These are difficult days for political commentators. Politics-as-usual has given way to quarrels over the Covid-19 response. Commentators can choose one of two courses: concentrate on the errors, inevitably plentiful and satisfyingly concrete, of the powers-that-be, or speculate about the unknown and unknowable future, which offers an enticingly blank canvas to be filled with figments of one’s political imagination: Will it be globalized capitalism that disappears, or open borders, or everyday freedoms, or the corner pub and grocer?
French political commentary, as much at sea as political commentary everywhere, has filled the empty column-inches with two regular staples. As long as the Fifth Republic has existed, crises have given rise to rumors of tensions between the president and the prime minister. Will the president protect himself by jettisoning his prime minister, often likened to an electrical “fuse” (fusible in French) who is going to pop in order to prevent the surging currents of popular resentment from reaching the man at the top. Le Monde ran this old chestnut last week.