Yes to Trump, No to Africa: Macron Gets it Wrong Again

French centrism is deja vu all over again

Politics Features Emmanuel Macron
Yes to Trump, No to Africa: Macron Gets it Wrong Again

Three days from now, Trump and the French President Emmanuel Macron will be gnawing on lobster in a restaurant at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

For the moment, however, one thing is certain: the teetotaler president will be dined (if not wined) in lavish fashion. French President Emmanuel Macron — who drew significant criticism for inviting Trump to France in the first place — will host a dinner for his guest of honor at Le Jules Verne, a panoramic restaurant high in the Eiffel Tower with prices that match its altitude.

Reader, a thought experiment. Change “Trump” to “Obama” and the passage could have been an email forwarded by one of your conservative aunts. It seems fantastical. But it’s true. The Gallic investment banker has invited the American President to a special place. Beauty will court beast. The undeserving extending a hand to the unspeakable. These two grandees, who have spent their lives in the service of wealth, will eat six courses atop a high tower overlooking the people of Paris.


But that is the nature of Macron. The smooth in service of the shameless. The American centrists have fallen over themselves, and then fallen over all their friends, to invite Macron into their heart. He is considered a marvel of a candidate, the very model of all future neoliberal adventurers. Don’t take my word for it. Google Macron, and you will a profane abundance of praise. A single instance will suffice. From QZ, here’s a passage from a feature titled “Emmanuel Macron surprises even the French with his philosophical references:”

“French president Emmanuel Macron upends expectations even when it comes to citations. This week, he flummoxed the French with an unexpected reference that reveals his philosophical roots.”

Soon, the streets of every major city will be filled with the remains of heads which have been exploded by the French President’s astoundingly glorious wonderfulness. Right now, the alt-center has all the integrity of a disgraced narc; they’re itching to sell everybody else short to get back into the good graces of power. Macron was the golden boy of the tepid elite. Ossoff in America, and all the Ossoffs in Europe, had failed. “But Macron remains,” they thought, “he shall show us he way out.”

That was then. Yesterday, Macron said something in Hamburg. A journo from Ivory Coast questioned Macron: why wasn’t there a Marshall Plan for Africa? Macron’s response ran about 210 seconds and was the stuff of legend. He starts generic and rambly:

The challenge of Africa, it is totally different, it is much deeper, it is civilizational, today. What are the problems in Africa? Failed states, complex democratic transitions, demographic transition, which is one of the main challenges facing Africa, it is then the roads of multiple trafficking which also require answers in terms of security and regional coordination, trafficking drugs, arms trafficking, human trafficking, trafficking in cultural property and violent fundamentalism, Islamist terrorism, all this today mixed up, creates difficulties in Africa. At the same time, we have countries that are tremendously successful, with an extraordinary growth rate that makes people say that Africa is a land of opportunity.

But what’s this? Le twist:

One of the essential challenges of Africa … one of the eight countries, that today has seven or eight children born to each woman. You can choose to spend thousands of euros, but you will stabilize nothing.


So. Forget for a moment that Africa is not a country. Forget that there are many reasons that women bear big families, such as access to birth control. Forget that large families might be an economic necessity for agricultural cultures. Forget the patronizing and condescending tone of this entitled, preening Wharton advertisement lecturing decent people about their lives. Ignore the creepy, racist spectacle of this polished bureaucrat opining about the fertility of women he has never met.

Instead, consider the kind of person, and the kind of ideology that makes a speech like this permissible. What is remarkable about Macron’s speech is that it is so ordinary for his brand of politics. This rhetoric is typical of the center-left and apologists for the global order. Especially when they speak about the developing world. When she was Secretary of State, on June 14, 2010, Hillary Clinton told a forum that

“For goodness’ sakes, this is the 21st century. We’ve got to get over what happened 50, 100, 200 years ago and let’s make money for everybody. That’s the best way to try to create some new energy and some new growth in Africa.”

Macron’s rhetoric is not new. His ideology, his personality, lead him astray. It is the essential nature of all narcissist climbers to be clueless about the larger concerns of humankind. Oppressors love to patronize the people they oppress. His language is the argot of all the center-left concern-spinners who nodded silently when Daniel Patrick Moynihan or William Jefferson Clinton and other assorted three-names lectured poor people about being poor and richsplained to the marginalized about their marginalization. The man with the nightstick loves to yell at the man he has just knocked down.

Let me clear: what is terrible about Macron is not his fumble at a press conference. It is his policies. His slip illustrates a larger point: how neoliberal capitalists view the world.

France abused Africa. That is beyond dispute. If not for Britain and Belgium’s slightly greater crimes on the continent, the Gallic Republic would stand alone as abusers and monsters on a dinosauric scale. What an absolutely masterpiece of hypocrisy and vice they presented.


Nor is this unexpected, from a man like Macron. He once said that his thoughts were too complex for journalists. He has called for a Jovian presidency, named for Jupiter, king of the gods, who also happens to be a giant collection of gas. Like the King of the Gods, President Macron would pass decrees from on high, and speak only to settle matters. His policies are the stuff of the Nineties. He strives to demolish unions. He speaks of making the French Republic into Uber, of the government operating like a startup. Macron is a sterling example of the corporate thought process: a great deal of money and polish without much result. If the Democrats had won in Georgia or last November, we would be hearing Macronian rhetoric from Washington.

Macron is not your friend. Macron is Jon Ossoff if he was a grown-up; he is Pelosi’s alternative self: the sellout who made it to the highest peak of France. He is a vision of neoliberalism beyond even Barack Obama. Privilege made a man, and the media tells us we should follow him.

If his picture is not curing diseases in Martha’s Vineyard, it soon will be. Much in the same way Trump is the intersection of a thousand different lines of terrible right-wing thought—nativism, racism, fear of the other, anti-intellectualism, alternative facts, bullying, trutherism—Macron is the terminus point for every train line of centrism: the resume, the carefully-airbrushed look, the pro-corporate platform, the fawning media coverage. It is an old playbook, and the Powers that Be keep repeating it. In France it worked for a moment, because the realists did not want Le Pen in power. Macron will fix that: he is working his hardest to assure that Le Pen will be elected. The solution for the problems Macron wishes to solve is less of Emmanuel Macron in power. How did the French President put it, when speaking of the problems of another continent? “The problem is much deeper.” On this, we agree.

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