That’s ‘Mr. President’ to You, Macron Scolds France

This is an introduction by Maria Rodriguez-McKey to a New York Times article  written byAlissa J. Rubin . 

The comments on American politicians by an  IFO ppolling  specialist, forget the fact that the US is not a unitary republic and so reality varies from State to State. In addition, Americans do not need to be told to move in order to find a job because, except for certain populations, in certain  states, Americans tend to move.

But in France, paternalism comes with the job as politicians are constantly saying that they must use « de la pédagogie ».  Let us not forget that France is a monarchical republic.

And French presidents have all the powers.  But Macron seems to add to that which the system gives him, and which he uses to the utmost, an arrogance and  a  conviction that « I am stronger thant the system ». 

Published on June 19, 2018

But when he meets a regular French citizen the desire to please gives way; instead, Mr. Macron cannot stop himself from preaching about the need to behave better, work harder and take charge of one’s own future.

The latest example came Monday when he was attending the commemoration of a famous speech by France’s wartime leader in 1940, Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who called on French citizens to join the resistance to the Nazis.

As local junior high school students pushed forward to a rope line to shake hands with the president, one ninth-grade boy called out with a touch of bravado, “How’s it going, Manu?,” using a nickname for Mr. Macron.

Mr. Macron paused and responded sternly: “No, no, no.”

The boy immediately retreated. “Sorry, Mr. President,” he said.

But Mr. Macron, rather than accepting the apology, seemed to want to hammer home his point. “Look, you can act like a clown, but today is about the Marseillaise and the Partisans’ song,” he said, referring to France’s national anthem and to another song adopted by the French resistance to the Nazis.

“So you call me Mr. President of the Republic or sir,” Mr. Macron said, and the boy responded: “Yes, sir.”

Television channels and Twitter users took notice, although the encounter was hardly remarkable. Well before his election, Mr. Macron displayed a penchant for sounding dismissive and unsympathetic when talking to unemployed people, labor union members and retirees. French news organizations — regional newspapers as well as national ones and newsmagazines — have taken to publishing lists of his confrontations.

When he changed the labor code to reduce the power of unions and make it easier to hire and fire people, he derided those who opposed his changes as “lazybones, cynics and extremists.” He told strikers upset over a factory closing in a rural area with few jobs that they should stop “messing around” and move to where the jobs are. And he has said that the government “spends a truckload of cash on social programs, but the people are still poor.”

Beyond his seeming impatience with working-class French citizens and their views of his reforms, he has shown a tendency to portray himself as a “Jupiterian” president, or the president as monarch. It is an image of the French presidency as an august office, above the fray, that was favored by General de Gaulle and almost every other president until Mr. Macron’s immediate predecessor, François Hollande.

Mr. Macron also aspires to be a postmodern president, the self-appointed harbinger of France’s future, yet his tone and language alternates between elevated intellectual conceits and provocative street talk, sometimes sounding scornful, even patronizing.

From Mr. Macron’s point of view, he is just making it clear where he stands; it is up to those listening to decide whether they want to join him.

“Macron is part of a generation that knows how to juggle between different modes of communicating, but always with the intention of conveying his message,” said Jérôme Fourquet, a longtime observer of the French presidency and the director of opinion and business strategies for IFOP, a major polling organization.

In Mr. Fourquet’s view, Mr. Macron can sound like an American politician when he tells the French that they have to be willing to go where the jobs are and be resourceful and entrepreneurial. But such a message can come across as oddly dissonant because, unlike American politicians, he rarely expresses empathy and has no qualms about sounding like a teacher scolding students.

He is also still very French in his desire to have everyone treat him with deference. “There’s this Anglo-Saxon culture that he mixes with the French culture of the meritocracy,” Mr. Fourquet said.

“The meritocracy is, ‘I have studied, thus, I deserve to be where I am,’ and so broadly speaking, that means the world is divided between those who know, who explain to those who do not know,” Mr. Fourquet added.

Mr. Macron, who has a tense relationship with the press, appears to like using encounters with the public to showcase his agenda without the intercession of journalists. His official YouTube channel even features videos of such events. One, involving older citizens complaining about a tax increase, says “I will explain everything to you” in the description.

So far his approval ratings, which in many polls hover around 40 percent, are still above those of his two most recent predecessors. What is different is that the divide between his supporters, who are drawn from the business world, and his opponents, who are more likely to be laborers or office workers, appear to follow class lines, which was not so much the case with his predecessors.

The result for Mr. Macron is that he is seen by many as “the president of the rich,” a phrase his most vocal opponent, the far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, often invokes.

It is also striking that even when he has clearly beaten a perceived opponent, Mr. Macron cannot stop himself from making sure he has entirely humbled the person.

That was the case on Monday, when the ninth grader nodded and apologized twice but learned that Mr. Macron still was not finished putting him in his place.

“You need to do things the right way. Even if you want to lead a revolution one day, you’ve first got to earn a diploma and learn how to feed yourself, O.K.?” Mr. Macron said as he delivered a friendly, if patronizing, pat on the boy’s arm. “And then you can give lessons to others