Vive le Sarkozy (Probably)


UPDATE: Sarkozy wins!

The French presidential election—much discussed across the punditsphere, if less so on this site—is wrapping up in a matter of hours. Every expectation is that conservative Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy will clobber the Socialist candidate Segolene Royal. "Socialist losing = good" is a nice rule of thumb, but Sarkozy's combination of quasi-libertarian economics and Nixonesque leadership muddy the picture. From the New Yorker's excellent preview of the election:

The real trouble with Sarkozy is that he is not demonstrably democratic. Few politicians are, but Sarkozy is at a disadvantage, having put in five highly visible years as an interior minister that included the month of rioting in the projects in 2005, and a brief resurgence of violence earlier this spring in Paris. He doesn't pretend to listen to "the people." When rules get in his way, he walks right over them, or he changes them. "He is unafraid," his communications director, Jean-Michel Goudard, told me. "He doesn't want you to like him. He wants you to help him get things done." His answer to the country's vote against a European constitution is to rewrite the constitution, hand it to parliament, and tell parliament to vote yes. He has been known to threaten the press over articles he didn't like (Libération) or to exact revenge when he has been embarrassed. When his wife, Cécilia, had a serious fling in New York last year, and the paparazzi caught up with her and her boyfriend, he called his friend Arnaud Lagardère, the owner of Paris Match, and Lagardère obligingly fired the editor-in-chief who had signed off on publishing the pictures. (Both men deny there was any pressure.)

Not that Sarkozy's philosophy isn't charming. From Jurgen Reinhoudt's review of his 2006 political essay Testimony:

Sarkozy harshly criticizes the Socialist government of former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin for its stagnant reaction on immigration and crime, and its general style of governing, but reserves his harshest criticism for the introduction of the 35-hour workweek, which Sarkozy considers both economically unsound and a moral affront to the national work ethic. Indeed, Sarkozy admires the American work ethic and wants France to work much more, arguing perhaps a bit aspirationally that "France has a working culture… Its people know what work is… But the deliberate inversion of values between work and welfare has caused people to lose their bearings… Nothing is more important than restoring work as a cardinal value. And to do that there is only one solution: proving that work pays."

France has a super-centralized electoral system that lets networks announce the winner as soon as the polls are all closed, like this example from the 1995 election:

A year ago Michael Young reported on the scandal that helped kneecap Sarkozy's main rivals for the presidency.

NEXT: Weekend Open Thread

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  1. Live BBC coverage here.


    As for Sarkozy being Nixonesque, well the sort of claims that are detailed in the article aren’t remotely new to French politics.

  2. Its all Bush’s fault. If he’d stop alienating the entire world we wouldn’t see the socialist’s resurgence. What? the America-friendly conservative won? But that doesn’t fit the template.

  3. The UMP’s website has a Sarko video.

  4. James Ard,

    For the most part the French election had very little to do with international issues. Domestic concerns were center-stag.

  5. Whoever posted this should probably download a copy of the image they were going to use instead of just linking it directly, right now instead of the image there is just a little note about how it was ‘stolen from Diggers Realm’.

  6. Now Im confused.

    I thought France was a social communist “we’ll appoint leaders as long we don’t have to give up our vino breaks” kind of thing. like venezuela, but different.

  7. Weigel bemoans the loss of a socialist. Hey, at least he’s for the free minds part, right?

  8. It’s still France, the nation that celebrates the collectivist bloodbath known affectionately as “The Reign of Terror” as it’s major national holiday.

  9. Me not understand French politics.
    Hell, me not understand the French.
    Except the cheeses. And the wine. Some of it, anyway.
    Working on the sauces…

  10. h-dawg,

    France celebrates 1789, not the what ten months of 1793-1794 that constitute the reign of terror. Kind like how the U.S. celebrates the Fourth of July but not the Whiskey Rebellion or the Trail of Tears.

