The recent landslide triumph of Emmanuel Macron in France’s national legislative elections is the last blow of what looks like the most bizarre tide in the history of political science: hipster populism.
Don’t get me wrong. I would have probably voted for Macron at the nationals as well as for his twin-in-chief on the also semi-French republic of Canada, Mr. Justin Trudeau. The problem with both politicians is rooted deep in a long lasting evil that only takes newer and more refined forms. Seduction, superficiality and manners constitute a danger for democracy.
During the last years we have witnessed the impressive amount of attention that was devoted by the mainstream international media to the young prime minister of Canada, mainly because of his age, oratory and appearance. Is all of this of any relevance? Not at all. The looks and style of a president, less his date of birth, say nothing of the fundamental subjects that should be dealt in politics. This speaks none of ideology, government policies, moral or conduct. And the XXI’st century, the selfie century, is especially prone to this kind of deviations fed by the monstrous amount of images and videos we are able to record and distribute through social and regular media.
I would even dare to say that that is one of the biggest challenges that the president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump, faces. He’s old, his head is a weird combination of a wig-style hair and stiff muscles (particularly around his mouth), his tone is annoying and, let’s be honest, he is largely over weighted. Trump is anything but “cool”, you won’t see him jogging around students. Compare that to the opposite corner of the ring with Mr. Trudeau and Macron, both seductive not only in attitude, but also in actual appearance (I don’t want to get graphic with debates about which head of state has the hottest ass, I save that for Facebook and Instagram).
The last battle fought was the Paris Agreement scandal where the USA left the accord. Without the slightest knowledge of the actual content or implications of it, millions of people went out to smash Trump and stand by Macron, who became the paladin of the fight against climate change, and against Trump. That had followed hundreds of news reports about the handshake (yes, a handshake) between Trump and Macron, and articles about the visit of the president of the United States to the middle east, were the rejection of Melania to her husband attempt to grab her hand in some footage was something worth reporting (apparently touching hands has become an issue of relevance).
How much of the criticism, that I mostly share, against Mr. Trump would remain if he were a young athlete? Or a black woman? Who knows. But what we can say for sure is that things get dangerous when middle classes abandon ideological and scientific debates for the echoing of slogans, fixed phrases and arguments that lack content and spread prejudice. What other reason could we find for the incomprehensible switch of many newspapers and intellectuals that used to oppose free trade and suddenly changed places and criticized Trump when he defended protectionism?
It took us around ten thousand years to develop a semi-free, semi-egalitarian-against-the-hierarchies and prosperous society. Let’s not waste it on a pair of cute eyes.
Franco Martín López is the Executive Director of Fundación Internacional Bases.