Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Benoit Hamon

Beware Arrogant Candidates Who Can’t Win But Will Split the Vote

As I look at the 2020 Democratic primary field, I’m reminded of the 2017 French presidential election. Do you remember? In the first round, the Left Party’s candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, got 19.6% of the vote, failing to secure the 21.3% he needed to beat Marine Le Pen and advance to the second round. Mélenchon just narrowly missed the boat because he didn’t command the whole left block. 6.4% of French voters instead picked the Socialist Party’s candidate, Benoît Hamon. A further 1.7% of French voters chose the candidates of the Communist Union or New Anticapitalist Party. The left could have commanded as much as 27.7%. It only needed about a fifth of these additional left-leaning voters to slip past Le Pen. But these left wing candidates refused to drop out of the race, and the result was a depressing second round, in which the only alternative to France’s status quo was right nationalism. So when I look at the Democratic Party’s field, I ask myself–who is the Mélenchon, and who are the Hamons?

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Good Cop, Bad Cop: A Political Strategy for a Better Europe

The European left is in disarray when it comes to Europe, with a protectionist, euroskeptic left arrayed against an internationalist, integrationist left. The family feud between these two factions has fractured the left and made it impossible for it to compete. In France, the left is split between Jean-Luc Melenchon’s protectionist faction and Benoit Hamon’s internationalist faction, and because of this both candidates are likely to fail to make the top two in the first round, resulting in a two-way contest between the French establishment (embodied by either Macron or Fillon) and the right nationalists (Le Pen). In Britain, internationalist Labour supporters (including many young activists) feel betrayed by Jeremy Corbyn’s willingness to accommodate Labour to Brexit. In Greece, SYRIZA has gone along with austerity measures rather than risk the fallout of leaving the Euro, disappointing many of its supporters who elected it to stop the pain. We’re killing ourselves and our movement over this and we need a new strategy–if we don’t get one, the left is not going to offer coherent alternative to the right and it’s not going to win.

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The French Election: A Grim Situation

In ten days, France is having its presidential election. There’s been some drama since the last time we talked about it–the center-right candidate, Francois Fillon, has been wracked by scandal after it emerged that he paid members of his family for work they never performed. This weakened him, and created an opening for Emmanuel Macron to move into second behind Marine Le Pen. In the meantime, Jean-Luc Melenchon has been making a run in the polls from the left, pulling about even with Fillon for third. Fillon openly advocated for more austerity in France, raising the retirement age, and eliminating the 35-hour workweek, all policies which would not have been great for workers, to put it mildly. But Macron is hardly an inspiring alternative, and I’m less excited about Melenchon than I’d like to be. Here’s why.

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