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Macron Up and Coming
European Straits #6
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron made headlines last week when centrist politician (and eternal loser) François Bayrou decided to endorse him rather than launch yet another campaign for the presidency. As Bayrou appears to command about 5% of the electorate, the move consolidates Emmanuel’s position as the main challenger to far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
I intend to vote for him and, if you’re a French citizen, I urge you to consider doing the same. We at TheFamily have known for years that Emmanuel would be a strong ally for startups and venture capitalists. I knew him as a colleague a few years ago when we worked together at the Inspection générale des finances and I can vouch for his brilliant intellect, empathy and compassion—all important qualities for a political leader. And his age alone should be enough to convince us to take the ride: after the grim Hollande presidency, it would be a strong signal for France to elect a 39-year old president!
That being said, I regret the missed opportunity that the 2017 election already appears to be. For me, Emmanuel isn’t getting to the head of the race through his political positioning. Rather, he’s being pushed upwards by the weakness of his mainstream opponents. Fillon, the conservative candidate, is all but crushed by a scandal—he allegedly paid his wife and children for jobs they didn’t do. Hamon, the socialist, is losing ground by negotiating with other left-wing parties instead of connecting with voters.
Given their problems, Emmanuel could take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: rebuilding the French left for an entire generation. Instead he’s running as a ‘common-sense’ centrist, a ‘problem-solver’ willing to work with both sides. I am sure he can win the election by blurring the lines between left and right. But I’m also certain he won’t be able to govern if he lacks the ideological backbone needed to settle the conflicts that have crippled France for so long. I don’t see how a centrist, spineless approach can triumph over the long term in this period dominated by Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage. I totally agree with Teryn Norris, a former Obama administration appointee, as he writes that “centrism is dead, it is now time to rebuild the left”.
That new left won’t be built in a day. What’s needed is a large-scale effort to imagine the institutions that the digital economy needs to be more sustainable and inclusive. In that regard, I’ve long regretted that Sciences Po Paris, my alma mater and a central institution in France’s political economy, was absent from the conversation.
That problem is past us now: I’ve been honored to lend a helping hand lately to Yann Algan, renowned economist and Dean of the Sciences Po School of Public Affairs, in introducing digital affairs into the training of future senior civil servants and public affairs professionals. Last week, a new chair dedicated to digital, policy and organizations was inaugurated at Sciences Po and there are three major corporations already on board, both French (Carrefour and the Groupe Caisse des Dépôts) and American (Facebook). The chair is meant to nurture the public debate on the opportunities brought about by the digital transition and to invite the elite to participate. I’ll keep you posted on future projects.
Finally, I’ve just finished a new chapter in my book about the electoral challenges that the left must tackle as factory workers are replaced by proximity service workers: HERE is an overview. At TheFamily we’ve also launched a new series of notes for all of you who are interested in business strategy in the digital age: you can check out the first issue by following that link. I’ll be glad to have your comments and feedback.