset that will not be welcomed by the crisis-plagued country’s eurozone partners, the two forces that had agreed to enact unpopular belt-tightening in return for rescue funds appeared headed for a beating, with none being able to form a government.
After nearly 40 years of dominating Greek politics, the centre-right New Democracy and socialist Pasok saw support drop dramatically in favour of parties that had virulently opposed the tough austerity regime dictated by international creditors.
We need more political choices. As Nader says, we don’t need a third political party, we need a second one.