Yesterday was the Monday after Easter. Theoretically, it was a day of truce and repose. The last two weeks before the presidential election.
But the "pause button" seems to have been engaged for some time now. Especially since the debates are no longer on television, a bureaucratic issue that it ceaselessly criticized for its stupidity and unfavorable effect on democracy.
The final stretch begins today. We would be remiss not to stress the issue, we are electing a President for the next five years at a critical time in our nation's history.
Europe is submerged within a crisis the likes of which has not been seen in decades. Will a continent that has been at the center of the universe for centuries survive? I believe it will, and that it should not continue its path with the United States that has dominated the world, ideas, history and the economy. After all there is no reason that the center of the universe should not shift towards Asia, Africa or Latin America. The emerging countries are well aware of this and shrug with indifference when we speak to them about the European crisis affecting their relative good health. Why would we not establish a new world order with Europe reduced to an old continent of 340 million citizens out of 7 billion people? All those who campaigned for the development of what was once sympathetically referred to as the Third World should rejoice in the global reshuffling of the deck.
Ultimately, this is not what is at stake. European supremacy is no longer at stake, but rather its mere survival. And for what concerns us, the survival of France.
The survival of our social welfare system. Look what it's like overseas!
The survival of our educational system, which is visibly taking on water. Primary school, secondary school, higher education, public education, research, university rankings: all experts note that France is struggling.
The survival of our republican model of government attacked by fundamentalists, some religious some not, as well as by our obsession with security, which protects us but also enslaves us.
Our entire concept of life based, for more than two centuries, on the ideals of equality and solidarity is melting like snow in the sun in the face of growing injustices and rapid impoverishment of a part of the population. The urban ghettos, those who are left behind, and the increasingly flagrant selfishness of the beggar-thy-neighbor mentality are far from our collective concern.
The survival of a conception of democracy that seems old-fashioned when we even pause to consider it, but which once represented the grandeur and influence of France. The acceptance of foreigners, the independence of the judiciary, the concern for the weakest among us, the system of meritocracy, the respect for intermediary agencies such as unions, a sense of the State and the rule of law.
And finally the survival of our economy, with our exploding debt, high unemployment, and purchasing power at half-mast, the morale of the younger generation is at its lowest.
None of this is new. It has all been rehashed. In these last pre-election weeks, it has become fashionable to blame the boredom of this campaign on the voters' lack of interest. But curiously none of the candidates seeks to combat it. The week's newspapers only refer to the candidates' wives and partners or lightly psychoanalyze the character and behavior of each contender. Thank God for the end of this campaign!
Of course, as we've already stated, the candidates are responsible, especially the principals. Sarkozy prefers form over substance. The media is frenzied over him, dodging the real issues. No one listens to the daily flurry of proposals as they can no longer tell the difference between a gimmick and a promise.
Despite Hollande's small surge in recent days with some worry over the increasing scrutiny to come, the assurance of a calm race, promised for months by the pollsters, is favored. These pollsters are now revising their own projections. The Socialist candidate's staff has finally set out 60 proposals that were just as quickly forgotten by the voters. The campaign begins to show a little vision, declining what would be interpreted as a mandate at the risk of being accused of shortsightedness.
However, the campaign may well stay disappointing. It is the duty felt by each citizen that must be awakened. It's all well and good to be moved by lyrical speeches and to pout over propositions.
In Italy "the Monti Revolution." This is a passing remark made about the lack of enthusiasm for the candidates. Which is to say that the return to a democracy stripped, austere, almost boring has brought relief to those citizens exhausted by Berlusconi's circus. Philippe Ridet's article in the February edition of Le Monde painted a great portrait of the new Italian Prime Minister, stressing that his virtue and modesty permitted him to pass drastic, unpopular reforms that no one else would have been able to impose upon such a rebellious people. This means that the package is half the job and that trust can return without flamboyance.
In France, everything means everything and therefore everything means nothing.
The Huffington Post, through its editor Geoffrey Clavel, has recently alerted its readers to the issue. Furthermore, two opinion editorials on this subject were recently published. One was penned by the political scientist Dominique Reynié, who is not considered a leftist, and the other was written by Francois Kalfon, an expert in public opinion, and a regional socialist advisor.
They both say the same thing: abstention will decide this election. There are those who will not budge to "vote" for the inevitable winner. Obviously, this is worrisome for the Socialist candidate: "In general, the more traditional and conservative sectors of the electorate (artisans, merchants, farmers...) are those who mobilize the most. While younger and less educated voters, suburbanites, and minorities are those who participate least and hence are the first affected by forbearance. Accordingly, the left is more exposed to this risk than the right."
However, this shouldn't only concern the Left. This is also concerning to political scientists. Abstention from voting at the usual levels will have little consequence if its distribution does not favor any particular candidate over another. "However, this is never exactly the case," states Dominique Reynié. "This is why abstention always contributes to the electoral result. It's role, regardless of its extent, is even more important when the outcome of the election is uncertain. An abnormally high level of abstention may be the result of a demobilized electorate. Perhaps this is because the supply of candidates is unsatisfactory, or because the way in which the campaign is conducted is disappointing, or because the voters believe that the important debates have not occurred, etc. If forbearance is primarily a consequence of an election, it also becomes one of its causes."
The goal of analysis that reveals that the young or disadvantaged classes vote less frequently than those who are older and more affluent is to demonstrate that abstention can derail the polls even if analysts strive to correct their data. In a survey, the young as well as the elderly are willing to express their preference. But ultimately some will vote and some will not.
As is usually the case, the polls are tightening with Sarkozy and Hollande likely to be roughly tied come May 6th. Especially if the incumbent is capable of widening the gap in the first round. The time to enter the debate is now. The voters have chosen to ignore which state, which policy, which society, in short which President they want for the future. All that is left is to do is parody Rouget de L'isle: "to the Polls citizens! ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪"