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On Macron’s Gamble, And Biden’s Last Stand

Emmanuel Macron’s plan B involves a risky, rope-a-dope strategy. Deliberately, he has opened a corridor to power for the far right, in the belief they will fail to win a large enough parliamentary presence in the 577-seat National Assembly to pursue their policy agenda. Supposedly, this failure will have blunted the appeal of Marine Le Pen by the time the next presidential election rolls around in 2027.

Via this ‘curse of incumbency” tactic, Macron hopes to reduce the far right’s attraction to voters, since they will no longer be seen as the perennial outsiders. Problem being, Macron may once again be acting too clever for the country’s own good. Surely, Le Pen will always be able to find someone else to blame if her 28 year old protege cannot successfully manage a minority government of the right. After all, Le Pen will probably try to emulate the shining example of Giorgia Meloni in Italy, who has brilliantly succeeded in moving her party in from the fringes of the far right, to where Meloni now occupies the entire centre-ground of Italian politics.

Still, while the first round has been widely depicted as a “bitter failure” and a “crushing defeat” for Macron, that verdict seems premature, given the long game that Macron is trying to play.

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In practice, the voting system in France makes it extremely hard to project the first-round results onto the likely second-round run-off on July 7. In the first round, any electorate candidate who got 50% or more of the vote is home free, and won’t face a run-off - provided the voter turnout in that electorate is 25% of all registered voters.

Otherwise, the top two candidates go through, along with any candidate who scored 12.5% of the registered voters in that electorate. Since the voter turnout in this first round was exceptionally high, there could well be over 100 of these three-way or even four-way contests on July 7. (There were only eight of them in 2022.)

To further complicate the picture, some candidates who squeaked through in the first round may well choose to fold, and throw their support behind – or against - the local candidates of the major right-wing or left-wing blocs, as the case may be. All of which complicates the reality on the ground as we head towards July 7.

In the first round, the far-right Rassemblement National (an alliance exists between Le Pen’s party and the Les Republicains mainstream conservative party) scored 33 % of the vote, the left-wing coalition won 28%, and Macron’s own political vehicle achieved only 20% of the vote.

Macron is now urging his dwindling group of centrist supporters to form alliances with the left in round two. Years ago, Macron said that his prime motivation for entering politics was to prevent the far right from gaining power. In his dreams, he’s now setting them up to fail. On July 7, France will start off down the road of finding out just how much effective power the far right will be able to wield. Les Republicains, who have formed alliances in the past with Macron on some issues, may be a restraining force on Le Pen.

Footnote: One quick example of how the ‘rope -a dope’ strategy might play out. As President, Macron will still control defence and foreign policy. He wants to provide Ukraine with long-range weaponry. In the next National Assembly, the far right may deny Macron the funds to do so. Macron can then blame them for endangering Ukraine – or even causing the fall of Kyev - with all that will mean for European security, and for France’s status on the world stage. Macron’s support for Ukraine happens to be one of his few policies to enjoy wide public support.

In fact, with Trump back in the White House and Germany’s leader being so ineffectual, Macron – and Meloni - could easily end up as Europe’s best hopes. Step one achieved in the “Macron not so bad after all ” campaign for 2027.

Arise, King Donald

The US Supreme Court’s decision to extend immunity to Donald Trump for anything he does in his official capacity as President is just the latest example of how the Trump-created majority on the Court now functions as the judicial arm of the Republican Party. It's a scary decision:

Indeed, under the six Republican justices’ decision in Trump v. United States, it is very likely that a sitting president can order the military to assassinate his political rivals without facing any criminal consequences for doing so.

That’s not hyperbole. During the presidential debate last week, Trump threatened to jail Joe Biden, if re-elected. All year, the Supreme Court has been serving the Republican Party’s ideological goals of de-regulation and small government. In its Jarkesy decision, the Court effectively gutted many of the enforcement powers of federal agencies. In its Fischer decision, it found a way to absolve the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. In this Loper Bright decision, the Court weirdly assumed to its un-elected self many of the powers formerly held by federal agencies – thereby in the process, re-writing the separation of powers set out in the US Constitution.

The Court’s ruling on presidential immunity – basically, it embraced the same argument that Richard Nixon had raised in vain to exonerate himself for his Watergate crimes – will now derail Trump’s remaining court cases. Lower courts will have to mull over whether Trump’s attempts to subvert the election outcome in 2020 were made in his official capacity as President, or for his own personal gain. The subsequent delays will ensure that once he is President again, Trump will be able to order all outstanding cases facing him to be dropped - in the national interest of course.

Yes, the Court has left access to the abortion pill in place for now during the run-up to the election. But its rationale for doing so was merely that those seeking the ban had no standing to bring their case. As soon as a state law with standing comes before the Court, the result is likely to be very different.

