On Sunday evening, the president finally sent him off, the long-promised letter to his citizens. He asks 32 fundamental questions. They revolve around taxes, the environment and the state itself. And he explains how he wants to come back in the coming weeks to talk to the French. Communication is everything, especially when it comes to saving a relationship.
For two months, France will be discussing elementary political issues such as city halls, work or weekly markets. Macron itself will kick off the “big debate” on January 15th in Normandy. He’d tried something like that when he went on a big tour last autumn to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Even then, it was about re-establishing contact with the people, resurrecting a bit of the spirit of his election campaign two years ago.
Do the French want reconciliation at all?
However, these days seem finally over with the more than two months protests of the yellow vests finally. At the weekend, the authorities again recorded increasing numbers of participants. 84,000 were in France and the intensity of violence seems to be increasing. Since the question must be allowed, whether the French want to kitten the relationship with their president at all?
In terms of content, Macron has made clear in his letter, he will not take a radical new course. Rather, he promotes understanding for the one he has chosen and for his beliefs associated with it. He tries to make it clear that the French state can only spend as much as it takes. He insists that nothing leads past “ecological change”. He remains in the process of failing to reintroduce the recently abolished wealth tax. Much of the detonator that first sparked the Yellow-West movement is still there.
Life elixir of the Yellow West movement
Now, the French president seems to hope that he can take the wind out of the sails of the movement with his willingness to communicate. That would certainly be more promising if the mood between President and people was based on a series of misunderstandings. That is not the case. Macron had already made quite clear in the election campaign, which boots he wanted to go through and pretty much he does. He can actually work only on his style, which is often perceived as stately, and on minor course corrections. Otherwise, he would lose credibility in the eyes of many, like some of his predecessors, who were buckling with unions and the rage of the street.
But will that be enough? The signal of the yellow vests on the weekend was quite clear. They do not seem to care much about their president’s charm offensive. The conflict with him is the lifeblood of the movement, nothing will change that. But what about the rest of the nation? According to polls, about half of the French say it is enough with the protest movement. So they still exist, the supporters of the president. Nevertheless, a clear guide to action for Macron can not be derived from this.
The French are facing a lot of therapy
That’s why he’s probably doing the only thing possible for a head of state in his position. He does not betray his own convictions, with which he was eventually elected president. At the same time, he praises improvement in style issues and is open to any suggestions that might emerge in the debate of the next few months.
Of course he also hopes that his reforms will have their first effect and that the yellow vests will run out of steam in the meantime. That’s a bill with many variables, but it could work anyway. But in political relationships it is often the same as in interpersonal relationships. They are much easier to destroy than to rebuild. Anyway, Macron and the French will have a lot of therapy in the coming months – with an uncertain outcome.