(asked by Isabelle from Los Angeles)
First, I must tell that I’m happy to hear an American not liking Sarkozy… These days I have the feeling that most Americans around me (including liberals) kinda like Sarkozy and it really baffles me (even if I know that it mostly comes from the fact that they don’t really know anything about him and just see Carla Bruni).
So, how could the French elect him?
I’m wondering the same…
No, actually and sadly, I know exactly how the guy was elected.
It’s called propaganda one the one hand, demagogy on the other one and absence of a decent opposition on the third hand (yep, three hands, here).
See, Sarkozy has a mastery of the media that is quite impressive (well, nothing new here, the techniques he used to get elected were designed by Goebbels and perfected within the best advertising agencies since) and since about 2002 or at least 2005 he has been omnipresent in the media. And when I say omnipresent I mean it, there hasn’t been one single day between 2005 and 2007 where he was not mentioned in the news one way or another. This omnipresence in the media created omnipresence in people’s mind.
During that time, he was Minister of Interior, then Minister of Finance and later, Minister of Interior again as well as sort of vice-Prime Minister (Ministre d’Etat) and during those years his strategy was pretty simple actually: he spent his time saying he was gonna fix whatever problem he was confronted with or that he had fixed a previous problem if he faced a journalist without ADD (or whose boss was not Sarkozy’s friend) and who would ask him about an old issue. Of course this was all bullshit, but nowadays, mainstream media journalism is not really journalism anymore as facts double checking is not something they do anymore, so he could basically lie his way through things and that’s exactly what he did.
His results as Minister are disastrous is you bother to check them, which nobody did, as everybody just decided to blindly believe what he said, which was that he was the only minister doing things in the end of reign government that was the Villepin government.
And with these two Goebbelsian principles: being omnipresent in the media, repeating over and over again the same lie until it becomes true in everybody’s mind, he had already done half of the job (sometimes I say he didn’t win the election in 2007, but sometimes during 2006).
Then, he had to kill the opposition within his own party, because he knows all too well that the most dangerous adversary that he has come from his party (UMP) and not the main opposition (PS)… He knows that very well because he was the main backstabber of Chirac in 1995 with Balladur… So, also during these two years he managed to become the president of the UMP, make sure no other potential leader can rise.
There still was one obstacle. The Prime Minister himself, Dominique de Villepin, who was Chirac’s almost official heir.
But in early 2006, Villepin shot himself in the foot in a way that Sarkozy couldn’t even have hope for with his mismanagement of “CPE crisis.” After that it was obvious that Sarkozy would be the sole candidate from the UMP.
Still, especially because of Chirac’s unpopularity at the time, it seemed that the PS just couldn’t lose the election. But one must never underestimate the PS (remember 2002 and the fact that about 5 candidates from the PS ran and sent Le Pen to the run-off)… This time, the PS way to make sure they lose this elected they just couldn’t lose was to send their lamest (but popular among militants) possible candidate: Ségolène Royal, and while she was having near mystical experiences about being a candidate (I’m sure at some point she was starting to have some sort of MPD and taking herself for Joan of Arc and/or the Virgin Mary), Sarkozy campaigned like it was his job (well, it had been for a couple of years already) succeeding in fooling the working classes to believe he was their candidate (a little bit like the GOP regularly fools the working classes and the rural areas into believing it is the party that they need).
And because all of this, his election was just a formality.
Interestingly enough, the first law that passed under his presidency was a huge tax cut for the richest people in France while even the middle class is struggling because of lack of money these days.
Nowadays most people realize that they have been fooled, but it’s too late (and he’ll certainly find a way to fool them again in 2012… even if it’ll be hard… but don’t underestimate him)
I don’t care much for Sarko either. However, I didn’t feel that Royal was better. I didn’t like her at all.
I don’t like politics much because there are too many rotten apples. It always ends up being a choice between the lesser of two evils.
I am living in Switzerland right now with my French husband and we both really like the division of power that exists here. The president is only a figure head and in office for one year while the power is divided between others who are responsible for different functions.
Nothing is perfect but I do think it is better not to give so much power to one person.
By the way, I think it is great what you are doing. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for an American to do the same to clear up misconceptions. However, I wouldn’t want to be the one to open up that can of worms.