Green Global Wreck ~ The French Resistance 2.0 ~ May 2017

Unexpectedly, but very fittingly, the country that brought the Western world the philosophical under-pinning of Democracy, after the ancient Greeks of course, France – became last night the country that also reminds us all that the slide toward a nativist, intolerant, xenophobic and self destructive and “deconstructive” slide away from the occidental model of democracy, is not inevitable.
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Far from being a “Franco-French” story that only matters to the French electorate, the elections that just took place in France had the potential to deal the mortal blow, the “third strike and you’re out” moment to the West.
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A vote for the racist, pro-Russia, anti-Europe, anti-Nato, Anti-semitic, Anti-muslim, Marine Le Pen, would have been the fatal blow both to Europe and to NATO.  In short, it was Russia’s master piece.  The unraveling of Europe and deconstruction of Russia’s western opponent, without firing a single shot, except for its megatons of cyber weaponry, was within reach.
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But the French Maginot line, this time, held.  By delivering the vote in favor of Macron, a mostly unknown, pro Europe, centrist political novice, France delivered the West’s  improbable, yet critically important illustration of what resistance looks like.
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And so this third “round”… After the first round, Brexit and England’s decision to exit Europe…
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and the second round –  the US election of Trump and whatever he is, a bullish enigma wrapped in a package of incompetence, overt affection for dictators, and sickening conflicts of interest, with a demonstrated Russia-driven agenda, this third, French, round goes against Russia…
Round 2: too many articles to cite… the Russian interference in the US is just starting to be investigated.
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After this third round, Ding ding ding! The boxing game is not over yet. NYET!
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If Germany can hold the fray, then perhaps, just perhaps, the over-bearing Russian bear can be held at bay just long enough for the US to recover its sanity.
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What is particularly satisfying, in the global context of the rise of the autocratic right, is that the French were able, both as individuals responding a tad like the Gaulois in Asterix’s village, with a “levee de boucliers” (go translate THAT! – “a raising of the shields”) against the incoming and brutish cyber attacks levied by Putin’s cyber-minions.
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It helps of course, that France has some fairly reasonable institutional blocks against campaigning in the last moments of the campaign and therefore that the “state” was able to impose a ban on commentary.
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It provides some degree of comfort, and perhaps a dose of role modeling to the German people who, just as the US populace and now the French have, will fall prey to Putin’s attempts at derailing the smooth playing out of the democratic process.
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It is hard to resist falling into a comparison which would no doubt add to the perception of “French arrogance”, but perhaps, oh just perhaps, having a somewhat more analytical electorate may be the difference?  Where Americans fell fully for the “fake news machine”, courtesy of wiki-leaks, and the abhorrent infusion of ridiculous unfounded attacks on Hillary, even when it became clear DURING the campaign that indeed Russia was behind the release of gzillion emails from the Democratic Party’s hacked emails, the French were able to take a step back and not get lured by the desire to parse through what Macron described as a massive hacking job and release of materials that included a mass of false content amid of the hacked emails.
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Yes, of course, this election was about the type of leadership that the French were ready to turn to (closed, racist, anti-Europe, extreme right… versus open, accepting, pro Europe, and centrist, yet aware of the difficulties ahead).  But make no mistake, this was also a vote against the interference of Russia.  The French have voted not just for French leadership, but also for the continuance of the European experiment, and for perseverance in the face of the Russian menace.
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How very telling that in the final days of the French political campaign, as Marine Le Pen visited Moscow to bathe in the mediatized demonstration of support by Putin, so did she receive the explicit support of the US President, Donald Trump.  Really?  Not to be continually ethnocentric by bringing the debate back to the U.S., but it was sickening to see the (former) leader of the occidental democratic world, the US President, explicitly favor the racist extreme right, fully aligned with Putin in helping the emergence of a French leader who would then take the steps to exit Europe, exit NATO, and basically deliver a probably mortal blow to western democracies.
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Macron offers of course just a momentary respite.  He will no doubt be facing incredibly difficult governing odds, as France has little successful experience with coalition-governance.  But, as a centrist, he will be given a chance to put together a government that takes just enough from the right and the left side of the political spectrum to forge a set of policy, and political actors, who can navigate the complex waters ahead.  This decision by the French electorate was an important one, but so too will be the ability to give this new President some breathing space.
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I doubt that the French electorate will have the stamina to stay centrist for too long, and there is a great risk that old habits of negativism will resurface nearly instantly.  The next French hurdle will of course be the upcoming legislative elections, in June, that could determine how much lea-way Macron’s nascent government will have, forging ahead.
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But, for now, the French have delivered the first effective push back on Russia’s active, well orchestrated cyber war against western democracy.
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Bravo Macron, for waging a campaign that turned out successful.
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But also Bravo and Merci to the French for showing that it may not be a one way downward cycle and that the Resistance 2.0 has a geographic core, in France.
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Next up: Germany – where the Russian bear will turn up next.
And… for a stunning update on May 11, a few days after the French election and derailing of the Russian play in France, the US President, in a stunning display of either political tonedeaf-ness, or more likely a reminder that he is simply, imperiously, unconcerned about all the concerns about Russian influence, does a double whammy: 1) he first fires the Director of the FBI Comey, i.e. the man leading the largest investigation of the Administration’s apparent cornucopia of wrong doing re Russia, and bas jovial meetings with the Russian Foreign Minister and Kislyak, the much maligned Russian Spy recruiter who appears so many times in the narrative of Trump administration.  Does the fact that Russia interrered (as 16 intell agency have concluded) bother him? Nah!  Does the fact that Russia tried to sway the French election, risking an implosion of Europe or NATO matter to Trump? Nah.  Does the fact that America’s intell organizations have explicitly and repeatedly named Kislyak a top Russian spy (and incidentally the very guy whom General Flynn, temporarily National Security Advisor met and at the root of the NSA scandal and his dismissal matter? Nah, not a bit.

