Yesterday we saw the centrist-globalist Macron win the presidential election in France. And the world breathed a collective sign of relief. .
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how my town of Morgantown, WV recently elected seven progressive candidates. I’ve lived in France and now live in Morgantown. I am well aware that they bear little resemblance. But what went right in both elections?
Unity: Trump already happened. The resistance is fired up. Yes, Le Pen made it through the first round, but EVERY OTHER POLITICIAN lined up behind Macron after the first round. Republicans (yes, the conservative party) even lent their support. In Morgantown, we have a deep and committed group of individuals who are fired up and made donations, canvassed, and told their friends to vote. Yes, we were motivated by fear of Trump, but also by the the good we could do.
Hope. Macron used messages not too dissimilar from those we heard from Obama. The French heard a vision of hope and possibility. Trump’s vision was always much darker and more foreboding. Clinton spoke in policy wonk and didn’t provide vision, stories, or aspirations. Our candidates in Morgantown spoke of possibility and a future of sidewalks (what a novelty!), green spaces, and thoughtful development. Change does not occur overnight, but these candidates stuck with the message of possibility.
Reforming politics. One of Macron’s campaign promises was to clean up French politics. From Fillion to Le Pen, this campaign season was besieged by stories of corruption or at a minimum a lack of good judgement. People were fed up. And Macron capitalized on that frustration with promises of cleaning up corruption in politics. Morgantown has faced its own considerable challenges with councilors suing one other. Residents were confused and fed up. The local paper, the Dominion Post, was so put off that their editorial board endorsed ALL new candidates. For those folks not involved in the progressive movement, there was plenty of coverage about the inefficiencies of a Council that sued instead of governed.
I am not a political pundit of West Virginia and certainly not one of France. Having lived on both places, though, I feel uniquely qualified to draw these parallels. Macron won for a whole hose of diverse political reasons, not listed here, just like city Council candidates. To keep winning, we will need to remain united. Healing the Clinton-Sanders rift is not easy and I have few answers for how to heal those wounds. But letting it fester and grow will certainly lead to Republicans maintaining control. Similarly, like many other Americans, I resonate with a message of hope an possibility. I am not a Pollyanna, but people need to feel a sense of possibility and change in their situation — one that does not rely on scapegoating, but instead of a united vision of how we can all make a positive change. And lastly, we are all exhausted by stories of money in politics. We know that it corrupts and that we will rely on it to win, but small grassroots movements and donations can be a powerful source, just like Sanders’ campaign showed us.