“Xavier Bertrand, Arnaud Montebourg, Eric Zemmour, or the providential man syndrome”

Tribune. Close to a new presidential election, the savior syndrome reappears, our centuries-old fascination with the providential man. Seven months before the ballot, they are already three to subscribe to this recurring mythology, which has haunted us since Napoleon Bonaparte. The first in the running was Xavier Bertrand, presenting himself as the candidate for listening to the regions, refusing to comply with the rules of his party, challenging the president of the elites on behalf of the people of the terroirs. Then appeared Arnaud Montebourg, who, too, chose to circumvent the rules of his political family to forge an image of savior, spokesperson for the discontented, the dissatisfied, knight of “made in France” against the Europeanized technocrats.

Both are trying to make people forget that they were in power, an integral part of this “system” which they claim to fight today, and deeply associated with the political mistakes that led to the current crisis of democracy. This is how two horses returning from the political establishment are rebuilding their virginity outside the traditional circuit of candidacy, betting, not without relevance, on the rejection of parties and on the personalization of the presidential meeting.

Media-political elites

But they will perhaps soon be joined by another figure of exteriority, even closer to the archetype of the providential man: Eric Zemmour. The latter will indeed have a good time claiming to be the only anti-system candidate, having never been associated with political power. In addition, its ultranationalist themes, in particular its visceral anti-Europeanism and its thesis of the “great replacement”, register it in the line of the populist savior that was, at the end of the XIXe century, General Boulanger.

Nicknamed “General Revanche”, he appeared to the French as the only one capable of restoring to the nation the honor it had lost during the defeat of 1871. That said, and like Boulanger, who was a familiar of power, it is obvious that Eric Zemmour has also been part of the media and political elites for years who share the public space. It is a kind of mirage to make him appear as the immaculate knight of regeneration, he who is in reality a pure product of the system. But politics feeds precisely on mirages.

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And if one can have doubts about the legitimacy, the authenticity and the ethics of their personalities and their programs, these three potential candidates can claim to rekindle the ever-living flame of the providential man. As François Mitterrand writes in The permanent coup (Plon, 1964), “The times of misfortune secrete a singular race of men that flourishes only in the storm and torment”. Each time it has been confronted with a crisis situation, the Republic has had the temptation of a providential man, a hero, a savior capable of delivering us from our misfortunes and our uncertainties.

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