We live in odd times, when many conservatives see working-class people pitching a riot in France and instinctively sympathize with them. And at the same time, many liberals are tempted to defend the political leader who started the uproar with the imposition of a regressive tax, and who finds his primary support among financial workers in London and the establishment at home. Liberals will admit that some of the protesters have legitimate concerns, but then they rush to assure you that most just suffer from a false consciousness induced in them by Facebook, or by some other nefarious force in the world.
Emmanuel Macron was supposed to be the rallying figure for the “liberal world order.” He was the establishment’s populism. He was the man who denounced liberalism, tried to demonstrate his hope in a grand, bold, regenerated, and federal European Union. He condemned nationalism in front of Donald Trump. He was the Socialist-party member who was loved by high finance.
But he’s been a dead man walking for months politically. There is no firewall in France. Maybe it is a mood, or the harbinger of some awful collapse. Maybe it is just one generation rejecting the certainties of a previous one. The democratic peoples of the West have tired of the politics of the sensible center and are demanding change. And in France, that change usually begins in the streets.