I’ve been highly suspicious of Emmanuel Macron, France’s youngish, posterboy president. First of all, he’s French. Second, his “beyondist” positioning between or above the existing French parties—rotten as they are—seems dubious.
And while not abandoning these or other suspicions, his interview published today in the German magazine Der Spiegel makes for some very interesting reading. One comment in particular jumps out:
I am a strong believer that modern political life must rediscover a sense for symbolism. We need to develop a kind of political heroism. I don’t mean that I want to play the hero. But we need to be amenable once again to creating grand narratives. If you like, post-modernism was the worst thing that could have happened to our democracy. The idea that you have to deconstruct and destroy all grand narratives is not a good one. Since then, trust has evaporated in everything and everyone. I am sometimes surprised that it is the media that are the first ones to exhibit a lack of trust in grand narratives. They believe that destroying something is part of their journalistic purpose because something grand must inevitably contain an element of evil. Critique is necessary, but where does this hate for the so-called grand narrative come from? . . . Why can’t there be such a thing as democratic heroism? Perhaps exactly that is our task: rediscovering something like that together for the 21st century.
There may be more to this guy than I thought. Reading through the whole thing, which reveals especially his dislike of the media (always a good sign), makes me think he’s much preferable to Merkel for the leadership of the continent. And this little piece of the interview is curious on just this point:
DER SPIEGEL: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told us in an interview that he has learned a lot from Angela Merkel. Is the same true for you?
Macron: I speak often with Madame Merkel. We talk at least once or twice a week. We send messages to each other regularly and have a lot of joint meetings. I have great respect for her, even if we have a lot of differences.
Viva la difference!
Finally, perhaps we can add Elizabeth Warren to the list of people Macron doesn’t admire, at least by implication from the back and forth in this section:
DER SPIEGEL: The French left views you as an unbending neoliberal who protects his own caste.
Macron: What does one have to do today to reconcile France? Distribute public money – that’s what some expect, especially the radical left. They think that you help people by handing them money. But that is a fallacy because it is not me distributing the money, but rather future generations. So, it is my duty to say: Something has to change. I say that very directly, in clear words so that nobody can misunderstand me. And I believe in our new initiative for continuing education and vocational training. For French people who are socially disadvantaged, this means real recognition and support.
DER SPIEGEL: But it is precisely those French who also can’t understand why you want to get rid of the wealth tax.
Macron: Why? Because the wealth tax doesn’t do anything for them. It doesn’t exist in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. So, we want to build up Europe and yet retain the wealth tax at the same time? And what is it that leads company founders to leave, which in turn results in the loss of those jobs? We aren’t protecting the people who most need it when those who can contribute to the country’s success emigrate. Contrary to what some claim, I am not doing this to help the rich. My predecessor taxed wealthy, successful people at a higher rate than ever before. And what happened? They left. And what came of it? Did unemployment drop? No.
DER SPIEGEL: You are aware of the power of symbols. And by eliminating the wealth tax, you took a symbolic step that has riled up the left against you.
Macron: I stand completely behind this decision. I am not from the political or banking elite. I am a child of the middle class far from Paris. And if someone had told me that success is bad or if they had placed hurdles in my path, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I want it to be possible for young people in our country to be successful – whether they want to find that success in the family, as an artist or by founding a company. I refuse to give into the sad reflex of French envy because this envy paralyzes our country. We cannot create jobs without company owners, the state cannot create jobs by decree.