France’s Obama fixation

Daniel Nichanian in openDemocracy:

Could a “French Obama” win a presidential election?

This is not just a rhetorical question; it has real significance in the French context. Obama's French enthusiasts inevitably distort his real profile and platform in their effort to frame his victory for their own purposes. The parts of Obama's story that his admirers invoke and the themes they emphasize provide a window into the glaring shortfalls of French society. Obama is a cipher for the Left's inability to sell its ideas; the rigid structure of political parties and stultifying hold of political elites; and the dreadful lack of minority figures in leadership positions.

One group of Obama admirers can be found in the Socialist Party (PS). The country's leading left-wing party has not won a presidential election since 1988 and a legislative election since 1997. Asphyxiated in recent years by the hyperactivity of right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy and unable to counter the spread of conservative ideas, the PS has been in survival mode for much of the past decade.

Socialist leaders are now hoping to take advantage of Obama's victory to bolster their own cause and get back into France's political game. To regain power, the PS must learn how to make its platform look more appealing to lower and middle class voters. And what better way to do that than to insist the party's proposals are similar to those of the popular and emblematically progressive American president?