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Le Président de la France

This weekend, France will be having the preliminary presidential election for one of the most interesting political races in the world. This is Marine Le Pen’s third rodeo, but due to the chaos surrounding this election she actually has an (outside) chance of winning this. What chaos do I refer to? Mostly, the complete collapse of the incumbent Socialist Party.

It initially looked as though the rightward party (Les Republicains) would simply take over and everybody would breathe a sigh of relief that there was a rightward alternative to the government besides the National Front. Then Les Republicains went and found themselves a candidate who promptly landed in a mess of trouble. The Socialist Party did not necessarily do themselves any more favors than Les Republicains, drawing a splinter candidacy to its immediate right and a strengthened insurgency to its left.

The end result is that there are four candidates polling near one another that have a chance at making the runoff. The establishment’s savior is Emmanuel Macron (who came up previously at Ordinary Times here, long before he was a candidate), a man without a political party. The guy who could have spared everybody a lot of heartburn lost in the primary. The incumbent party is falling apart and nominated a guy who used his opening remarks in a debate to talk about anti-Muslims bigotry (a worthy topic, perhaps, but not on the pulse of the French mood). And as Americans, all we can do is watch and hope that we have served as a cautionary tale.

All of this is in the backdrop of the fact that France’s entire system is relatively unusual in Europe in that they have a powerful presidency at all.

France’s electoral system is unique in Western Europe. In most countries, the head of state is either a hereditary monarch or a president indirectly elected by parliament. These leaders leave most, if not all, of the day-to-day governance of the country to the head of government: the prime minister. In France, presidents are directly elected by the public and have substantial powers, making them the most powerful national leaders in the region. They can appoint and fire ministers, including the prime minister, almost at will, and submit bills to a national referendum. They can take extraordinary powers in case of a national crisis. They can also dissolve the lower house to provoke a snap election, and the electoral fate of the congressmen is so strongly linked to that of the president that their parliamentary majority is much more obedient than in the United States Congress. {…}

French elections are, in a sense, a direct coronation of an elected king by his people, a few million votes serving as a holy chrism. In 1852, Karl Marx wrote in his classic work “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”: “The National Assembly (…) exhibits in its individual representatives the manifold aspects of the national spirit, but in the President this national spirit finds its incarnation. As against the Assembly, he possesses a sort of divine right; he is President by the grace of the people.”

There is so single “right” political system. Questions of whether a government should be federal or unitary, have a king (or queen) or do away with the monarchy, have even or lumpy legislative representation, almost always depend on the lay of the land. The facts on the ground make a system that’s right for one place wrong for another. There is, however, a pretty consistent bias in constitutional design theory that a parliamentary system beats a presidential one every time. In a parliamentary system, the executive is directly answerable to the legislature. It’s hard for presidential systems to avoid legislatures ultimately being answerable to the president. In France, they don’t especially try to avoid it.

As the earliest modern republics, there are reasons that both the US and France would have presidential systems. When the decisions were being made, the norm was to have a strong singular leader and the problems associated with that were more familiar – and therefore more tolerable – than the problems of rule-by-committee. Further, the US tried rule-by-committee and it failed. (France, too, tried a lot of things to see them fail.) That made it so that when DeGaul pushed for a more presidential system – at a time when parliamentary systems were more common – the public was receptive. And when there was a natural pull towards the executive in the US, we already had the executive in place who was elected by the people through the states who was ready to take power.

What’s noteworthy about the presidential vs parliamentary system is that it can run contrary to a lot of the other constitutional design systems. Whereas most of the time you look towards the people to determine the system. Do they view themselves as a collection of quasi-independent entities? Then federalism. Do they view themselves as a singular entity? Then unitary. Is there a particular reason that votes over here need to count more than votes over there? Consider it. Otherwise, don’t. But when it comes to presidential systems, the more the populace wants it, generally speaking, the less they should have it. Presidential systems are most popular among populations that desire strong, singular leaders. Those two make for a remarkably bad combination.