Trump and his Russian puppet masters, on the very day he dealt a major blow to US investigative authority of his team and perhaps his own wrong doing, having a great laugh at the dismantling of US governance. Not MY President!!

When you are emperor, you don’t need to worry about these things,,,

36 thoughts on “Green Global Wreck ~ The French Resistance 2.0 ~ May 2017

  1. Peggy Bright

    We are in Paris at the moment. It was with joy that we watched the election result being announced, and it was with joy that the crowd celebrated outside the Louvre. A great day for France.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      It is indeed, and if I may say, not just for France, even more so for Europe. I know that these days, it is almost unpopular to dare be in favor of Europe, but while there may be some valid cases of frustration with technocratic over-reach by the European political infrastructure, the overall good by far exceed the bad. Europe today has a common market that is significantly larger than either the U.S. or Russia and China combined. A complicated picture, to be sure, with 27 countries distinct in their languages and customs, but… that is the point of this European experiment. As a French citizen (in addition to US), I like the “persona” of being a European citizen, and I cringe at the prospect of a British extraction from Europe. But they have made their bed, so to speak. The fallout will be harsh, I believe. For now, France solidly offsets this British malaise with a resolute “oui” in favor of Europe. (Ben)

  2. Lexklein

    Yes, yes, yes, and yes! Last night I wrote how proud I was of the French for seeing through all the Russian-backed obfuscation – the same fake news and hacking that sucked in such a shockingly vast number of unthinking Americans. How I hope this is a step toward sanity in Europe and the rest of the West. You’ve done another great job of presenting the news in digestible bites.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Well thank you, Lex.

      The question for France is whether this was a “lucky shot”, or whether the French electorate will be able to stay sober in its push back of the Russian play, and get past its traditional left/right biases, to give Macron a chance to form a government that has a chance of being governable. I am very much encouraged not just by Macron’s victory, but by the sheer size of his majority – 65% over 35%. Now whether it was a “pro Macron” or “anti-Le Pen” momentum, frankly I couldn’t care less. Let’s hope he can find the path to create an administration that works effectively together while addressing enough of the needs and priorities of the right and left, so that he gets a supportive Parliament, rather than getting instantly frozen into inaction by competing factions.

