Populism is on the rise and all now see it. People around the world are losing faith in status quo politics: establishment parties filled with electoral-professional, career politicians. The common person is yearning for a return to representative governance and that is a good thing. Donald Trump, for all the noise he makes, isn’t a sign of ethical decay. He is the culmination of Americans desperately reaching for a candidate who will actually do something for them, rather than for parties, companies and perceived puppeteers. Brexit too was the culmination of a proud people, whose history is synonymous with representative democracy, raging against a foreign machine. This anti-establishmentism isn’t an innately dangerous movement – people aren’t become more racist or xenophobic – but if politicians continue down the path they have so far chosen, despair will lead to terrible things. So a solution is necessary.
Fortunately for people who enjoy modern liberalism and don’t want a return to protectionism or strong-man politics whicj so often comes with populist movements, a relatively small party in France is forging its own way forward. En Marche.
Despite being run by an at-first-glance irredeamably establishment figure, the immensely popular ex-minister and banker Immanuel Macron, the party’s character is inspiring. Its charter is quick to state that (in France) the status quo is the root of the country’s problem. It talks of “unblocking” France and re-energising a political landscape which has become bogged down by a distant, impractical political class. But how exactly do Macron and his revolutionaries plan to drain the swamp? Not through revolution or appeasing unsanitary groups but through an olive branch. He will reconcile the left and the right. Or at least try to.
“I’m in a leftwing government, unashamedly, but I also want to work with people from the right, who commit to the same values,”
Emmanuel Macron, 2016
Introducing its own brand of centrism, En Marche will create a “coalition of the willing” by opening its doors to people from almost anywhere on the political spectrum. Counting on getting as much grass-root support as possible, it will be free to join and even allow people to hold a dual-membership with whichever other party are an affiliate of. Much like it would be in the gold standard of two-party democracy The United States of America, this is a huge undertaking. The Republican-Socialist divide in France is as alive and vicious as ever and to add to the disenfranchisement there is no other serious alternative a citizen can turn to. No matter how centrist a person is, they must inevitably fall into the arms of either Les Républicains or the Parti Socialiste to contribute to their nation’s politics.
En Marche lays claim to the area between those historic parties. It proposes that only through dealing in practical politics, not party politics, can France pass through its current bog and begin dealing with the problems of the people. If a coalition of somewhat like minded, a good description for En Marche, people can get into power and agree on a practical way forward, it can then also better react to what the people need and want. For instance, if a French Socialist is, say, sick of immigration and want to slow it down, En Marche offers them an avenue without having to cross the party line. The very concept of an anti-immigration motion won’t be shot down simply because it goes against the time-honoured principles of a time-honoured party, nor will other ideas be tied to leftwing or rightwing principles. It is this fluidity which Macron hopes will get French politics moving again.
“It is that policy which goes beyond the old divisions and which produces tangible results that should be developed and promoted.”
The En Marche charter, 2016
And considering the party was only formed last year it has been doing well in the lead up to April’s Presidential election. Having forever been scarred by the inaccuracy of 2016’s polls it is with hesitation I use French polling figures, but they do show Emmanuel Macron third to the Right-wing Republicans and the even Righter-wing National Front. Considering the abject failure the current Socialist government is being touted as and the obvious swing to the Republican Party that will result in, it’s a pretty cosy spot.
While the French people are obviously craving the true anti-establishment party, Marie La Pen’s National Front, as a citizen would after years of ineptitude, En Marche will only grow from here. Unless the next President and government show real political and social acumen it is likely anti-establishment fervour will rise. If it doesn’t, it’s hard to imagine a France which doesn’t rally behind the sensibly anti-establishment En Marche.