« A broken record that must claim renewal »
During Emmanuel Macron’s re-election speech, at the Trocadero in April, you spoke in Liberation of « scratched record ». Eight months later, do you confirm?
Yes, but I will specify that it is a scratched disc which must, permanently, pretend that it is not a scratched disc. Macronist discourse must always claim renewal, change, “rebirth”. But these formulas, precisely, have already been used and used in 2016 and 2017, during his first campaign. Five years later, it’s difficult to repeat this move without seeming repetitive. Moreover, its electoral sociology remains fundamentally the same as five years ago: the upper classes, the elderly; his speech therefore aims to always flatter the same people. Even if there has been a shift to the right of his policy – retirement at 65 is an idea as old as Balladur – and therefore of his speech. But, for the most part, my algorithm identifies the same terms that come up: « project », « trust », the « because » when it is necessary to do « pedagogy » on the reforms…
However, are there any new words from Macron since his re-election?
Yes and no. Because it does not necessarily date from his re-election. In fact, the idea of a break with this second five-year term is relatively false: the changes in discourse that I have observed date from a little earlier, from the Covid crisis. Since the pandemic, we have had a repetition of the terms “collectively”, “together”, to display a break with Jupiterism. But let’s take a recent example: the choice to rename his Renaissance party. This is not the only semantic signal of this ilk. We are talking about the National Council for Refoundation, the Ministry of Democratic Renewal, attributed to Olivier Véran. “Restore”, “refound”… all these words are historically marked on the extreme right. The « French revival » is a marker of Marshal Pétain. Éric Zemmour names his party Reconquest. At Trump, we talk about « Make America Great Again ». This refers to a past glory that should be rediscovered. It’s a hug to the conservative electorate, all the more amazing for an outgoing president: when he talks about « give back to the school of the Republic », for example, it is his own balance sheet that he criticizes. The fact that he is changing the name of his party is also part of this idea that Macronism must give the constant impression of being in motion, as if that were its raison d’être. It’s unprecedented to see such a young political party change its name three times (En Marche! became La République en Marche, then Renaissance – Editor’s note).
What about the words “sobriety” or “ecological planning”, which appeared from the presidential campaign in Macronie?
With these words, Macron revives his promise to be « at the same time » left and right. The reform of pensions, unemployment insurance, Gérald Darmanin, Bruno Le Maire, taxation favorable to the richest… any observer can see that Macron’s policy leans to the right. Faced with this, he must therefore give discursive pledges to the left on the « societal » and ecology, without of course touching the market economy. It is done more at the level of words than actions: with Emmanuel Macron, there is an autonomization of language in relation to reality. We can speak of “ecological planning” while clinging to the liberal credo, or of “great debate” while multiplying the 49.3. Or use the acronym « CNR » while liquidating the legacy of the National Council of Resistance. The “at the same time”, in fine, is only lexical, since it does not prohibit itself from speaking of “work value” elsewhere, a term dear to Sarkozy. Except that, with the latter, it was simple, we knew where we were. With Emmanuel Macron, there is a desire to maintain the ambiguity of his ideological corpus, to maintain a sort of smokescreen through speech, by speaking of movement, of progress, while remaining vague.
The relative majority changed the political situation. Have you noticed a change in Macron’s discourse vis-à-vis his opposition since the legislative elections?
What is new is an aggressiveness that he could do without previously. Emmanuel Macron is in the counter-attack. In absolute terms, during the first five-year term, everything was going pretty much as he wanted and he could allow himself, including flattering an opposition that did not really bother him. Non-confidence motions and battles over every vote force him to give into hyperbole, to say that the opposition is « in the camp of cynicism and disorder ». Until Elisabeth Borne, who tries to completely reverse reality by saying: “Why are you afraid of the debate? » when triggering a new 49.3. He knows he won’t be re-elected, so he has more leeway to let loose against his opponents.