      Ben

  3. Donna Cameron

    Yes, the French vote renewed my hopes for the world and faith in the everyday common sense of most people. There’s still such a long way to go to restore sanity, honesty, and integrity … but it’s a start. Thanks for a great summary.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Without a doubt, Donna, this is good news. And yes, it is a positive balm to the soul for those grieving from the US slide into deconstructive politics. But I am not THAT comforted. Whatever happens in France, and Germany next, may be good news, but it does not reverse the crazy-crazy coming out of Washington (or should I say Mar-o-lago). The overwhelming force of the U.S. in terms of global security, or global economic systems, or climate change, is such that there is no substitute for a return of the U.S. to sanity. Alas, we are still a long way from that. We are merely in the 2nd quarter of a 16 quarter game, so unless (or until) Trump implodes of his own weight, I fear we remain exposed to whatever may come up next. And of course, since the current model is to obviate every scandal with a yet bigger scandal, there is much to look forward to (not meant in a positive way, of course).

      Ben

  4. Gilda Baxter

    I was so pleased with the results, since having Marine Le Pen in power would really be unthinkable for France and for Europe. Now we have to brace ourselves for the June elections here in the UK. I love how you manage to explain it all in a much easier format for someone like me who has a very poor understanding of politics, but also to keep such a serious message with a dash of humour.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      That would be gallows’ humor, a Jewish trait well developed over generations of “it could be worse!” type thinking…

      Not sure I understand how the UK June elections will shape the forthcoming distancing from Europe. I thought this was now a “done deal”. It would indeed be interesting to read how revelations about the Russian interference and “fake news” around Brexit may have played a role, versus whether this was all a case of domestic folly.

      I am more concerned about the German elections as this becomes Putin’s next priority.

      Ben

  5. Liesbet

    While we hoped and believed Le Pen would loose, it was still a relief for us, for France and for Europe that Macron is going to be the next president. As we all know and agree upon: you just never know (anymore) what might happen. Great piece of writing, Ben.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Well thank you, Liesbet. Indeed the expression “you never know” has taken an entirely new meaning since Trump’s arrival.

      Every morning serve up a reboot of whatever understanding we may have of the universe of yesterday, which may and is now routinely disruptively scrambled and reshaped overnight with a series of tweets.

      There is a pattern though that is starting to emerge, namely that the bark is far louder than the bite and that the current US policy is to escalate before folding. Not a great brand, but at least it serves to manage one’s heart palpitations, because it is becoming clear that some of the most obscene and disruptive policy changes, just don’t make it from tweet to actionable policy. Interesting to have an vituperative 5 year old with ADD as the US President. But… this is what we have.

  6. Patti

    There were millions of us here in the US who breathed a loud sigh of relief with the election of Macron. I know I personally really needed the win to regain a bit of faith in humanity. Maybe (hopefully) this election result will encourage the German population to hold strong as well.

    I think the French witnessed the shit show here in the US and said, that’s not for us! And, believe me, it’s not for us here in the US either, the resistance movement is unprecedented and as much as I loathe everything about the current administration, I will say that it has ignited a fire in the belly of millions of Americans to step out of their comfort zone and make their voices heard. And, maybe, just maybe, it will also ignite those who were too complacent to even vote, maybe they’ve learned their lesson to the point that this will never again happen in the US. That this will be the crushing end of the GOP.

    Whatever the reason, it’s a fantastic outcome. Vive la France!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Well said, Patti. Interesting that you think in terms of a “crushing end of the GOP”. I see it differently. I oppose virtually everything the GOP stands for, from social policies to economic or defense. But I recognize that a democracy is robust precisely because it offers a vehicle for opposing views to clash, openly and, through the vote, become the dominant parameters for governance. So I don’t like the substance of the GOP, but I accept the right of GOP voters to support these policies if that’s what they resonate with. The problem is not the GOP in our current context, it is with Trump specifically, and the Russian-influenced cohorts he has brought into his administration. In fact, many GOPers are just as appalled at the Trump Administration and don’t recognize themselves in his Administration. The challenge to democracy that can be seen playing out almost everyday, or through every insane tweet, is Russo-Trumpian, not so much GOP in its nature.