  11. Weigel needs to be careful about where he gets (steals) images for his blog posts. Tsk Tsk.

  12. The “stealing” part isn’t the image, it’s the bandwidth. Hotlinking to images is truly n00b.

    Better switch that photo pronto, before Digger’s Realm decides to change it to something Not Safe For Libertarians.

  13. In case anyone is interested here is link to the Sarko v. Sego debate from a few days ago.

  14. Fixed. I was in a hurry out the door and I stupidly hotlinked the image.

  15. It’s Sarkozy time. Fuck yeah !

  16. Jesus, he looks like a Terminator.

  17. I wanted Royal to win cause she’s hot.

  18. Fixed. I was in a hurry out the door and I stupidly hotlinked the image.

    They let you out the door?

  19. Warty | May 6, 2007, 4:40pm | #
    Jesus, he looks like a Terminator.

    Looks to me like he has the power of flight and his daughter is a cheerleader.

  20. FinFangFoom | May 6, 2007, 4:42pm | #
    I wanted Royal to win cause she’s hot.

    Thanks. Now I have a mental image of a Royal/Hillary Clinton twosome that I can’t get out of my head.

    Anyway to flag a comment as Not Safe for Anywhere?

  21. So…Sarkozy~McCain?

    Some nice conservative policies, mixed with a cartload of authoritarianism. Bah. Better France tests this stuff out than we do.

  22. And the weekend is complete with Weigel and Balko going into a gran moniet coma over the french election.

  23. Don’t be fooled. I bet you at this moment Our Oldest Enemy is plotting with the indians (feather division) to stir up trouble again.

  24. A Segolene Royal/Yuliya Tymoshenko twosome would be super hot.

  25. “Socialist losing = good” is a nice rule of thumb, but…”

    But Sarkozy is like Nixon because he leans on the press, hoping for favorable treatment? Wha? That’s quite a ways from suggesting the dynamiting of Brookings…

  26. A Segolene Royal/Yuliya Tymoshenko twosome would be super hot.

    Yeah, except that Royal would be more interested in increasing Tymoshenko’s taxes.

  27. “Our Oldest Enemy ” [1?1?]

    *cough* *cough*

    Of the five largest Western European powers – UK, Germany, France, Spain & Italy – France is the ONLY one the US has not been at war with since independence. [Unless you count the Vichy Regime.]

    Not that that has prevented the French from being a pain in the derriere.

  28. Viva la Sorko! Now the Bush-Blair-Merkel trifecta can be squared with another lover of “Third Way” socialism! Hey, it’s better than naked lefty socialism . . .

  29. Only could David Weigel say “Socialist losing = good” is a nice rule of thumb, but

    This still is a libertarian site, right?

  30. Aresen,

    What about the XYZ Affair and the Quasi-War of 1798?

  31. crimethink

    No actual declaration of war, but there was combat, so half marks for each of us. [Actually, I’d have to go 3 to 1 in your favor.]

    Still, the US was subsequently at war with every one of the other powers I mentioned earlier.

  32. crimethink,

    Well, the Quasi-War was not a declared war; indeed, it was basically a limited naval campaign. The fact that the Congress deemed it within its powers to so intimately regulate a war ought to tell us something. 🙂

  33. Aresen,

    The U.S. government never officially declared war on the Vichy regime. There was always some hope of courting the puppet state’s favor.

  34. The fact that the Congress deemed it within its powers to so intimately regulate a war ought to tell us something.

    But didn’t you just say that it wasn’t a war?

    If it wasn’t a declared war, how could it relate to the War on Terr… uh…never mind.

  35. crimethink,

    Well, according to Grotius and other classical theorists of international relations there are basically two types of armed conflicts: we’ll call them “bigger wars” and “lesser wars.” A declared war is a “bigger war.” A war like the Quasi-War is a “lesser war.”

    However, this typology has sort of fallen apart in the 20th century (if not earlier).

  36. Syd wrote: “Looks to me like he has the power of flight and his daughter is a cheerleader.”

    That’s what I was thinking too.

