On Sunday, in the first round of the French presidential election, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy lost fairly narrowly to challenger Francois Hollande; fascist toad Marine Le Pen came a fairly respectable third, which says a lot about how far political discourse has plummeted in France since the nation was an exemplar for us all.
The second and decisive round is to be held in a couple weeks' time, on May 6.
Sarkozy claims to be a center-rightist, a moderate. So what is he doing right now? He's attempting to sell out whatever scant principles he might have to France's fascist right, in hopes that their votes might just enable him to beat the odds.
To repeat: Sarkozy claims to be a center-rightist, a moderate. That presumably means he thinks centrism of some form or another is the best way forward for France. He has a center-left opponent in Hollande. If Sarkozy actually wants the best for France, a Hollande victory might be personally disappointing but surely can't be a tragedy. An extremist right victory, by contrast, would be -- surely Sarkozy must think so -- a complete disaster.
Yet at the moment Sarkozy is trying to position himself as the extremist right candidate.
Should his strategy prove successful, he's going to have to put through at least a token number of policies that he knows would be disastrous for France.
Until now, I've had a fair amount of time for Sarkozy, because he's seemed to me an example of European conservatism (in US terms, far-leftism) who reacts to reality rather than blind, dimwitted ideology -- a rightish social democrat, in other words, just like most of the other European conservatives (e.g., Angela Merkel). He's also married to Carla Bruni, who's not just a fine singer-songwriter but someone whose views I very much respect; my guess, from Sarkozy's new rightward tack, is that their marriage has been a piece of theater.
I used to have hopes for some of the European conservatives. The UK's David Cameron dealt a damaging blow to my optimism with his hard-right response to last summer's riots; now Sarkozy has dealt a fatal one. If you have to appeal to fascists to try to stay in power, you should go tend a rose garden instead.
May he lose on May 6.