Macron Has Not Saved Europe All By Himself

The Frenchman has lifted liberal spirits, but he did not singlehandedly defeat the nativist insurgency.

French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference in Berlin, May 15, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference in Berlin, May 15, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Another reason why you shouldn’t read only American and British news about Europe is their fixation on personalities.

Not so long ago, we were told the EU’s very survival hinged on Angela Merkel.

Now it’s Emmanuel Macron’s turn.

The Macron hype

Take this leader in Britain’s New Statesman, which argues that the central reason Europe now confronts its challenges with confidence is Macron’s election as president of France.

To be fair, things did look bleak at the end of 2016, when the British had voted for Brexit and the Americans had elected Donald Trump.

But only a few months later, nationalists underperformed in the Dutch election.

Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen was another blow against the nativist insurgency, especially when he campaigned explicitly for liberalism and the EU.

But it was also unsurprising. For months, the polls had predicted Le Pen would lose to whomever she might face in the second presidential voting round.

The British media were nevertheless obsessed with her, as BuzzFeed reported at the time.

First they exaggerated the prospect of a Le Pen presidency, then they exaggerated the meaning of her defeat.

Making the same mistakes

To argue, as the New Statesman does, that Macron’s “unashamed advocacy of Europe” and his “assured personal style” have created “a profound change in the political atmosphere” is to repeat the mistakes that led English-speaking journalists astray in the first place:

  1. Reading too much into the power of personality; and
  2. Underestimating the political stability of most countries in Europe.

More sober-minded analysis can be found in the Financial Times, The Economist, Euractiv, the English-language versions of Handelsblatt, Der Spiegel and Tocqueville 21.

And — I hope — right here.