  37. Sarkozy’s good with a pressure washer, but I don’t think he’ll be able to turn the hose on parliment to get what he wants done. It remains to be seen if he can compromise while pointing France in the direction of a free market. But atleast it wasn’t “the minimum wage is too low, raise it” Royal.

  38. I like Sarkozy, and don’t see much evidence that he’s Nixonesque or authoritarian.

    If we need a comparison, how about “France’s Thatcher”.

  39. How long before this french fellow who does not hate Bush going to be dubbed a Rove/Cheney plant?

    Just heard on the radio that the NYT staff is almost as upset as Mr. Weigel about this election.

  40. So, this brutal Nixonian politician’s opponents were “kneecapped”? Bloomberg news goes one better (spotted by a Corner commentor)

    In succeeding Chirac, his one-time mentor turned political rival, and preventing Royal, 53, from becoming the first woman president,

    That diabotical bastard! Preventing women from holding office!

    I suspect the accusations of a Rove/Cheney plot, with ties to Halliberton, are hours, rather than days, away.

  41. Um, make that diabolical bastards.

  42. Guy Montag,

    Apparently Sarkozy was able to capture a majority of female voters.

  43. Apparently Sarkozy was able to capture a majority of female voters.

    Thanks for reminding me. I forgot to browse Ashley Renee’s new pictures this weekend 🙂

  44. Nice election reaction pictures with a bunch of ‘french’ ‘words’. Spotted by Jonah at NRO.

  45. The Diabots are here – it’s only a matter of time now before their domination is complete.

  46. The Diabots are here – it’s only a matter of time now before their domination is complete.

    I await the new New York Dolls video that brings this all into perspective.

  47. This still is a libertarian site, right?


  48. He did have some nice things to say about the United States in his speech. They are our allies, most of the time. And they make such nice sauces.

  49. I got the impression that Royal was pretty desperate with that last speech about how there would be rioting in the streets if Sarko won.

    In fact, while I’m sure that it wasn’t what put him over the top, I wouldn’t mind betting that some of his votes came from people who would just love to see “les beurs” put in their place.

  50. Sarkozy won by pulling National Front voters away from LePen’s party.

    I may not agree with their politics, but it’s surely a good thing if they’re finding their political outlet is a reponsible, mainstream party rather than a fascist fringe group. Maybe it will turn them into responsible, mainstream voters.

  51. Isaac Bertram,

    Well, I don’t know if this answers your question, but a significant percentage of those who voted for Le Pen voted for Sarko.

    Guy Montag,

    How does Peretz know who will win the legislative elections?

    …and he and his rightist party will control the National Assembly.

    In other words, less than two months from now his party might be out of power in the Parliament.

  52. joe,

    He also won by splitting Bayrou’s voters between himself and Royal (at a higher percentage than I expect, indeed apparently he got a slim majority of Bayrou’s voters).

  53. Guy Montag,

    Or rather, his party might be out of power in the National Assembly.

  54. Agreed, Grotius. That certainly wasn’t the only factor in his victory, but it is an interesting one.

    It would be interesting to compare this dynamic to the attraction of – let’s call them “law and order traditionalists” – to the Republican Party through the Southern Strategy.

  55. joe,

    Why? France and the U.S. are seperate nations.

    Furthermore his victory isn’t all that unusual or unpredictable. The right traditionally does better in French presidential elections (at least in the Fifth Republic) than the left, Mitterand being the exception to this.


    What’s odd to me is the comparisons made to American political life, figures, etc. Why not first compare/contrast him to French political figures, like say Mitterand or Chirac or De Gaulle or Pompidou? Or heck, go back to before the Fifth Republic and compare him to Auriol?

  56. Why not first compare/contrast him to French political figures, like say Mitterand or Chirac or De Gaulle or Pompidou?

    That would require studying them. In other words too much work.

  57. joe,

    Or let’s put it this, every French President – at least those who were elected* – from 1959 to today (except Mitterand) has been from the French center-right.

    *I don’t know what Pohrer’s affiliation was.

  58. “Why not first compare/contrast him to French political figures, like say Mitterand or Chirac or De Gaulle or Pompidou? Or heck, go back to before the Fifth Republic and compare him to Auriol?”