The United States and France have both the presidential system in common as well as having candidate primaries, both of which are unusual from an international standpoint. And both of which can cause problems. This is especially true in the United States where we have an eccentric presidential selection system that is extremely prohibitive of third party and independent efforts. France manages to avoid that (more on that in a bit), they’ve been experiencing some growing pains with it:

The strange thing was that the open primaries, christened by the socialists during Hollande’s election in 2012, were supposed to strengthen them, but it did not really work this time. To win highly unexpected nominations, both Hamon and Fillon had to run aggressive platforms that either made them less appealing to the electorate as a whole or increased the likelihood of campaign flip-flops. And these preliminary contests have also intensified the presidential frenzy, leading to an American-style “permanent campaign.” “The virus of primaries has infested the entire presidential system,” wrote the scholar Christian Salmon in 2014. “It has multiplied the presidential figure by making the election of the president of the Republic by universal suffrage, not only the key moment of democratic life, but the element that over-determines all the strategies of the political actors.”

Putting #BanPrimaries aside, this was an issue for both of the main parties. On paper, François Fillon was a reasonably credible candidate (former Prime Minister and cabinet official with a long record of public service) but even before his recent troubles was a candidate with less broad appeal than Alain Juppe. Even Nicolas Sarkozy, who had problems but was still more of a known quantity, would have been less risky if he had enough chits to call in for the nomination. The Socialists were likely doomed either way, party establishment favorite Manuel Valls may have had more success clipping Macron’s rise than nominee Benoit Hamon had stifling left-wing Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Ultimately, I don’t favor #BanPrimaries for the United States because our political parties are basically hard-coded into the system. If we’re around in fifty years, we will almost certainly have a Republican Party and a Democratic Party and the only question is what they will stand for. As such, giving people voice over the trajectory of the parties is really quite important. As this election demonstrates, however, France’s system is more elastic. The next President of France almost certainly belongs to a party that has never actually won the presidency before (though if it’s Fillon, Les Republicains is mostly just a rebranding of the Union for a Popular Movement). That’s the sort of situation where you don’t even need primaries because if the party establishments get it wrong their parties can be deposed (see also, Canada). And as we’ve learned this election in the US and in France and in Britain, the party membership can themselves get it wrong.

The French system is more flexible because they have runoffs. That encourages more adventurist voting because is decreases (though does not eliminate) the likelihood of a spoiler. Someone like Melenchon or especially Macron would have a difficult time gaining traction if their vote increased the likelihood of Le Pen winning and might not even run. And if they did run, of course, that would increase the likelihood of someone like Le Pen winning with thirty percent of the vote. It’s lose-lose. First Past the Post systems stink. Just in case that’s not clear enough for you: First Past the Post systems stink a lot. The US system is further complicated by the electoral college, but even switching to a straight popular vote doesn’t especially fix the problem. (Ask Maine!)

That said, runoffs are themselves imperfect:

The first round typically attracts up to at least a dozen candidates and is prejudiced in favor of those with a strong electoral base rather than wide consensus appeal. In 2002, the incumbent conservative Jacques Chirac and the National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of current leader Marine, got to the second round with less than 20 percent and 17 percent of the votes, respectively, whereas the Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was eliminated with slightly more than 16 percent. While Jospin had been polling neck-and-neck with Chirac throughout the campaign, Le Pen got less than 18 percent of the vote in the runoff. Five years later, the centrist François Bayrou (18 percent) was eliminated by Nicolas Sarkozy (31 percent) and Segolene Royal (26 percent) in the first round, but the opinion polls showed that this moderate and appreciated figure would have beaten both in a runoff.

Many of these same problems exist with my preferred Instant Runoff Voting, but all of those are preferable to the alternative. And despite being the squishy centrist type that I am, I’m also not sure the high-consensus, low-base candidate is preferable. If Macron wins, I suspect we’re likely to see that a person with no base has a lot of difficulty governing. In Macron’s case it’s likely to be directly attributable to a lack of legislative seats (there is almost no scenario in which Les Republicains don’t dominate the legislature), but it’s hard for the center to hold in any event. And in the event that it does, you start running into fears of a one-party monopoly. That’s the danger of going with approval voting, another popular alternative.

To bring the piece back to the start, there really is no perfect system for elections. There is no perfect system for candidate selection. The question is whether the poison offered here is better than the poison offered there. Even given the problems, runoff systems still do tend to be preferable to plurality elections in presidential systems. It is, as much as anything, the “presidential system” where much of the problems reside.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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135 thoughts on “Le Président de la France

        • I think a lot center left and center right politicians are struggling right now because they are giving their honest response to what they see as the issues of the day. That is “we really don’t have a solution and there is not a good or easy answer to these issues but we have to muddle through these things as best as we can to preserve our liberties.”

