It just so happens that – at the start of the Gulf War – the majority of heads of state who supported the war were on the right of the political divide (even Tony Blair is a closet republican, having stolen all of the Tories’ best lines). And it also happens that, in recent European and US elections, there has been a distinct leftward lurch as voters expressed their disapproval by voting for the alternative.
Pundits have been wondering whether this implies a general socialist shift, or whether it was just a vote against being lied to by politicians in general. With Sarkozy’s victory it appears to have been the latter. Why does this matter at all for anyone in the US?
For starters Segolene Royal, Nicolas Sarkozy’s socialist opponent, is even more anti-American than the average Frenchman. She was intending to raise the minimum wage, expand social benefits and lumber French businesses with even more taxes and red-tape. France has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, is flagrantly protectionist (its farmers, who make up about 3% of their economy, receive more than US$ 11 bn a year in subsidies – 10% of the EU’s entire budget), and is central to the European project. What happens in France is essential for the economic success and political direction of the EU.
Sarkozy is far from perfect, aggressively supporting the idea of French national champions (code for “protectionism for French firms considered important to France”) but he is infinitely preferable to the iffy-namby-pamby social state that Royal had in mind.
More importantly, though, Sarkozy is pro-American. Expect France to start siding slightly more frequently with the US and some headway to be made on some of the more intractable disagreements between the EU and US. For starters, expect some harsher words on Iran.
In fact, you might just start seeing a rightward shift in Europe. Tony Blair is leaving behind an unpopular Gordon Brown and a resurgent Conservative Party. Angela Merkel is in charge in Germany.
So, just when it seems common ground may start being found, it is amusing that the next US president is likely to be a Democrat.