In La Tribune 7/06/2021
Democracy is accepting to lose elections ; politics with power is action and reform ; politics alone is communication.
Sometimes reform does not work, as we saw with Emmanuel Macron: departure of the Armed-Forces Chief of Staff, fuel tax and yellow vests, pension reform and pivotal age, affair of a bodyguard, procrastination on masks-screening-self-testing-confinement-vaccines and the Covid-19, crushing of intermediary bodies, startup nation and the “Californian” Seine-Saint Denis, ministers in droves on the lists of the regional elections, ecological diktat of wind turbines, etc.
Michel Audiard president ?
For opposition parties, politics without power means communication with its codes; for parties with the power to govern, politics is action and reform. But if this action gets bogged down and the reform gets hindered, politics is lonely, and sometimes, by wanting to break the lock of the reform, it becomes transgressive communication: “I am your leader”, “the refractory Gauls”, “if they want someone in charge, he is in front of you, let him come and get him”, “the people who are nothing”, “the irreformable France”, “I cross the street and I find one for you”, Emmanuel Macron’s formulas are not lacking.
I don’t think Michel Audiard would have been an excellent president, because transgressive communication is rarely performative. A mayor’s words are performative when they instantly change two single people into a couple, because the mayor has the authority and the two married people want this transformation.
“Reform, yes, chienlit, no”
But if the communication stigmatizes the other, if it has lost patience, it becomes hollow, disorganized or turns into a legend of images. Misunderstood, provocative, rejected, fought against because it does not federate, does not reconcile, does not gather, this communication opposes the French between them, divides them. In a generalized tension, the country’s sensitivity is hurt and causes disillusionment. Sometimes, the communication is disorienting like a YouTube-style production where, little by little, its words lose all power and consistency. Reaching this stage, they have the form of appearances, of a game or a show and seem to be pronounced in the form of indifference. The gap is such with the actions that follow, that they appear small, never up to the stakes nor to the measure of the original transgression. The abolition of the ENA, the dismantling of the great State bodies and corporatism are undoubtedly necessary actions, but compared to the crises, these reforms appear out of step, anachronistic, pretentious, arrogant or amateurish. In a word, without grandeur, the effectiveness of these actions will inevitably be questioned.
Transgressive communication is rarely performative and, in the end, it is authority that is lost. It is here that power and violence confront the natural limits of legitimacy, sometimes ending up in illegality, that is, in the democratic nowhere.
“Life is a struggle”
At this stage of the struggle, democracy sinks into neurasthenia, the natural daughter of a transgressed legitimacy. In the Fifth Republic, this depression has its psychoanaleptic Godwin moment: summoning General de Gaulle.
He transgressed in a big way, but in action. Saving the country by going into exile, challenging his government was not nothing, but his own superiority erased all suspicion. The courage, the vision and the result of his transgression became his legitimacy because he did not oppose the country or its inhabitants, but his head that had capitulated to the enemy.
Does reform require electoral legitimacy fortified by a higher legitimacy derived from age, experience, knowledge, wisdom, history, or all of these at once? At a distance in time, the Gaullian legitimacy of universal suffrage appears weaker than that obtained by history. The second, great, powerful and historically legitimated sheltered the first one and conferred on it the indisputable authority of the leader, the one that was exercised over the regalian functions without having to say it or claim it, since it was real. This symbiosis between the two legitimacies naturally opened the door to solid reforms and, therefore, his communication was factual, but rarely transgressive.
Even if time passes, good recipes are eternal. “Why do you want that at 67 years old, I begin a career of dictator”, said the General. As in 1958, would we need an “old fart” whose rare public transgressions knew how to amuse, reassure and prepare the reform, because they were tangible or turned against himself and not against the French people?