Klemens von Metternich famously said “When France sneezes, Europe catches a cold.” What the grand architect of 19th-century Europe meant was what happens in France doesn’t stay in France. Wind the clock forward to the 21st century and France is a country that, until last year, shared America’s political angst. It is now the country that could provide the clue to what may come from our own presidential elections.
Staunchly anti-American and as antiquated as the ancien régime, former President Jacques Chirac governed France with an unsure, waffling hand. Polls showed administration supporters lining up none deep, while the broader public despaired of France’s declining status in the world. In the absence of convincing leadership, the French craved change. Change from the failed politics that had split the country into fractious discontent.
So in the spring of 2007, two presidential candidates ran credible campaigns rooted on similar, if differently pitched, platforms. The Socialist candidate – Ségol