Macron multiplies progressive gestures after his conservative turn |

Emmanuel Macron seems determined to deny those who try to pigeonhole him ideologically. The French president came to power seven years ago stating that he was neither left nor right, or both at the same time. He was the famous at the same time, his favorite catchphrase. But from the left he is criticized for having ended up governing in the center-right, or on the right, with measures such as increasing the retirement age and the immigration law, or the discourse on order and authority.

And yet, labeling it is not so simple. Out of conviction or calculation, the president is multiplying progressive gestures this winter. He began with the tribute to the foreign communist resistance and the entry into the Pantheon on February 21 of the Armenians Missak and Mélinée Manouchian representing all of them. He followed up on March 4 with the inclusion of the freedom to abort in the Constitution that makes Macron’s France a pioneer in the matter. He culminated last week with the proposal to legislate on dignified death and thus bring this country closer to neighbors such as Belgium, Switzerland or Spain.

The consensus around these initiatives transcends ideological barriers: Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme right, attended the tribute to the Manouchians and voted in favor of including abortion in the Constitution. But they hardly fit the image of a right-wing Macron.

“He is the representative of an enlightened liberalism on social issues,” analyzes historian François Dosse, who met Macron when he was his student at Sciences Po – the prestigious Institute of Political Studies in Paris – and put him in contact with the great philosopher Paul Ricoeur, inspiration of the at the same time Macronian. “There is, without a doubt, sincerity on their part in a project faithful to the progressive elements of its initial program and in accepting things that a part of conservative opinion does not accept.” The new paragraph on abortion in the Constitution “allows you to positively mark your passage through the Elysee with your seal,” adds Dosse, author of The saga of the French intellectuals (Akal, in Spanish).

But Dosse’s praise for Macron ends here, disappointed by the evolution of his former pupil since he came to power in 2017. In the progressive initiatives, the historian sees a “compensation” for his conservative policies. He gives the example of the entry of the Manouchians into the Pantheon. “It is a left-wing measure pantheonize to a foreigner, and, by the way, one can regret that the left had not done it,” he says. “At the same time, [el presidente] “has just adopted a tough immigration law that goes against the values ​​that a Manouchian expressed and there is a logical contradiction and a progressive mask.”

There is some progressivism in Macron’s recent gestures and also liberalism in a broad sense. “It is a bit of a legacy from Valéry Giscard D’Estaing,” says Dosse, referring to the president of the Republic between 1974 and 1981. Giscard, who was located in the center-right, promoted liberalizing reforms such as the abortion law, as well as the reduction from 21 to 18 years of age of majority and divorce by mutual consent (until then it was only possible if it was justified by the absence of one of the spouses). At the beginning of his mandate and with that of his Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, Giscard “reformed France in a way it had not been reformed since 1958.” [el año del regreso de De Gaulle al poder y la adopción de su Constitución]”, writes veteran journalist Franz-Olivier Giesbert in The good times, second volume of what he calls the “intimate history of the Fifth Republic”, not translated. “The country will never be the same,” he adds, “for better and for worse.”

In the book, Giesbert writes that Giscard “unknowingly triangulated,” using a term popularized in the United States during Bill Clinton’s presidency. “Triangular” was the art of relying on the adversary’s ideas to impose the agenda and maintain power. A history of at the same time? On the phone, the journalist clarifies: “If one triangulates, it means that he has a backbone and knows where he wants to go. In Macron there is the feeling that he is going in very different and sometimes opposite directions. With a metaphor about his perpetual agitation, he adds: “There is something like the strategy of the bumblebee in the glass in him. A lot of communication and everything according to the air of the times.”

What Macron does resemble Giscard in is “the project of existing outside the extremes” and “bringing together two out of every three French people,” according to Giesbert. “It’s still like that,” he adds, “although now it only has one in three French people.” It may be too late to win back the two-thirds – the European elections in June threaten to be catastrophic for his candidacy – and in any case he cannot run again in 2026. What he has not given up on is shaping the legacy. He wants to be the president of the the same until the end.

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