Although the French love to smear McAmerica and vica versa, this presidential election season has demonstrated just how far French politics and society have moved closer to their American counterparts.
1. Two Candidates In America a multitude of candidates run for president, but almost nobody knows any of them. The only two given the attention, press, and frenzied media speculation are the Republican and Democratic nominees. Unlike in past French elections where different political blocs have split amongst a host of candidates, the right and the left of France have coalesced around Sarkozy and Royal respectively.
2. Value votes What has stood out in Segolene Royal's meteoric rise to the top of French politics has been her style more than her substance. She has appealed to people on an individual level, focusing on warm and fuzzy issues like family, the environment, etc. Sarkozy has represented the more traditional bread and butter politician focused on action and results. This balance has been the highlight of American politics in many past presidential elections, with candidates showing off their ideas while also "connecting" with the voters by acting like Joe-somebody. They attend church services, serve pancakes, and go hunting.
3. A Crossroads It seems like every American presidential election is the most important in our lifetimes,..., until the next one comes around. Likewise, both French candidates have defined themselves as reform-leaders at a critical time in French history, a time where a "rupture" with the past is needed to solve the problems of tomorrow.
If all this sounds a bit more like show-business, it is. Politicians have learned that winning is no longer about the best ideas or the best record, but about telling a compelling enough story to win votes. And frankly, if it takes a more photogenic and modern person to effectively lead a country than an old time idea-laden politician, that wouldn't be all that bad. At least there is always something to talk about.
Technorati tags: Ségolène Royal, Segolene Royal, Nicolas Sarkozy, UMP, politics, politique, présidentielle, actualité, France, US