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Macron Is About to Win
European Straits #14
Emmanuel Macron won the most votes in the first round of France’s presidential election. He will face far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at the end of next week. We should not hide our pleasure and downplay what is no less than an earth-shattering political revolution: a 39-year old with no prior electoral experience will (most likely) become president in a country which so far has only rewarded seasoned politicians. And the comparison with Donald Trump is telling enough: instead of an old, disgruntled conservative billionaire, France is about to be led by a young, optimistic progressive political entrepreneur.
The coming two weeks, however, will probably be disappointing. On the one hand, it is true that Emmanuel is all but certain to win the run-off election, probably with more than 60% of the votes: the rejection of Marine Le Pen across the political spectrum is simply too high and, unlike Donald Trump, she doesn’t enjoy the support of a mainstream major party. On the other hand, such a configuration does not contribute to fueling the national conversation on what institutions France should build to make the current age of personal computing and network more sustainable and more inclusive. When Emmanuel wins, it will be by default and without a clear mandate for change.
For many at TheFamily, it was enough that Emmanuel was the right candidate for the startup world. With him as president, we’re certain to be able to take bolder risks and push the cause of entrepreneurship. As my co-founder & partner Oussama Ammar wrote in a widely read Medium story (in French),
The world to which we belong is that of people who do not count only on politics to change the world: as entrepreneurs, they fail, they fail again, and one day they end up succeeding. Yet for entrepreneurs' efforts to pay off, they need a solid platform, institutions that are more welcoming for innovation, and above all elected officials that are open, caring, reliable and accessible.
If Emmanuel loses this election, then we will all have failed, because all the other candidates have an unequivocal program: they are for closing the borders, rewarding rent-seeking, and making innovation more difficult. If, on the contrary, Emmanuel is elected, then we will have a platform for everyone to act on their vision of a society that is more entrepreneurial and more inclusive at the same time.
As for myself, below is an article about Emmanuel that I wrote for the Financial Times just a few days ago. The call for radical imagination is all the more relevant as he is now likely to win the election.
Finally, you can read these two new notes about business strategy:
If he wins, Emmanuel Macron has to be bold
Technocratic tinkering will do nothing to cool France’s anger
APRIL 21, 2017 by: Nicolas Colin
For an Anglo-Saxon audience, the tale of Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist candidate for French president, running as a young progressive reformer will be a familiar one, redolent of figures such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Barack Obama. Like them, Mr Macron was barely known only a few years before he emerged as a leading contender. Like them, he has demonstrated the ambition to redraw the political map. And like theirs, his is a vision that looks towards the future rather than the past.
There is a major difference, however, which is that Mr Macron is running on his own, without the support of a major party. Unlike Mr Clinton in the 1992 US presidential election, he did not bother to compete in a primary and test his ideas in a competitive race. And unlike Mr Blair from 1994 onwards, when he assumed the leadership of the UK Labour party, he did not set about reforming an entire party in order to prove to sceptical voters that he was able also to reform the country. Quite the contrary: the problems of President François Hollande convinced Mr Macron to cut his ties with the ruling Socialist party.
At the same time, the unravelling of the campaign of the conservative François Fillon has encouraged Mr Macron to try to poach right-of-centre voters, when he should have been consolidating his position on the left. And now that he is running as a centrist problem-solver willing to work with both sides, he risks appearing less as a change-maker than as the candidate of the status quo.
Back in the 1990s, the New Democrats in America and New Labour in Britain succeeded in overhauling social democracy for a post-industrial world. That world came with dire consequences for traditional leftwing parties, among them the impotence of the state and the weakening of trade unions. Today, almost 10 years after the 2008 global financial crisis, the world has changed again and social democracy is in desperate need of yet another reinvention — one that would take into account new risks such as precarious employment patterns and unaffordable housing, and the eruption of technology in industry and in our personal lives. In this context, what France needs is not technocratic reforms that could have been implemented 20 years ago, but a new social compact more in line with our networked age.
There are hints of such a vision in Mr Macron’s platform — enough to attract the support of all those who already thrive in the new economy. But opinion polls suggest that many voters remain unconvinced by this handsome, articulate and optimistic 39-year old. In a country as divided as France, which harbours so much anger, it remains hard to see how a candidate who presents himself as a largely apolitical problem-solver can end the conflicts that have held the country back for so long.
Former chancellor Gerhard Schröder took the centrist route in Germany until 2005. In doing so, he likely destroyed his Social Democratic party for a generation. As for Mr Obama, he tried the consensual approach from 2008 to 2010, giving rise to the Tea Party and, eventually, the presidency of Donald Trump.
If Mr Macron were to win and then govern as a timorous centrist, he could expect a similar backlash. But there is another historical precedent to consider: elected as an un-ideological technocrat in 1932, US president Franklin Roosevelt subsequently had to take sides and move leftward for fear of losing his re-election campaign. He went on to design a social compact, the New Deal, that still shapes America, almost a century later.
Today, every advanced democracy badly needs the radical imagination of a latter-day Roosevelt. Will Mr Macron be the first to provide it?
The writer is a former French civil servant and co-founder of TheFamily, an investment firm based in Paris, London and Berlin