    Because I don’t know anything about those elections, and the political dynamics surrounding them.

    “Why? France and the U.S. are seperate nations.” That’s sort of the point of a comparison like this – to see how two things are alike, and how they’re different.

  59. joe,

    Well, one of the differences is obvious. While the French often treated the “Algerians” and other native populations in their colonies like shit, there was never had (at least since 1789) an internally, by law, subjugated class of persons in France itself.

    So whatever racial, etc. tensions that exist in France result from France’s colonial policies and from the developments associated with the rise of post-WWII immigrant communities in France.

    Second, the party dynamics are very different (as the center-right dominance of French presidential politics demonstrates). Indeed if anything Sarkozy took votes from Royal not because of racial prejudice but because he appealed to the economic concerns of folks like industrial workers.

  60. What I find odd is how much is made of Sarko’s statements about the U.S. This election had very little to do with international relations and everything to do with domestic concerns – particularly the health of the French economy.

  61. Grotius,

    Are Sorkozy’s remarks about the US getting a lot of play elsewhere, or just in America?

    If the latter, that’s not terribly surprising.

  62. Apparently Sarkozy was able to capture a majority of female voters.

    Holy crap! Is he declaring them Enemy Combatants, or is he granting them POW status?

  63. Regarding the “our oldest enemy” line:

    That’s the title of a book co-written by NR‘s John Miller. It requires thinking of American history as having a starting point prior to the 1770s. The British colonists’ involvement in Britain’s colonial wars on the continent resulted in their squaring off against the Frogs and their native allies.

    The other side of the argument would be represented by books like Patrice Higonnet’s Sister Republics.

    The Fifth Republic’s 2-round system of popular election of the President has much to recommend it. If we had something like it, we libertarians could vote for our ideological standard-bearer in Round One, then, after our guy was eliminated, the two candidates who survive would have to court his supporters.

    I suppose we’d have to come up with a version that includes the Electoral College or the small states wouldn’t go for it.


  64. Washington fought the French before he ever fought the British.

  65. lunchstealer,

    I’m pretty sure Washington was also damn happy to have the French fleet and army by his side.


    As with any relationship between nations the Franco-American relationship is based as much on forgetting as remembering.

    We forget that the British burned the White House and we forget the Quasi-War with France.

  66. France is an ally. A cranky ally that makes sauces that are too rich, but an ally all the same.

  67. Every success we have achieved since the start of the Bush presidency has been with the French by our side.

    There was the overthrow of the Taliban and the installation of the democratic regime, which we accomplished with the help of our European allies; and there was the eviction of the Syrians from Lebanon, which we assisted with our public diplomacy, the rallying of global opinion, and the passage of a UN resolution we co-sponsored with France.

  68. Kevin,

    I like that idea. You have the 1st round go to popular vote, and the second round go by the Electoral College.

    Quick question, is the French runoff only applied if no one gets a simple majority (50% or better)? If so, we’d have to drop that and go to a specific two-election scheme to retain the electoral college.

    It would sure beat the hell out of the current primary-and-general election system we’ve got now.

  69. Grotius – Granted about the fleet. The church I went to as a kid had Baron DeKalb’s tomb in the front yard of the church – DeKalb being on of Lafayette’s lieutenants, and DeKalb died about 5 miles from the house I grew up in, so I’m well aware of France’s post-French-and-Indian-War aide to the American colonies. Just sayin’ that they were our enemy before they were our friend, from a strictly chronological standpoint.

  70. lunchstealer,

    Quick question, is the French runoff only applied if no one gets a simple majority (50% or better)?

    Yes. Generally speaking no one wins the whole thing in the first round though (though there have been some exceptions to this I think in the Third Republic).

  71. Is it me, or does Sarkozy look like Kevin MacDonald and Tony Shaloub had an evil lovechild?

  72. Apparently Sarkozy was able to capture a majority of female voters.

    We are obviously talking about a huuuuuge burlap sack here.

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