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          • I dunno about that. The populist answer to these issues isn’t the one I agree with but I understand the parts of the appeal that don’t involve attacks on civil liberties (i.e. let’s stay out of these conflicts, and especially in Europe, let’s stop importing culturally hostile people from backwards, war torn places).

            Those level headed centrists didn’t exactly create Islamist extremism but it’s a monster they’ve been feeding raw meat to for the last 35 years or more. Until they reckon with what theyve done they have no sympathy from me.

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                • I think there’s a lot to ‘s argument that a lot of EU countries have made a hash out of integration, but it’s hard to see how, “If we do this now, we’ll have less terrorism a generation or two from now,” is a much better response than, “We might as well get used to it.”

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                    • I see where you’re coming from, but at a certain point it gets you to saying, “Let’s just dupe the electorate by spending a few billion Euros on terrorist-repelling rocks and tell them it’ll take 50 years for them to work.”

                      Also, I kind of have a mirror response to ‘s, where if the problem is integration, why do the populists work so hard to reduce and combat integration at every turn? I’ll admit this view has more to do with American populists who worry about this stuff, but, well, this kind of psychology cuts multiple ways.

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                      • I won’t argue that there isn’t hypocrisy on the part of these populist movements or that xenophobia has nothing to do with it. When Jean-Marie Le Pen was leader of the National Front the party was the unapologetic home of France’s skinheads. All I’m saying is that the reconstructed party wouldn’t be a contender if that was all this was about, and that centrist liberal parties and politicians wouldn’t be getting pinched by populists if they’d done a better job managing these issues. It’s not like they don’t have all of the structural advantages in the world’s advanced democracies.

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              • The shooter in this instance was a French national. Not seeing anything else yet that’s definitive on his background.

                On the broader issue I don’t think it’s controversial to say that European countries have not done a good job at integration. You see it with the descendents of the Gastarbeiters in Germany, you see it in the Banlieus in France.

                Failed public policy has already turned these places into breeding grounds for extremism and I see no reason to think the latest efforts will go better. If I was a tax payer over there I’d ask why my government that’s already mucked this up is intent on throwing more fuel into the fire.

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            • “i.e. let’s stay out of these conflicts, and especially in Europe, let’s stop importing culturally hostile people from backwards, war torn places”

              The thing is, that’s a good argument in I don’t know, Hungary or Poland. However, most of France’s problems are from populations they invited in from former colonies, then ghettoized and marginalized after colonizing them and fighting a vicious civil war.

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              • The legacy of France’s empire is something they’ll be living with for generations, that’s true. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to pack more, similarly situated people into the ghettos they already have.

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              • I don’t think that the relationship between Islamic terrorism and colonialism is as direct as many on the liberal-left would like to think. Its We would have a lot more terrorism from places like Vietnam, the Philippines, Haiti and many African countries otherwise. Some of the places that produce many terrorists per capital were under colonial rule for the least amount of time or not at all.

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                  • Sex, Drugs, Rock and/or Roll. Introduce pop culture stars who do things like “rebel against straight-laced authority”.

                    We need something like “Footloose”.

                    “We’re not *FROM* the old country anymore, Dad! You don’t understand! You don’t understand anything! I WANT TO DANCE!”

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                    • See, you just made Lee’s point, seems to me. Your view is that a majority can legitimately define what constitutes “culture” and eliminate cultural elements which it disapproves of, by force. That’s a dangerous path to go down, notme, don’t you think?

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                      • Your view is that a majority can legitimately define what constitutes “culture” and eliminate cultural elements which it disapproves of, by force.

                        BS, I said no such thing. I never said France should use force. If so please quote me.

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                          • If you truly “get it” then why do you keep asking me to define what the French should do? If the French decide that X or Y is the cultural norm for them and the punishment for not doing so is Z then fine. I’m not French and have no intention of going to seek residence in France so I don’t care. It’s their country, their culture, their norms and their business.