Yet thanks to this convenient procrastination by the Court on the abortion pill, Trump can continue to pose as a moderate on abortion. Hey, let's leave it to the states to decide access to the abortion pill, he has been saying, amid promises not to enact a federal ban on abortion. Well, he won’t have to enact a federal ban, not if the Supreme Court outlaws the posting of the abortion pill to women living in those states where the state legislature has enacted a ban.

Meanwhile, the Republican war on women is threatening not only access to abortion but access to contraception as well. The Republicans are also seeking to scrap “no fault” divorce. All in order to strengthen the family and a man’s Bible-endorsed role as the natural head of the household.

Joe’s Last Stand

I’m pretty sure no American who saw Joe Biden’s performance last week will be thinking “Four more years! Four more years!” with anything other than dread in their hearts. Even if Biden could somehow defeat Donald Trump in November, the thought of Joe Biden being President until he is 86 years old is a shuffling nightmare.

Yet at this point, the Democratic Party seems stuck with a candidate unable/unwilling to accept that his time is up. No current leading Democrat (eg Kamala Harris) or former party bigwigs (eg Barack Obama) seem willing to break ranks and call time out on Biden. Instead, Biden is being left to decide whether he is too enfeebled of mind and body to go on. Not surprisingly, Joe is saying that he feels fine.

Along the way, the party bigwigs have been steadily gaslighting the country – hey, it was only one debate, who in politics hasn’t had a bad night etc etc. Voters are being told they didn’t see what they indelibly saw with their own eyes.

During any normal times, this reluctance to face reality would be merely self-delusional, and tragic. Yet in the context of a second Trump presidency, Biden staying in the race poses a clear and present danger to America, and to the rest of the world. Only his family, it seems, can convince Biden to fold his hand. Yet as Harry Truman, a previous President who walked away from the job, once wrote:

“There is a lure in power. It can get into a man's blood, just as gambling and lust for money have been known to do.”

Truman and Lyndon Johnson (another President who chose not to seek re-election) were both, like Biden, facing bad poll ratings when they chose to withdraw. In both cases, the Democrats went down to defeat, in 1952 and 1968 respectively. With those precedents in mind, Biden could quite possibly be telling himself: “If I leave, we will lose to Trump. If I stay, we just might have a chance. If I walk away and we lose, I could never forgive myself.”

These are the prideful delusions by which people equate their own self-interest in holding onto power (just a bit longer) with the nation’s best interests. Unfortunately, no one close to Biden seems willing or able to tell him otherwise. For the foreseeable, America appears to be stuck with an incumbent President who thinks the word “malarkey” is still in common use in 2024.

Footnote One: In the New Yorker, Jay Caspian Kang has it exactly the wrong way around when he argues that Biden, the known bad candidate is better than the unknowns who might replace him. In reality, any of the following state governors – Gavin Newsom of California, J. B. Pritzker of Illinois, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Andy Beshear of Kentucky – would be a better, younger, more vital champion of Democratic Party values.

The polls show that voters are yearning for an alternative to Trump and Biden. Post-debate, the polls also show that these alternative candidates – many of whom have had no national exposure because Biden has been sucking up all the oxygen in the room - would do no worse than Biden.

The candidate who did emerge from an open convention in Chicago in August could realistically hope for a sizeable Jacinda Ardern-type bounce in the polls from a relieved electorate. Americans are a prayerful lot. Right now, they are praying for an alternative to these two old guys sitting on the nation’s front porch trading insults, telling whoppers, and bickering over their golf handicaps.

Footnote Two: By general agreement, abortion and the threat to women’s reproductive rights is the Democrats' strongest policy card going into this election. How then, to explain this incoherent ramble by Biden on debate night:

“I support Roe v Wade, which had three trimesters. The first time, is between a woman and a doctor. Second time is between a doctor and an extreme situation. A third time is between the doctor, I mean, between the women and the state.”

At which point, Biden pivoted and started talking about immigration, the Democrats’ least popular policy area. Biden’s utter inability to coherently communicate the threats to women’s bodily autonomy – he is a Catholic, so his heart probably isn’t in defending abortion rights – is another compelling reason to replace him as the presidential candidate.

Georgia, Getting By

Georgia Nott is one half of the Broods, and Georgia Gets By is her solo project. The video for this new GBB single “Madeline” has been conceived/directed by Silken Weinberg, a Los Angeles-based stylist known previously for her work with Ethel Cain.

The “Madeline” video is a homage/parody of post-war film noirs. Those films made ground-breaking use of lovely, high-contrast lighting, epitomised by John Alton’s iconic black and white cinematography for Anthony Mann (in T Men and Raw Deal ) and for Joseph H. Lewis in The Big Combo. Hitchcock’s Spellbound also made extensive use of people climbing staircases towards closed doors until – eventually – other doors fly open, to the expression of their repressed desires.

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