May 16, 2006

La Femme: French Politics = Madison's Political Climate?

James Traub:
There's a reason that the leaders of France's Socialist Party are called "elephants": They live forever. Among the elephants now vying to become the party's candidate for president in next year's election are Laurent Fabius, who served as prime minister 22 years ago, and Lionel Jospin, who served as Socialist Party leader a quarter-century ago and suffered a defeat in the last presidential election so devastating, both for himself and for the party, that you would have thought prudence alone would dictate political retirement. But in France, politics is a profession; once you arrive, you stay.

No one has thought to call Ségolène Royal an elephant. For one thing, it would be unbecoming, since she is a woman — and a woman who, when she works her smile up into her eyes, bears a passing resemblance to Audrey Hepburn. Royal is, remarkably enough, the first truly présidentiable woman in French history. But what is most striking about her candidacy, which so far consists of a highly orchestrated media seduction, is not the fact that she is a woman but rather that she has positioned herself as a nonelephant, indeed, almost an antielephant. She is, in effect, running against France's political culture, which is to say against remoteness and abstraction, ideological entrenchment and male domination itself. And that culture, which is embodied by her own party, has struck back, ridiculing her as a soap bubble borne aloft by a momentary gust of public infatuation.
I was struck by the similarities between the French "Establishment" and the local political establishment vis a vis newcomers/challengers. Posted by James Zellmer at May 16, 2006 12:17 PM | Subscribe to this site via RSS:
Posted to Culture | Politics