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                            • If you truly “get it” then why do you keep asking me to define what the French should do?

                              Hey, you’re the one who sarcastically said that the French majority shouldn’t have to accommodate non-wine drinking, non-pork-eating Muslims!

                              Which brings us back to the question of governmental force. Given that you think French law trumps all other considerations, you appear to hold the view that The French* have the legitimate authority to use governmental force to eliminate cultural elements (eg, anti-porkism!) which it disapproves of. And the US too, if our laws allowed such things.

                              Which is not only a bad road to go down, as I said upthread, but a massive confusion of the role The Law plays in society.

                              *however that term is defined

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                              • I think you are missing the forest for the trees. Anytime a society decides to sanction an action or behavior, it is a reflection of their culture. The reasoning behind the sanction may or may not closely tied to the majority religion. Drink alcohol in a Muslim country it’s bad, while drinking in France is fine. The question is how far down into the weeds of behavior is a country willing to go.

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                                • Anytime a society decides to sanction an action or behavior, it is a reflection of their culture.

                                  Close. It’s a reflection of certain, perhaps very limited, elements in their culture. Sometimes merely the “cultural” prerogatives of those in power. Which is why having a justification for laws which goes beyond “whatever was passed and signed” is important. Laws serve a specific purpose in every society, they are not ends in themselves. They are tools. So keeping an eye on what that tool is used for is important.

                                  Now, I get that sometimes cultural considerations are so dominant that the legal tool is confused with an end in itself. Prohibition is a good example. So the instrumental value of a rule, or law, needs to be considered alongside a gummint’s “legitimate right” to categorically enact em.

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                          • I think the concern isn’t so much that there are people who disapprove of wine drinking for themselves so much as it is concern that a critical mass of people will decide that they disapprove of wine drinking for everybody in France.

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                  • How do you assimilate people who don’t drink, eat pork, and are socially conservative into a culture that drinks, loves pork, and is culturally libertine?

                    Find a different subset of culture to assimilate with?

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                  • You don’t assimilate people. Unless you are going for a Borg thing. People assimilate themselves. They find their niche and their kids find theirs and so on. We can create conditions that might make assimilating a bit easier or a bit harder, but that is all “we” can do. Not letting people become citizens makes it harder as does denying them full protection of the law or all the rights of citizens. Bigotry makes it harder. Gov can do something about some of those things.

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                  • I think like Pillsy said below you need to treat them as fully enfranchised citizens and provide adequate economic opportunity. It could still take multiple generations and will certainly have all kinds of hiccups. But then this is why I don’t think animosity in Europe to more immigration from certain parts of the world is so crazy. It isn’t an easy thing to do well and it’s hard to known if you’re succeeding.

                    America has a certain set of founding myths and principles about immigration. Now we’ve been grossly hypocritical and failing to live up to those things in very profound ways from day 1, but it’s still part of our cultural DNA. I’m not sure it’s fair to hold other countries to that standard, especially when they were founded on myths and principles of self governance for people who shared certain linguistic and cultural traits, or in the case of modern France about particular political principles arising out of rebellion against absolute monarchy.

                    Now I know that France is a bit more flexible about what it means to be French, than say, Germany, but I also know that official secularism is one of the things hard wired into their cultural DNA. It’s possible that Islam without a major reformation of some kind will never be compatible with that.

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                    • The French have always defined themselves non-racially but they aren’t that religious anymore. They were one of the first European countries to enter secularism/Post-Christianity en mass. They did it during the 19th century while it took most of the 20th century to get religious identity to crash in the rest of Europe.

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                      • That’s exactly what I mean though. It isn’t only about drinking wine and eating pork, it’s about what a culture that defines itself in no small part by it’s secularism does with a minority that defines itself in large part by religion. And not religion in the watered down mainline Protestant, post Vatican II Catholic way, but a way that looks to them like something that was left behind in the bad old days.

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                        • This is where I feel that many people on our side are a bit wrong about Muslim immigrants. Islam never really went through a modernizaiton/libealization like Christianity and Judaism did. It doesn’t really have to these days because the Muslims who want to can just go straight into secularism with at best the occasional node to their religion rather than develop an acculturated version of Islam to get the European package of goodies. This gives the anti-modernists in Islam extraordinary power. A lot of far leftists like to encourage this form of Islam because it seems more authentic and anti-colonialist to them.

