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March 28, 2004: Sometimes folks do actually throw the bums out... Flash Report from Paris

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What happens in France may have no implications for what happens in the United States.  Ric Erickson sends this fast update on today’s elections there.  Folks got fed up with the conservative folks in charge.  They turned them out.  It wasn’t even close.  I guess they didn’t like all the cuts in services and benefits, nor the “public safety trumps anyone’s rights” crackdown on crime, nor the rest of the “take care of yourself and don’t expect anything from your government” policies. 

Could such a thing happen here?  One never knows.  Former Socialist minister Jack Lang said, "The French considered themselves deceived by government policies." There's a bit of that in the air over here this week, isn't there? 

28.03 - Left KOs Right

Bonsoir Alan –

Today French voters stopped not voting and turned out en masse to reject the policies of France's right-wing government by giving majorities to Socialist-Green parties in the final round of regional elections.  Voter participation was above 65 percent. 

Shortly after polls closed at 20:00, results showed that the Socialists and other assorted leftists, including the Greens, had captured control of 20 regions, leaving only Alsace with a right-wing majority.  Results from Corsica and overseas regions were not immediately available. 

The right has enjoyed a majority control of France's regions since 1998, with majorities in 14 regions.  The left controlled 8 regions. 

The Socialist candidate in the Paris-Ile de France region beat the government candidate and the FN candidate, Marine Le Pen, by gaining an absolute majority. 

The election result is seen here as a rejection of the reform plans pushed forward by the right-wing majority nationally.  Former Socialist minister Jack Lang said, "The French considered themselves deceived by government policies."

Former Prime Minister and leader of the right-wing UMP party allied to President Jacques Chirac, Alain Juppé, said "We should listen more carefully to the French."

All current government ministers who were candidates in the regional elections were defeated.  The center right in France has a tendency to self-destruct from time to time. 

The big political question now is - can the President afford to keep Jean-Pierre Raffarin?  The right's candidate was solidly beaten in Prime Minister's 'home' region. 

Jean-Marie Le Pen was excluded from running in this election, for not fulfilling residence requirements in PACA.  His substitute in the region was beaten by the Socialist candidate. 

This election reverses the results of the presidential election of 2002.  Then, results in the first round gave Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen a slight edge over Socialist leader Lionel Jospin - which eliminated him as a candidate.  For the second round, leftist politicians urged all voters to vote against the ultra-right leader, and Jacques Chirac was elected with about 80 percent of the vote - and was rewarded by voters with an strong majority of deputies in the Assembly National. 

Today's election results amount to a rejection of the government's national policies. 

regards from Paris, ric


Visit Ric’s website MetropoleParis for more on what’s up in Paris, and in France, as he updates late on Mondays (our time). 



The argument was made this week, over at Whiskey Bar, that we have reached a tipping point.  See the item there Revenge of the Repressed.


Here’s the trust of that:


Now that Against All Enemies has gone into its fifth printing, and the 9/11 commission hearings have generated a huge amount of press coverage -- and, judging from the anecdotal evidence, a fair amount of kitchen table and coffee break conversation as well -- it looks like the events of the past week may be evolving into something much more significant than just another political mud fight.


Something is stirring in the national subconscious -- a kind of sudden return of questions and doubts that were largely repressed in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In other words, what we have here may be the product of a failure to communicate -- a condition which Richard Clarke and the 9/11 Commission are now rectifying.


One of the things I found most remarkable about 9/11 -- at least when compared to past national traumas like the Kennedy assassination or Pearl Harbor -- was how willing the American public was to put questions of responsibility and accountability out of mind, seemingly indefinitely. …


Well, after a discussion of the Warren Commission and the investigations of the Pearl Harbor attack, which this fellow suggests “seemed to produce a rush to forget -- not the attacks, but the hidden events and decisions that led up to the attacks,” he suggests the Bush administration and the war hawks were perfectly happy to encourage the same reaction, for reasons which are now becoming clearer.


But now, thanks to Clarke, and to the attention he focused on this week's public hearings, it seems like “the collective mental block has been broken.  Suddenly, people want to know the story.  They want information, speculation, opinion.  And they want to discuss it -- making this the political equivalent of Freud's talking cure.”


Then this:


I have no idea what conclusions people will ultimately draw from this re-examination. I don't know whether or how it will influence their opinions of President Bush, or of the war on terrorism, or of American foreign policy in general.


To the extent the administration was banking on freezing (in amber, as Clarke might put it) public perceptions of Bush's performance as a "war president," this is probably bad for them.  On the other hand, if they yell loud enough, and dump enough money into advertising, maybe they can force the new conventional wisdom to harden in the same mold as the old conventional wisdom.


Still, the fact that the general embargo on critical thinking about 9/11 has been broken is very encouraging.  The truth -- the whole truth -- is probably too much to expect, given the narrow limits of what's considered "legitimate" debate in this country, and the powerful forces lined up in defense of ignorance.  But at least people are asking questions, and looking for answers.  Compared to where we were just a few months ago, that's an encouraging sign.


Which means that whatever the accuracy, or completeness, of Richard Clarke's story, he's done a great public service simply by breaking the strange spell of public apathy that's been choking off debate about what happened on 9/11 - and why - for the past two and a half years.


And the Bush folks ought to think about what just happened in France.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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