The swinging pendulum of politics

French election

Preliminary results put Mr Hollande at around 52 per cent of the vote, compared to conservative Mr Sarkozy’s 48 per cent. Exuberant crowds gathered at the Socialist Party headquarters in Paris even before the official results started coming in, while Sarkozy supporters were preparing to see their man become France’s first one-term president since Valery Giscard d’Estaing lost to Socialist Francois Mitterrand in 1981. Daily Mail, 5-6-12

The French people have spoken and Nicholas Sarkozy has been sent packing; Mr. Hollande will now be unpacking his things as he moves into Palais de l’Élysée.   The economy may or may not have been the force that really drove French sentiment – However, the new French president, François Hollande based his campaign on that assumption.  Hollande is promising to change France’s direction  and divorce its fiscal policy from that of Angela Merkel’s Germany austerity fiscal policies: “austerity need not be Europe’s fate,” Hollande says.  During the campaign Hollande promised to immediately put 60,000 people back to work for the government and restore many other social services and programs cut by Sarkozy.

Budget cuts hurt, they hurt people everywhere, not just in France and not just in Europe; haven’t we all seen the number of firemen, police and educators cut in the last few years; are there not fewer hours of operation for all government services and fewer outlets for those services? – all of that has been painful.  Anti-austerity is the theme in Greece, too; since the Greek debt crisis began there have been two opposing sides in Greece and throughout the European Union – those who demand even more austerity by government and higher taxes to pay the bills of years of government spending and those who don’t think austerity will solve the problems.

Austerity is not a theme that will dominate the American presidential election in the fall – thus far, austerity in the United States has been localized and not national.  But if the Republicans win the presidency in 2012 and make drastic cuts to government social programs such as social security, medicare, welfare and education, then in 4 years we can expect that austerity will be part of the political debate here too.

Democracy is a process that manifests itself as a pendulum of public sentiment – whatever party wins today will, in the next election cycle, be the incumbent and therefore responsible for the state of the state at that time.  At that point, one can expect the pendulum of public opinion to swing back again and favor the party not in power.  Many political platforms sound good when placed in contrast to an existing set of policies that are viewed as unsuccessful.  But when that platform is allowed to manifest itself in reality it often fails to meet the expectations it set during the campaign promising, and it is likely the party and its platform will not have solved all of the problems as promised.  It is easy to condemn the existing government and promise better things with a new government and a new set of policies – it is much harder to deliver on those promises.

Mr. Hollande has a new home today, but his ability to retain the number one political address in France will be challenged as the events of the future unfold and the French people begin to taste the reality he promised.  President Obama may win in November, but even if he does it is highly unlikely his party will win in 2016 – the pendulum will swing back at some point.  If the economy is  very much better in four years, or if we are in a war (people are reluctant to switch governments in the midst of a war), the pendulum may not swing in the opposite direction.  Of course, the pendulum may swing back to the right in November, in that case by 2016 it will be due to head left again.  Right – left, left-right, right-left, left-right, that is the nature of public opinion and voting.  Congratulations Mr. Hollande and good luck!


2 Responses to “The swinging pendulum of politics”

  1. 1 Bill Hanigan May 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I was initially very sceptical of a Hollande victory but on reflection I’ve modified that view. Hollande is primarily a Technocrat, an economist and manager. The realities of Europes situation will govern how he performs. I concur with “Good Luck Mr Hollande”.

  2. 2 Ken Adams May 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Whatever his politics, Hollande faces some serious challenges – the European economy is not going to improve soon and that in the end is how he will be judged – unless France goes to war, or has a major meltdown over Muslim immigration.

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