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                          • Yeah, I think that’s a definite anti-pattern, and one where a lot people on the left (and especially, as you note, the farther left) and the right sort of converge on the idea that “real” Islam is the anti-modernist stuff. Seems to do no one any good except the anti-modernists.

                            It’s a little like how a lot of atheists I’ve known seem to believe that fundamentalist Christians are the real authority on what Christianity is.

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                          • I think what you and are saying is true as far as it goes. What it doesn’t account for is the fact that political Islam does exist. We live under a government that’s encouraged it to exist when it’s AK-47s and RPGs were pointed at enemies (the USSR) or governments we don’t like (Assad). That’s without even getting into the long standing Shia v. Sunni feud or the situation in Gaza and the West Bank.

                            I have a lot if criticisms of the far left in this country (the obsessions with identity politics and related dogma will never be my bag). But I don’t think they’re the ones feeding radical Islam. It’s our intelligence community and military intervening on their side.

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    • Are you sure? What self respecting liberal here will believe that this is Muslim terrorist attack just b/c ISIS says so? I mean there wasn’t an ISIS ID card found on the attacker so who really knows. Clearly toddlers with guns are more of a threat.

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  1. The American origin of a strong Presidency lies in the thoughts of the French political philosopher Montesquieu, confirmed by observations of states with weak executives in the interim period (Pennsylvania in particular), but mostly what the Federalists were up to was the creation of a new state from individual states. Popular election of the President created the foundation for national authority.

    Most states creating democratic Constitutions don’t face the “merger” issue, so the independent Presidency doesn’t solve any problem, and if the preceding political system was might makes right, the strong President might simply become an elected tyrant. All that said, there is one place in the world that might benefit from an independent President — the EU. That is, if the EU is to become a federal state.

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    • If she wins I predict disintegration of the EU. They can get along without the British who were never fully committed to anything beyond lowering trade barriers. Loss of France (and I think that would follow) makes the entire project look like German imperialism.

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    • One of the differences between the US and most of Europe was that we had already overthrown a monarchy prior to setting our federal democratic form in place. In Britain and most other European countries, democracy had to contend with a sitting monarchy that was quite powerful, and the monarchy was the executive branch. So to democratize, they slowly shifted executive powers from the king to the legislative branch, as opposed to just electing a new king every four years. The result is what we might consider a hybrid, with a legislative/executive parliament and the old executive branch being a hobbled rubber stamp.

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      • The United Kingdom was well on its way to Parliamentary government by the time the American Revolution came along. The King already lost most of his powers and even though the Prime Minister wasn’t formally responsible to the House of Commons yet, there was an idea that the Prime Minister should have the support and be able to get most of the MPs to go along with him.

        Our Founders didn’t really pay that much attention to these political developments though. They thought that the United Kingdom still roughly operated like it did after the Glorious Revolution with the King as the executive, Parliament as the legislature, and the judiciary independent of both. They really admired some aspects of this set up and created an idealized and republicanized version of it for the Federal government.

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    • Which Team Evil? The sellout banker, the racist, the corrupt social reactionary, or the communist?

      (Also again, polling on a national level in neither the US or Brexit was wrong. It was within MoE. Of course, with 4 people all bunched around 20, MoE is a lot more important in France than here.)

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      • Also again, polling on a national level in neither the US or Brexit was wrong.

        My problem is not “ha! all of the polls said 40% chance of it happening and it happened!” but my problem is that all (or damn near all) of the polls on a national level in both the US and Brexit predicted the wrong winner.

        If you’ve got a 40% chance of a thing happening and you take 100 polls, 40 of the polls ought to show the thing happening. Or somewhere around 40ish polls. Give or take some margin of error.

        But all of the polls were within the margin of error IN THE SAME DIRECTION (or damn near all).

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          • So it wasn’t that they were wrong, but polling the wrong thing and people mixed up what they were polling with what they thought they were polling.

            Could happen to anyone, I guess.

            So we’ve learned our lessons from Brexit and Trump and now we not only know how to read the French polls but we now know that we’re actually polling the right things?

            Good to know.

