What’s Left of the Left?

The European Elections and the Rise of the Greens

Socialist Party/Place Publique candidate Raphaël Glucksmann at a rally in Lyon, May 2019 Emmanuel Foudrot / Reuters

For the past 29 weeks, every Saturday in France has centered on the demonstrations of the yellow vests. The left, the right, and the politically unclassified and unclassifiable have participated in these demonstrations, which have at times descended into violence on the part of either the demonstrators or the supposed forces of order. Whatever the politics of the participants, there has been one common denominator: bottomless hatred for French President Emmanuel Macron.

The right believes that Macron is turning France over to European bureaucrats and opening its doors to immigrants; the left views him as the president of the rich. To all who protest, and not only them, he is someone with no understanding of, or concern for, the average French citizen. And so, every week like clockwork, he has been reviled and insulted at weekend marches across France.

The European elections, which took place May 23–26, could not have come at a worse time for Macron. The elections would be a plebiscite on Macron’s rule, and the opposition saw them as a golden opportunity to humiliate him. The situation was ripe for a political turning, and the further growth of the far right seemed certain. A transformation of French and European politics was in the offing.

Except it wasn’t. Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National came in first, narrowly edging out Macron’s La Republique en Marche, but the two parties finished first and second in the first round of the 2017 presidential elections as well, and their shares of the vote barely moved. Le Pen’s party rose from 21.2 percent in 2017 to 24.52 percent in 2019, while Macron’s party fell from 24.01 percent to 22.84 percent. This was hardly an earth-shaking swing—after months of calling Macron’s leadership into question, the president’s opponents had hoped for far more. There is a cliché that applies here, at least at the top: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The most significant shifts, however, occurred below the top. France’

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