The U.S. has seen its fair share of protests—racial and gender inequality, police brutality, gun control—but with global economic growth climbing and unemployment falling to its lowest levels since 2008, few would expect workers to be marching on Wall Street. The same, however, cannot be said for France, where hundreds of thousands across the political spectrum have been storming the streets over rising gas prices.
French President, Emmanuel Macron, who once earned the reputation of “France’s golden boy” and was even called “perfect” by President Trump, has idly watched his approval rating drop to 25% in October. The president proclaimed himself one of the few remaining champions of globalism and broke into the French political scene promising to upend the country’s duopoly. He has watched his supporters slip away as protestors are run over in the streets, and a supporter of the now famous “yellow jacket” movement strapped a grenade to his chest.
As nationalism has swept the Americas and Europe, few have been willing to defend globalism. But, Macron continues to stand tall, even if often alone. Macron’s leadership, however, appears to be hopeless as his allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel have become political lame-ducks and Europe’s rising political stars are represented by extremists like the Italian far-right nationalist and anti-migrant minister, Matteo Salvini.
Further defeating his cause have been Macron’s failures at home. Most significantly is Macron’s failure with the sluggish French economy as unemployment climbs north of 10%. Macron’s background as a former investment banker, his attempts to revitalize the French economy by attacking the country’s all-powerful labor unions, and his infamous remark of telling an unemployed Frenchman he could find a job easily by “crossing the street” has led to the golden child’s renaming as “the president of the rich”.
Macron has been unwilling to tackle the bigger problems of the French economy. France’s tax-GDP ratio remains 10 percentage points higher than the OECD average, France holds the highest public employee percentage share of GDP of any member nation of the OECD, and the French economy is marred by unemployment benefits that allow a 2 year grace period discouraging people from going back to work. For the French economy this means the cost of labor is too high, welfare discourages working, and extensive business regulation, as well as the regulation of the EU, has meant the French economy has been stopped from regaining its ground.
Other globalist efforts have also marred Macron. His defense of the Iranian Nuclear Deal came under scrutiny after French intelligence released that Tehran attempted to organized a bomb attack against Iranian critics at a Paris rally. France’s scuttle with Russia over a Russian fighter shot down over Syria has left Macron unable to keep his hands clean of the global conflict. And the Chinese kidnapping of Meng Hongwei, the president of French-based Interpol, has left Macron appearing as a weak proponent of the globalist effort.
For globalism, this is a dark path. Macron has successfully made himself the poster child of globalism, but in doing so, he has furthered a story of failure for the ideology. As French people protest and struggle with rising diesel at the hands of Macron’s hydrocarbon tax, the president abandons the plight of the French rural and lower class for the pursuit of global prosperity. Essentially the same reason nationalism has spread across the globe Macron has failed.
As Macron champions global peace, economic prosperity, and a healthy environment, his opponents claim he forgets his own people. Macron aspires to take the reigns of the global role that might have formerly been held by the United States, but for Macron, the reality is that France is not the United States. In the country’s economic turmoil, Macron doesn’t hold the power, or even the approval of his own people, to continue his fight. Instead, he paints another story of a country that will inevitably run to a nationalist leader who will promise to champion their own people and not the globe.