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    • I retweeted it a couple days ago, but Le Pen was previously underpolled a bit in the first round, and overpolled in the second. Which has a certain logic to it. But that suggests Le Pen is a lock to make the runoffs, but is going to have a really difficult time making the runoffs.

      Given what they were trying to poll, Brexit polling was actually quite impressively accurate.

      The 2016 (state) polling had a pretty substantial problem, but it was noticeable mostly because it was polling something that should have been more reliable than Brexit or a four-person-race.

      The 2015 UK general election is what people should point to when they talk about the unreliability of polling. (And, to a lesser extent, 2016 state polling.)

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      • There was a last minute (OK, couple weeks) slide in the 2016 national polls that was caught be paying attention, and suggested that the outcome that happened was fairly likely. And the national vote was pretty close to the polling suggested.

        I think a lot of the surprise had to do with people saying, “Well, stuff that happens 30% of the time basically never happens.”

        Well, that and paying too much attention to Sam Wang.

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        • The “30%” is largely a recognition that the polling may not be accurately capturing the state of the race. Which is to say that the polling wasn’t good. Not because the pollsters were ideologically driven or bad at their jobs, mind you, but because there are limits to what polling can tell us. Even when it comes to races that are allegedly very stable and reportedly nobody ever changes their mind.

          The Brexit pollsters have relatively little to answer for. The 2016 pollsters at the state level, have been rightfully spending time trying to figure out what went wrong.

          (It’s also worth pointing out that Silver was the outlier, not Wang. According to most, it wasn’t a 30% thing that happened, but a 10% thing that happened.)

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          • I focus on Silver because he did the best job and was (I think) vindicated to the extent he could be vindicated by a single, unrepeatable event.

            I also think placing to much weight on Wang and his approach was a big mistake, and was a big mistake all the way back to 2012. It really was the same kind of thing that led a lot of people to believe CDOs were “AAA” rated.

            So I do have a bias.

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      • Of those, the ones that are from 2014 or before don’t really cheer/worry me at all. The ones from 2015 and 2016, however, strike me as being relevant to what’s going on.

        Of those listed above,
        Two are within .1 points of their polling. I’ll consider those spot on.

        Seven were .2 points (or more, sometimes a lot more) above what they polled at.

        Six were .2 points (or less, sometimes a lot less) below what they polled at.

        That’s… that’s pretty even.

        I’m not going to crunch what part of the map they’re on.

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  2. I thought the centrist banker was supposed to be the real hope to Le Pen.

    I don’t have much to add but you are probably right in the analysis.

    The Socialists shot themselves in the foot. I thought Fillon was too corrupt to get elected and that is what gave Le Pen the chance but now all eyes are on the inexperienced young guy who normally would not be given the time of day.

    When it comes to economic and quality of life issues, I am somewhere between France and the United States

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  3. City-Journal article about France coming apart, with lots of parallels to Brexit and Trump.

    It’s a must read with valuable insights on some serious issues with both globalization, immigration, political correctness, the new urban elites, and class stratification.

    Instapundit linked it yesterday evening and many of his readers said it was the best linked article they’d read this year. It’s very long, but well worth it.

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  4. CNN reporting that LePen is coming in at almost 22% and Macron is in the lead with 24%, projecting them to advance to a run off. Fillon and Melenchon each got around 19%.

    Sooooo… what’s that all mean?

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      • I’ve been watching a post-election debate among various left constituencies on France 24, in which it appears that everyone except the Melenchon representative believes he wants to leave Europe. I guess the response is he wants to use the threat of leaving the EU to gain concessions? Paging David Cameron . . .

        (The most provocative point was made by an outsider (American?) that Trump evidences that electing someone without electoral experience into partisan systems with entrenched bureaucracies is likely to result in no meaningful change, leaving great uncertainty about what the mood of the country will be after one term)

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        • Eh, again, it’s not the permanent bureaucracy thwarting Trump, and except for literally one nomination, it’s not partisanship.

          It’s just that Trump really has no idea what he actually wants. (I.e. how to ‘operationalize’ maga)

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          • I agree that the reason Trump is ineffective isn’t due to deep state resistance. To repeat what I constantly repeat to my wife: Trump cannot accomplish devious Cheney-esque shifts in policy because he’s fundamentally (an) incompetent. The fact that he and the rumblin, bumblin, stumblin GOP have accomplished effectively zero of their campaign promises/proposals is actually good for the country, and may well be better in the short as well as long term than four years of Hillary.

