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The French are Worried….As usual

Don Rose 3 May 2017 No Comment

With the presidential runoff coming up Sunday, despite all polls and political logic, just about every French person I speak to is concerned that somehow Marine Le Pen, the far-right “populist” may upset centrist Emmanuel Macron, who finished more than two points ahead of her in the first round. But they wouldn’t be French if they weren’t worried.

Pen & Sword logo 2

The big concern is that Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left populist  who tied for third in the first round, is the only figure of consequence, left or right, who refuses to endorse Macron. Though he says he will not vote for Le Pen, this somewhat infantile leftist denounces Macron as nothing more than another old-line establishment candidate because of his banking background–though Macron is a former socialist finance minister.

What, everyone asks, will Melenchon’s youthful following do?

It’s like the concern people had about Bernie Sanders’s more ardent following, most of whom voted for Hillary Clinton, some chose the Green Party, some refused to vote and–indeed–some actually voted for Trump. The polling suggests that many Melenchon followers will not vote–which won’t hurt Macron, while some will actually vote for Le Pen to create chaos. She is trying to encourage them to come over to her side, but I doubt seriously she can capture nearly enough to come close.

French polling during the first round was spot-on, projecting the results for the top-four candidates within a half point each. (Our national polling on the popular vote was only off by a point–it was the individual state polls that missed the turn to Trump.)

This time around the French polls show Macron with a 60-40 lead of 20 points–which I believe is understated, thinking Macron might rise to 65 percent. Most of my friends are justifiably horrified that her National Front party could even get 40 percent, but a win is a win is a win.

The one legitimate fear is another terrorist act that might turn a huge bloc of voters to the anti-immigrant Le Pen.

So essentially I’m not worried–but then, I’m not French, much as I love it here .

Politics aside, Madame Z and I continue to discover lovely new restaurants, revisit old favorites, enjoy home-cooking with dear friends and relatives, and of course catch some wonderful art exhibits. We also worked our way through the fabulous food and wine pavilion at the Paris Fair, which is rarely promoted in most guidebooks.

One truly exciting show was a giant retrospective at the Pompidou of the great photographer Walker Evans, whose works pictorially defined the depression–but whose range was far wider, from expressionist photos to magnificent rural and urban scapes.  He literally turned garbage piles into art.

Finally, at the Grand Palais we caught the centennial celebration of the death of the immortal sculptor Auguste  Rodin, who worked in plaster as well as marble and bronze. Interestingly, several works were paired with similar subjects executed by younger sculptors he influenced.

We’ll be flying home by the time you read this.  A bien tot.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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