The democratic world could feel the heat from Paris

Rather than an ideology or a clear philosophy, the gilets jaunes seem to share a set of attitudes, as well as what might be described as an aesthetic. They are angry about the green taxes that have raised gasoline prices, and they don’t like the speed limits on French roads. They are angry more generally, and this is part of why a movement that didn’t exist a month ago became consolidated so quickly: Anger is one of the things that travels quickly on social media, a form of communication that favors emotion; it’s also one of the things that brings people together in a world where trade unions, church organizations and political parties are fading in importance. One of the protestors has declared, “All of you” — meaning the political class in its entirety, far-left, far-right and centrist — “are no longer needed.”

There is an irony here: Macron’s own political party, La République En Marche, also started out as an anti-party party, a haven for people who no longer identified with the traditional political parties. But it was conceived in a political context, and its members took part in elections. As a result, En Marche, which didn’t exist three years ago, is now perceived as part of the establishment it was formed to defeat. French history is full of revolutions overtaken by even-more-radical revolutions, but the speed with which these changes happen now is breathtaking. It may also be the case that political party loyalties, once broken, do not develop again with ease.