I won’t pretend I’m not happy about the outcome of the French presidential election yesterday. I’m a “liberal” in the States, and my French boyfriend supported the Front de gauche in this election. If I vote in France one day (and I hope to), I’ll almost certainly vote to the left. I try to tell myself it’s not only out of self-interest (Sarkozy hating immigrants, Mélenchon defending les droits de l’homme…), and try to educate myself on the other issues that affect every-day French people, even though I find it difficult at times to understand.
I was in France for the election in 2007 and remember mostly the disappointment of my French friends. I remember one hopeful Frenchman saying, between the two rounds, “La France va avoir une présidente!” When Sarkozy was elected, I said to my then-boyfriend, “Bienvenue à mon monde.” But otherwise, I didn’t really understand the politics or the policies behind the election.
This time, I actually watched a few of the interviews with the candidates, and not only the interviews on Le Petit Journal. I watched the timed countdowns on the limited speaking time for the candidates on the different TV channels in the last days leading up to the first round. I read up a bit on the different platforms of the different candidates. I was genuinely happy when Hollande was elected, and not just because Sarkozy wanted to kick me and my kind out of the country.
What’s been particularly interesting is following the press in the United States. Some of it has felt heavily biased and not well-enough-informed, like this NYTimes article about Mélenchon. (Hollande made the cover of the NYTimes with this article.) The stories published after the first round of the election seemed to bizarrely exaggerate the closeness of the race. And this article (again the NYTimes) seems to paint the “Americanness” of Sarkozy a little too black-and-white.
This report from NPR (from today), on the other hand, seems charmingly optimistic about the motivations of the French voters. Maybe a lot of French people really did vote in this election for human rights and equality. I think it’s more likely that they, like Americans, were driven by sentiments like dissatisfaction with their lives and personal distaste for the current president. But maybe American politics have made me too cynical.