The French Are Sad

Are we becoming Frenchified? I don’t mean the thin-skinned souls on college campuses looking for things to offend and sadden them. (Cultural appropriation is the latest in case you’re following developments in the academy). Polls for years have shown the French are among the unhappiest people in the world, and the guerrilla warfare now being waged in their midst isn’t going to lift spirits.  The Germans, better at building war machines than whipping up dishes, walloped the French three wars in a row. Germans historically have been more comfortable in a helmet and the French in a toque. It must depend on what’s more important, a war or a great meal. We’re down in the dumps too, the polls show.

The excellence of French cuisine goes back to the 1870 war when Paris was besieged by who else? Food was so scarce Parisians had to catch and eat rats, a test that required sauces of a high order. The second one, World War I, left the French so depleted they were defeatist pushovers for the even bigger one that followed 20 years later. Napoleon, France’s last great warrior, created a centralized state where power flowed to Paris. A powerful bureaucracy directed by an elite became supreme, proving the superiority of their culture in the minds of the French. This logically led, as they like to say, to a more comprehensive bureaucracy operating under slightly different principles in Moscow. The French motto of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity gave way under Marx’s influence to another he borrowed from a Frenchman. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” The ant hill society in short.

Bureaucratic centralization took root in the United States during FDR’s years and has strengthened under every administration since, getting fuel injection under Obama. An elite schooled at Ivy League colleges runs our country like the French graduates from the grandes écoles do theirs. Wealth is being concentrated in keeping with the natural trends of an oligarchy. But we haven’t gone French all the way yet. Unlike Paris, Washington has rival power centers in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. However, the greatly expanded administrative state has spent Obama’s two terms writing rules and regulations that reduce the independence of regions, states, cities, towns, neighborhoods and countrysides. The runaway EPA wants to extend its control over ditches and ponds; puddles can’t be far behind. The devious IRA was caught trying to repress the conservative movement, and the left wing wants to criminalize dissent over the causes of climate change. The age of government surveillance by drone and NSA algorithms gives government (their workers earn 70% more than counterparts in private industry) powerful new tools to work its will. This might contribute to the glumness Americans feel, the sense that something is gone away that they always thought would be there. That and the new locker room coarseness Donald Trump has brought to the political culture. Something happened at some point in his transition from developer ranked no higher on the scale  to measure psychotics than any other CEO or arriviste at the top of the mountain. Normal people don’t make it up there, folks, you have to climb a mountain of bodies.

As he handed out money to politicians whose favor or protection he needed, a thought bubble must have formed over Trump’s head at some point: Why, I’m as smart as they are… no, I’m smarter! George Pataki, the long-time governor of New York, was the proof of the pudding and even closer to home Mayor Bill de Blasio was the whipped cream on top. His years in showbiz gave Trump a great insight into the American public. We like celebrities and we don’t know very much or even want to. Bingo! But like everyone surrounded by yes men and women, he didn’t know to quit when ahead and they were afraid to say. His initial vulgarity and bluster seeming like a fresh wind blowing away politically correct cobwebs won him a place at the table, but someone should have advised a tactical pull back  when he got deeper into the campaign. Stop being the clown with the red nose (orange hair in his case, strangely arranged) and take up the masterly air of the lion tamer using will power more than whip and chair to put the beasts through their paces. The performance has gone on too long and people have wised up to  catchphrases repeated ad nauseam. We’re gonna build a wall. America is gonna be great again. The contrapuntal flip side, America doesn’t win anymore. Our leaders are stupid. We’re being cheated. There is just enough truth in it to make people nod like the bald, open-mouthed people in the classic Apple ad.

But it appears from the polling – yes, they have been as reliable up to now as soothsaying – Wisconsin is about to slam on the brakes. Comfortable old bore John Kasich might even finish second behind Ted Cruz. Reading the portents of that outcome for the convention, Trump might wash his hands of the GOP and go the third party route. If the people who have felt the Bern do likewise, theoretically there could be four names on the November ballot, the officially sanctioned Republican, the officially sanctioned Democrat, Trump and Sanders. It would be so French. Or maybe Donald will throw in his cards when he thinks the game is up. The presidency looks like an even tougher job than ordinary with the shambles Obama is leaving behind, and Trump can return to his guiding star, enhancing the  value of his celebrity brand because it’s the greatest. Over at the Ace of Spades a cogent comment:

Even if Trump is beaten this election, that doesn’t mean these questions go away. Trump has now demonstrated for anyone willing to see that it’s very easy to win a Republican primary — you have to just not be as grotesque a specimen as Trump and be somewhat informed on the issues, but otherwise you can run pretty much on the same issue/ideology profile as Trump and laugh your way to an early knockout win in a primary and have the whole thing wrapped up by Super Tuesday. Trump may be beaten — and probably will be. But he’ll have been beaten for reasons having little to do with the issue profile he’s running on. He’ll have been beaten due to the mere circumstance of his utterly unsuitable character and unschooled mind. But the next person to run won’t be kind enough to cede these points to the Establishment.


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