Small lessons from American Middle Terminals for French political life (and especially for the right).

Voters cast their ballots at Robious Elementary School during midterm elections on November 8, 2022 in Midlothian, Washington.

Atlantico: According to exit polls, inflation was the number one factor in the vote, abortion was the second-ranked crime. Should we draw lessons from this on issues that should attract the attention of French politicians?

Bruno Jeanbart: Inflation is the number one issue that we have to take into account in France and in Europe. This topic will be heavy on the polls for a while. We are back to the stage where economic issues are again the main priority. It was traditionally unemployment, now it’s a living wage. In France, the debate on abortion is difficult to export, as opponents are in a very small minority. In crime, this is a very important topic. This was a priority during the regionals in France in 2021. Includes gun shipping and mass killings in the United States. But this is a topic that has been discussed for thirty years.

Maxim Tandonnet: Abortion is not questioned in France, and therefore we cannot say that it is the subject of future election campaigns. On the other hand, for the rest of us, we are close enough to America’s concerns. There is no doubt that the issues of concern to voters in France will refocus on questions that affect their daily lives: inflation, i.e. purchasing power, unemployment and sovereignty, security and immigration. We can already envisage a situation in France where popular concerns tend to abandon ideologies or major common themes (such as the “European” question) and refocus on questions directly related to everyday life. French politicians must make the biggest mark…

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Whether with the MAGA Republicans or the most radical wing of the Democratic Party, have the results not been there? What lessons can we learn from this? Right and far right on one side and for NUPES on the other?

Bruno Jeanbart: We saw it in the French presidential elections, radical political proposals have their limits. This is an effective method of electoral mobilization and leverage, but a real obstacle to winning majoritarian elections. We talk a lot about the polarization and radicalization of opinion, but this reminds us that the population is still mostly moderates who vote for moderates. This is a vision shared by the RN, who apparently spearheaded the demonization, normalization strategy. They consider that radicalism is an obstacle to win the election. Of course, there are supporters of the radical proposal in both camps, but they remain in the minority. The result of NUPES in the second round of legislation also showed that the unity around the most radical wing of the coalition did not work. In Italy, it is also the normalization of Fratelli d’Italia, which allowed it to be the first party in the country in the last legislative elections.

Maxim Tandonnet: Yes, we also see that Donald Trump’s most supported candidates are struggling. Undoubtedly, one can talk about the refocusing of American politics. In an era of extreme economic, security and international concern with the Ukraine war, voters seem inclined to reject the phenomenon of excesses and show-offs on both sides. He is looking for more calmness, seriousness and gentleness. Admittedly, the Republican party is poised to win the Senate as well as the House. This in itself is a significant event that should reduce Mr. Biden’s room for maneuver. But all commentators point to the absence of the expected “(Republican) red wave”.

Do the Florida results prove that it is an intellectual and strategic mistake to make a connection between immigrants, the descendants of immigrants, and voting on the left?

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Bruno Jeanbart: It is clear that there is no connection between immigrants, descendants of immigrants and those who vote left. Florida is a special case. It is the Hispanic vote that allows you to win, but it is more people of Cuban or Venezuelan origin, which is a little different from the sociology of other states. But the phenomenon of Hispanics not voting in favor of the Democrats is confirmed almost everywhere. There is no automatic vote, and this population, like any other, is above all sensitive to the political proposition offered to them. Even in France, voting has always been more diverse than you might think.

Maxim Tandonnet: No doubt…Florida is a state with a very high Hispanic population. Yet he re-elected a conservative governor, ex-soldier Ron DeSantis, who stood out for his tough, even muscular, stance on immigration. In style, he is the anti-Trump, a sizable ex-military man. Kind of an iron fist in a velvet glove… He’s being questioned for the 2024 Republican nomination. One can imagine that in France, as in the United States, a part of the population of immigrant origin suffers, especially from their dispersal. school system, insecurity and illegal immigration, can be deceived by this type of profile.

Should certain important divisions in the United States also attract our attention in France?

Bruno Jeanbart: We are witnessing the division of many Western democracies. Above all, there is a very noticeable geographical gap between the rural world and the big urban areas. This refers to a sociological reality: a younger population, more educated, etc. Even if the RN captures a share of the youth vote in France, progressive parties, especially around climate issues, have appeal to the youngest. There is a very serious difference in the level of diplomas in both countries. According to socio-demographic divisions, the USA and Europe are very close, probably we are in the era of globalization and the problems are common.

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Maxim Tandonnet: Yes, but bad… Let’s be careful not to imitate the US in all respects. The Human Rights Campaign, an American group that advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, bi, transgender or queer people, on Tuesday hailed the “historic” election victory of Maura Healey, the first “openly lesbian” (sic) governor. elected in the United States. , in Massachusetts. Obviously, politics is a service to the common good. Making people’s sexual preferences a voting criterion is not in France’s tradition of equal citizenship. Let us reject this obsession of a section of American public opinion with “sex” or sexual pleasures. These considerations are intimate and should have no place in politics.

Are there lessons to be learned from the relationship with the Ukraine conflict across the Atlantic?

Bruno Jeanbart: There is criticism on the subject and lack of unity, especially long-term support. Notably, this has not really been a dominant issue in American elections. He was indirectly in France during the presidential elections. But in general, international issues are not exciting. Second, contrary to the political sphere, the majority of opinions remain behind the idea that Ukraine should be supported against Russia.

Maxim Tandonnet: American public opinion does not intend to be involved in an open war with Russia. If Biden has not been more heavily sanctioned by the “red wave,” it is undoubtedly partly because of his relatively balanced position in this conflict. This has been going on for almost 10 months, but the Americans have been content with sending weapons and economic aid to Ukraine. Biden did not consider direct American intervention. Even assuming Putin used nuclear weapons, he was careful not to talk about the same type of repression and nuclear escalation. Despite being relatively unpopular, this restraint might have allowed him to avoid more severe denial…

We were waiting for a red wave that didn’t happen. Is there a political lesson?

Bruno Jeanbart: We are in the lower range of poll estimates for results in the House and Senate. But polls were not wrong. In contrast, Biden’s low popularity tipped for a Republican victory, which did not happen. The relationship between a president’s popularity and election results may not be so clear-cut. Popularity is a given, a choice, a relative phenomenon. We may not love someone, but we prefer them over others. Polls show dissatisfaction with Biden, but Trump’s personality resonates more.

Second, there was controversy over who the Democrats should campaign for. The main concern was inflation, but Republicans had the upper hand. Abortion seemed convenient to them. The results show that they were able to mobilize their voters on these and other issues better than expected.

Are there other lessons from the American election that might be relevant to import into France?

Bruno Jeanbart:We can see at least one parallel, because in France, as in the United States, we have seen marked changes in political proposals, and we are still in the process of deconstructing them.

Maxim Tandonnet: In this vote, one can also feel a certain weariness in front of the questions of people (Biden or Trump) who are separated from the reality on the ground and distanced from it. Sure, Biden is unpopular, but voters don’t seem to want to express support for him or sanction him to hate him. Likewise, this election was nothing like a plebiscite in Trump’s favor—perhaps the other way around. This vote means, among other things, that voters think more in terms of day-to-day issues than loyalty to leaders. This can be a lesson for French politicians. They would be more interested in responding to the suffering and concerns of the French than putting themselves on stage and performing some form of narcissistic showmanship.

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