The mainstream media has been having a field day over US president Donald Trump’s controversial Paris visit and his spat with French president Emmanuel Macron. And the leaders’ criticisms of each other aren’t off target. But we shouldn’t forget that it was Macron’s style of neoliberal/austerity-lite politics that helped to usher in the era of right-wing populism across the globe.
Macron denounces nationalism as Trump faces criticism
On 11 November, Trump visited Paris for an international summit. Speaking at the event, Macron warned about the dangers of nationalism. Commentators noted that his words were unmistakably directed at Trump, who recently declared himself a nationalist.
Trump, meanwhile, attracted criticism for reportedly being the only attending leader to skip a conference about working toward a more peaceful world that took place directly after the summit. The previous day, he had also failed to attend a planned visit to a US military cemetery. He reportedly didn’t show up because it was raining, prompting strong criticism from across the political spectrum.
Trump attacks Macron
Once back in the US, Trump swung back at Macron. He first attacked Macron’s suggestion of an EU army, mocking France’s performance in the first and second world wars. And he then turned to Macron’s record, tweeting:
Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%… By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France…
And with that tweet, Trump actually touched on something that the mainstream media consistently fails to pick up on.
The neoliberal legacy
France’s unemployment rate is indeed high – even by Macron’s own admission. And he does suffer from poor approval ratings. But this is all largely because he openly, and seemingly rather proudly, represents the kind of stale ‘centrism’ that set the conditions for the rise of hard-right populist movements around the world. That includes Trumpism in the US and the National Front in France.
Consistent failure on the part of neoliberal governments (led by both ‘centre-right’ and ‘centre-left’ parties) to expand social security or fight against corporate and financial industry excesses created widespread resentment. People understandably began to feel that mainstream parties of all stripes were made up of out of touch elites who only represented entrenched interests.
A familiar tale
Although France has a stronger social safety net and more state intervention in the economy than the US and the UK, not one French government since that of Francoise Mitterand in the 1980s has mounted a serious challenge to neoliberal policies and economic globalization.
Into this political vacuum stepped figures like Trump and Marine Le Pen. Their political modus operandi is the typical right-wing populist three-card trick. They redirect people’s anger over legitimate grievances toward the traditional scapegoat targets (usually immigrants or minority communities), playing off humanity’s baser instincts.
So while Macron might talk the talk by denouncing Trump’s nationalism and right-wing populism, he isn’t the antidote. He and his neoliberal, faux-left ilk are rather its progenitors.
Featured image via Dominique Pineiro/US Joint Chiefs of Staff
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?