      But yes, a fantastic outcome, and a great sigh of relief can be heard across Europe.

      This brings an entirely new meaning to the concept of “Freedom Fries”. Hell yes! I’ll take some of these, any day.

      (Ben)

  7. Joanne Sisco

    So many of us were relieved when we heard the results of the France election. Macron has a tough slog ahead of him, but the French sent a strong message to the world – intolerance and fear mongering will not drive the agenda.

  8. Jacqueline Bell

    Beautiful writing Benjamin……Very interesting comments .
    All I can say is ”

    ” BRAVO LA FRANCE”

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Interesting how one act, one election has the potential to change the momentum from a depressive “all crazy, all the time”, to something more hopeful…

  9. Anabel Marsh

    I’m not sure how effective Macron will be – but thank goodness we don’t have the alternative. Unfortunately, I have less hope for our own upcoming elections in the U.K.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Anabel, for your comments. You are the second person who mentions the upcoming UK elections – I guess I need to better understand how this affects Brexit – I thought it was a done deal!

  10. Stephanae McCoy

    Overjoyed on Sunday was putting it mildly. Though as so often the case recently here in the US the firing of Comey yesterday, while not totally unexpected especially in view of Sally Yates testimony the day prior, made me nauseous. I’ve never been afraid of being a US citizen but now I’m just speechless. I’ll be interesting hearing your take.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      There is a clear pattern here – one of dismissal of anyone with enough gravitas to bring the ongoing investigations into the Russian intelligence Operation into an existential threat for the Administration. The blatant disregard for an independent criminal investigation by the Justice Dept is so core to the principles of good governance in the United States that there is simply no other way to read this other than to conclude that the FBI investigation was getting too close, that it was getting too hot, and that our Imperial President simply is “running forward” trying to obviate yesterday’s crises by creating new crises today.

      When a whole slate of US Attorney, especially Preet Bharara, the closest modern equivalent of Elliot Ness, because he would have been on the front line of independent investigation and prosecution for criminal activities by the Trump orbit as relates to Russian interference, it was already clear what the modus operanti was, i.e. screw long standing US anchors of checks and balances, and prioritize the protection of the President. Then of course came the firing of another solid, independent voice, namely Sally Yates. And now FBI Comey. Add to this, the “voluntary resignation” of the Justice Dept’s most senior, and highly regarded expert on Russian mafia and money laundering, it’s just stretches one’s credulity to think this is going to end well.

      It is not surprising that this President views the levers of US governmental integrity as quaint and inapplicable to him. What is extremely worrysome, however, is that the Republican Congress, which in anytime over the past 60 years would have led the fight to protect US institutions, and certainly would have had a very sharp and incisive take on any actions potentially taken by a US military adversary, namely Russia, have been positively meek. Russian interference, meh!

      What is positively awful here is that the stain on the US system is simply no longer containable to the one lunatic President that, sadly, bamboozled a large part of the electorate. The responsibility for keeping the US whole falls on all parts of the government, not just the Executive Branch. As the Executive Branch is taking a sledge hammer to the Judicial Branch, there is but the Legislative Branch left to keep us above the water line. And that is simply not happening.

      So it’s a horror show, but there does not appear to be anyone with enough commitment to the US democratic experiment on the Republican side, which controls the game in Congress, to play their role to their full potential. Just now, Mitch McConnel, leader of the Senate Republican group, reacted to the firing of FBI Comey with another meek “meh” comment.

      So yes, the system is imploding and there does not seem as of yet, to be anyone ready or able to put a check on Presidential abuse.

      To use my gallows humor, I would add that, we have much still to experience. After all, in Moscow, opponents are simply killed, disappeared or have acid thrown to their face (ie. the Ukrainian leader who opposed Putin). We are yet to experience “coincidental accidents”, so stand by for that…

      The end of this story will be one of two: either a) the President will simply implode as he will not be able to deal with a government and, importantly, a media that fails to heel to his voice, or b) the US Military will ultimately (but this will take a lot more than the current state of chaos), step up and stage a coup.