            That’s not to say they won’t get their collective shit together soon and actually DO something, of course. Globalthermonuclearwar is always on the table with these guys.

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            • It’s also important to note where Trump has been effective (even if, esp if, you don’t like he’s been been effective)

              1) Gorsuch on SCOTUS
              2) Sessions getting his agenda pushed forward
              3) (overlapping with 2) ICE & CBP ‘deep state’ off the leash.
              4) DoD not quite as much of the leash, but being given a lot of autonomy compared to what they had prior to Jan 20 2017.

              And that’s just off the top of my head.

              We still are waiting to see how the actual big picture budget, taxes and spending stuff shakes out. Even in a hyper competent administration, that wouldn’t have all come together yet. By statute, the timetable for much of that doesn’t start until right around now.

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              • I don’t give him any credit for Gorsuch. Whoever he nominated woulda been pushed thru.

                Sessions, ICE and Unleashing The Generals is just internal executive branch politics. Different strokes. So he doesn’t get any credit for that either.

                He hasn’t done shit except write some EOs rolling back Obama era prerogatives. IMHO, anyway.

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                  • Sure, there’s a difference between a GOP and a Dem administration. And there’s a difference between a Trump and Clinton admin. But the way I’m reading it you want to give Trump credit for merely exercising the power attached to the office of the Presidency. I think that’s a mistaken conception of what the word “credit” means.

                    In a very real sense, he hasn’t done shit. I mean, there isn’t even the vaguest suggestions that he’ll achieve any of his major campaign promises at this point. Or at least the ones he hasn’t flip-flopped on anyway.

                    Hell, just this weekend Ryan was admonishing his House colleagues to abandon HCR and focus on the spending bill and tax reform, which runs exactly counter to what Trump said just the other day. He’s effectively got no control over anything that matters policy-wise right now.

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                  • I suppose it depends on what we are grading him on. He’s indeed checked some boxes on the ol’ To-Do list. Some big (Gorsuch), some small, some symbolic… but all pretty much low hanging fruit in terms of the degree of difficulty. He hasn’t shown much real ability — or willingness even — to govern or lead, which he’ll need to do to accomplish more and bigger things.

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              • Yeah. Mostly he seems to be floundering with his legislative agenda, because he really doesn’t have one, and Ryan doesn’t have enough control over (or unity in) his caucus to chart out a course on his own.

                Also, I don’t think it’s at all coincidental 1-4 all involve departments which are run by Secretaries who aren’t rando billionaires with no relevant experience. I loathe Sessions for what he stands for, but he knows the score, unlike (say) Tillerson.

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                    • And the worst case scenario for Tillerson is not that he’s bad at his job. The worst case scenario is that he’s good at his job but he is in fact way too cozy with Putin and/or still prioritizes interests of the ExxonMobil corporation over those of the United States Government.

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                      • The most likely scenario and the one supported by the evidence so far is that the State Department has some shortcomings as an organization that have been allowed to fester for decades, and Tillerson is both ideologically and tempermentally unsuited to deal with these shortcomings. Thus the whole apparatus is operating like it has a slipped clutch.

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          • I may not be conveying his points very well. This was a warning about the risks of an anti-establishment candidate like Macron. Without conventional party support he could easily become politically isolated, or fall back on conventional establishment support. If the outsider candidate is ineffective in delivering change, the bureaucracy will continue in a conventional, establishment manner. (He gave a French phrase for this) I think the larger point is the outsider’s failure may or may not inure to establishment benefit.

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            • I definitely think the dynamic you’re describing exists, and quite probably exists in France more than any place else on Earth, it’s just that Trump can’t be used as a guide post to anything, because he’s both the most sui generis thing that ever sui’d, and more fundamentally, he doesn’t give a fig about accomplishing anything – as that one article (politico I think) he’s perfectly content to take credit for the most nebulous and ephemeral of accomplishments.

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  5. Le Pen is a shoe in because she’ll get almost all the French femme vote, since she has a vagina.

    Her election will also shatter the glass ceiling. This is a chance for the French to elect the first female president in their history.

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