September 13, 2017
Emmanuel Macron is the man Europe I’ve said needed for some time now. He’s risking a lot by making grand moves; it could yet explode in his face. However, if he succeeds here, he could establish himself as the father of a united Europe, and secure himself a legendary place in history.
We are witnessing an important point in history. The stars have aligned for this to occur. Macron’s character was not enough to place him exactly where he needs to be to achieve this. In other times without the scare of a successful populist movement, he would seem unnecessarily optimistic and calls for reforms would fall on deaf ears. Likewise, if the US of the US hadn’t started making isolationist noises. That he is a French politician is also important. All of this mattered before his ideology could be begun to be weighed.
Populism in Europe is hardly a new problem. Europe is the home of nationalism and the idea of the nation. These are ideas we invented to describe our own societies, that we exported to the rest of the world, which was largely tribal at the time, or otherwise dotted with grand empires and prosperous city states. The late 19th century brought the budding nationalists to prominence in Europe, with the constituents of the Habsburg Empire being the grandest example of the revolts against trans-national governments. The defeat of the triple alliance in the Great War took those who were prominent and thrust them into the midst of power. No one needs to be reminded what happened next.
Nationalism and populism are not new problems to Europe, but they are current problems. Brexit was a rallying cry for the populists. People spoke in hushed tones about the domino effect and the irresistible rise of figures like Geert Wilders and Marine LePen. Thereby, the same triumphalism that swept Brexit and Trump in was turned against the populists and those expecting political-romanticism and political-post-modernism to sweep aside the liberal order in some sick hundred year cycle ended with red faces. The triumphalism of populists was a rallying cry to another group of people: cosmopolitan liberals. Brexit was a vision of an ugly future. It is already quite ugly and promises to get worse. Upon seeing this, the winds of liberty began to pick up, beginning an end to their apathetic lull of recent years. This was the first star to align.
By now Donald Trump’s bumbling incompetence is plain to see. Trump’s backwards policies have made America schizoid. Torn between its historical place as the so-called “leader of the free world” and Trump’s desire to see America be isolationist and protected from supposed evils outside its borders, as I previously argued, America has left the leadership of the liberal world empty. There exists a power vacuum and Europe, as a tight-knit collection of states, stands best equipped to step in and avert disaster for the ideas that she fostered, many years past. This presents itself as a necessity, and the urgency of such demands action. This is the second star of Macron’s constellation.
I once argued that France is the battleground for European defence integration. I would say this applies more broadly. Economically, militarily and culturally, France seems to be the lynch pin to Europe’s destiny. It is the axis of European integration. It seems how goes France, so goes Europe. Therefore to already have the support of the French people (and being president of France, he appeals to the national pride) he has already cleared a hurdle that an “outsider” might have to struggle with. This is the third star in Macron’s constellation.
However, having these three stars aligned is not assuring his victory. He is flagging in popularity at home as a result to his efforts to reform. His efforts to reform Europe more broadly is meeting resistance from members of the Visgrad group (Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic) who have suggested reforms will lead to additional “Brexits.” As he pushes forward, he will make enemies abroad and at home. This is natural for any reformers throughout history. This opposition will only grow stronger if his reforms fail to have the intended effects and may even promote nationalism if his reforms prove too unpopular.
However, he is on the right path. The system is in need of reform and creating links to the man on the street is the right step. I have advocated exactly this before. By creating a pan-European list of candidates and holding citizen forums and otherwise talking to citizens about the Europe they want, he invests people in his vision. This will be needed moving forward. Public will to reform is the currency on which this entire undertaking banks.
If Emmanuel Macron can achieve his victory, he will have established a new Europe capable of steering its own destiny. He is not trying to only lay the foundation to this new Europe, but lay the bricks on the first floors of his blueprint for a new Europe. If he is successful, he may go down in history as a figure to be mentioned alongside Charlemagne. That is still a big if and far from certain.
M. Macron, à ton triomphe et notre gloire.C. Shannon