      It’s only month 4 folks… the deconstructive process is well underway…

  11. Frank

    People can say what they want of the French – but one thing that they are is very politically aware. “More analytical electorate” – definitely.
    As far as Trump backing Le Pen, that’s just shameful. But just as shameful is the electorate that voted him in.
    I’m happy France has for now buckled the trend despite having much more real issues having to do with immigrants, refugees and terrorism than the not-so-real issues the American populace were so quick to buy. As Forest Gump said “Stupid is as stupid does”.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks for stopping by Frank. I wish the problem was just “stupid”. I could stomach “stupid”, as in George Bush II, but this is “criminal as criminal does” and Republicans are just whistling through the gutting of American Democratic institutions… but hey, no big deal, it’s just the only system we have…

  12. Pamela

    That last photo says it all. Sickening. But yes, so many of us celebrated the way the French voted. I’m embarrassed about our American president, and that he was voted into this once esteemed position. But….the women marches and the grass routes fights will make a difference. Please.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Awareness and engagement are always good, Pamela. Wish I could be convinced that the marches etc would make a difference. But this is a President that has no qualms about firing successive power centers, anchors of our legal system, to protect his corrupt endeavors as a puppet of the Russian state. And, breaking news, who muses about doing away with those pesky press briefings where his team gets pummelled daily. So… not too optimistic that he gives a shit about his popular rating (36%), or marches…

      If I recall correctly, re the comment of women marches: 45% of women voted FOR Trump, despite his obvious and well documented misoginy. So… the electorate needs to look at the mirror and ask itself how this was possible. We get the politicians we deserve…

      Ben

  13. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    The results of the French election shed some hope for those of us who have been watching with dread the “nationalistic” and xenophobic groups move into the spotlight over the last several months. It’s so heartening to see France’s push back and a resounding vote for democracy and progressive rule that favors working together with other nations versus the direction that the the US is embracing. Kudos to the French!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks for stopping by, Anita. I can’t help but chuckle at the concept of “the direction that the US is embracing”. Ha! If only there was sufficient, sustained policy to make it a “direction”. ALas, it is one big spastic show where anything goes, on any given day, and the government’s key officials lie about whatever may have transpired, just because… it seems like the easiest thing to do…

      Update as of tonight: Trump transmitted ultra confidential information to the RUssians, in a meeting in the Oval Office, where US media was not invited, but Russia was. In Trumpworld – anything goes, the only constant is the defense of Russian interest.

      Never thought I’d see the day when the US President had become the Russian President’s bitch. But here we are.

  14. Estelea

    Great piece Ben, you really nailed it! Yes it was a deep relief and gave us Frenchies the dose of optimism we ve been longing for a very long time.
    This election has been amazing as as you said we hardly knew who Macron was a year ago ..
    He is young, down to earth and very pragmatic. Much needed!

    Let’s hope your country wont have to wait too long before being proud of its president again ..
    Vive la Republique!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      The good news about being a dual citizen is that I can claim “pride in my country” on either side of the Atlantic, depending on what’s happening on either side.

      Today, the US president announced that the US is withdrawing from the Paris accord. This is pathetic, shameful, wrong headed and self defeating behavior to appeal to a small segment of the US electorate that has no respect for data, facts and Science. One more nail in the US’s coffin, as the country under his leadership takes another catastrophic turn. The decision to leave the Transpacific partnership was clearly a strong unintended gift to China and now this decision re the Paris Climate Change accord, is another major gift to China from a withdrawing United States.

      Macron did a great job immediately responding to Trumps announcements and I look very forward to an era of French German co-operation to put Europe back in a leadership position during the void created by this US administration, either willfully or just out of sheer ignorance.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Ben

  15. Sue Slaght

    Here in Canada we too breathed a very big sigh of relief when the French election results came in. I agree with others Ben that your writing is digestible in its bite size gems. Now we wait for Germany.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Sue. Happy to read that there is a new bromance around the youthful and energetic (and handsome) couple of Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron. What a striking contrast with the US president!

      Hoping that Merkel gets re elected as we need her continued hard nosed leadership.

      Ben

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