May 6, 2007
Maybe, just maybe, there is hope for Europe and Western Civilization after all. Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy triumphed in the French presidential election (second round), by a 53 to 47 percent margin over Socialist Segolene Royal, a woman. Most people in France are coming to realize that their social welfare system (which she defended) is heading toward national bankruptcy, large-scale social violence, or both. I watched Sarkozy's victory speech on C-SPAN this afternoon, and he came across as confident, sincere, and determined to tackle France's big social problems. He made magnanimous gestures of outreach to his political opponents, but immigrants in some French cities reacted immediately by rioting. Sarkozy had served as Interior Minister during the upheaval of 2005-2006. He is quite a contrast to the dour, do-nothing current President, Jacques Chirac. See Washington Post.
Most gratifying of all was Sarkozy's expression of friendship with the United States. Is the long, cold winter of European-American hostility finally coming to an end? He made it clear that he disagrees with U.S. policies in some respects, reminding everyone that friends don't have to see everything exactly the same way. I'm not sure if global warming is the best issue for him to emphasize, but it may have been a "bone" to appease the leftist opposition in France. I just hope President Bush makes a suitable reciprocal gesture of good will, taking advantage of the "window of opportunity" that this election has created for U.S.-European relations.
Voter turnout was 85 percent, as the campaign became quite a sensation in France, much as the 1980 election was in the United States. It will probably help build the image of conservatives as progressive and more open to change and innovation than the socialists. Indeed, Sarkozy's youth and vigor remind one of John F. Kennedy. The fact that many younger, trendy people chose him, giving up the chance to have the first woman president in French history, says a lot about the respect he has earned.
The elections victory also portends a realignment in France's political party system. The Socialists are hopelessly divided between those who favor European integration and the backward-looking protectionists, neither of whom have the slightest idea what to do about the immigration crisis. On the Right, Sarkozy's "Union for a Popular Movement" seems to be leaving behind the chauvinistic roots inherited from Charles DeGaulle. In recent decades, France has tended to be "out of step" with other countries in Europe, moving to the left when the others turn right, and vice versa.
It so happens that today is the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Dutch leader Pim Fortuyn, who was the first prominent figure to warn his countrymen of the dangers posed by unchecked Islamic immigration. The underlying social tensions at that time are much the same as the tensions of the present day. See pajamasmedia.com (via Instapundit) and also my first blog post, in May 2002.
I have updated the Foreign leaders page, adding Sarkozy's name.
D.J. McGuire looks at the flap between the pro-Sayre bloggers (of which he is one) and the pro-Hanger blogger (moi), and makes a few good observations, plus a couple I take issue with. Like others, McGuire read too much into my observation about the nameless pro-Sayre bloggers. I think it was pertinent, but not a huge deal. As I wrote in the comment, I do not think that Sen. Hanger is "running away from his tax-hiking record." He is very much an issue-oriented candidate, but his problem is that the issues are too complex to explain in the sound-bite format that is typical of political campaigns. Waldo's odd comment that "Hanger is one of the farthest right, most extreme members of the General Assembly" certainly raised my eyebrow. Huh?