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France elects Socialist François Hollande: Help us Lord!

May 7, 2012

After the first round of France’s national elections, the picture didn’t look rosy for the reigning President, Nicolas Sarkozy, a man seemingly more interested in the glitz and glamour of office than the actual governing.

So when François Hollande delivered a first round defeat to Sarkozy, it was virtually certain he would prevail in the run-off election. (In parliamentary elections, a run-off election is required if the winner does not carry a simple majority.) And now, France has elected its first Socialist President since François Mitterand left office in 1995.

What does it mean, however, to be a Socialist in France? Well, to put it simply, the Socialist Party of France is equivalent to the Democratic Party in the US. That is to say, it is positioned center-left. Historically, though, the Socialist Party has been an umbrella party for a number of rotating Left (and Right) groups since its inception. Now the Socialist Party is comprised of Hollandists, Royalists, Aubryists and a number of minor groups such as the Delanoistes and a group of eco-Socialists.

It should be rather interesting to hear talk here in America amongst right-wingers about France and the dread word “socialism.” Americans—from common people to elected officials and businessmen—have delighted in labeling Obama a European-esque “socialist.” And France has traditionally come under ridicule here in the US because of its social democracy. If there is anything that Americans hate more than the idea of a US welfare state (though there is far more corporate and military welfare in America than is to be found in the African-America ghettos, the right’s symbolic center of discontent), it is France’s welfare state.

That the majority of Americans have never experienced France’s economy is, of course, irrelevant to this type of person. We have a nation of undiscovered economic geniuses, particularly on the Right. Not to completely dismiss the Left from economic arrogance, but the American Right thinks that if they’ve read Ayn Rand (or at least heard of her) and can make reference to Milton Friedman (though they probably haven’t read him either), that they are well-equipped to diagnose and treat economic problems.

Indeed, they have probably already begun crying havoc at Hollande’s election, even though he is pro-growth and has in the past questioned France’s Solidarity tax on the wealthy, the kind of financial policies that endear one to people who, above all else, love money.

At the very least, Hollande has, like many others worldwide, had enough of austerity cuts. “Austerity can no longer be something that is inevitable,” said Hollande, shortly after defeating Sarkozy. What a great thing it is when a politician refrains from demonizing social programs, when it is more often than not irrespnonsible financial policy and capital investment that drives a country straight into the ground. Perhaps now Europe will have someone to do battle against Germany’s austerity bullying.

Whether Hollande follows through on that promise, however, is another story.

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