By electing Emmanuel Macron president, France has rejected the pessimism pervading liberal democracies. Because choosing Macron meant choosing hope.
By Emma Jouenne
Finally! The French have proved more astute than the Americans or British. After years of being mocked for our useless military and our history of surrendering, we did it!
Between scandals, corruption and hype, France rarely fails to surprise when it comes to political theater. And the country’s new president-elect, Emmanuel Macron, has now won this high drama of presidential campaigns.
Although millions of people decided not to vote on Sunday, France has taken a big step forward with this choice. Because choosing Macron meant choosing hope.
Over the past two years, a pattern has emerged in global politics: citizens in democracies have voted for candidates who claim the world is falling apart and that only they can change the status quo.
Fear of globalization, superpowers and terrorism. Most everything revolves around fear, and it is well known that fear begets fear. Pessimism is the new “cool”: If you don’t complain or consider the world an awful place, then either you are naïve or ill informed.
The French did not surrender to darkness.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, beaten by Macron in the second round of France’s election, told voters that they needed to close their borders and retreat into a protective shell to avoid catastrophe. But here’s the truth: Catastrophe is not around the corner.
On Sunday, the French did not surrender to darkness. Many voters realized that the sky is still blue. Troubles persist, but most worldwide economic and social indicators have improved in the past few years.
Want an alternative fact? In most parts of the world, you are now more likely to die from eating too much than eating too little. Every day, women are shattering the glass ceiling.
We still have a long way to go. But instead of fixating on what is wrong, French voters have acknowledged the progress of the past decades.
Climate change, inequality and racial tensions are not proof that the world is horrible. These issues should motivate us to work harder and to stay informed.
Macron should take fresh, bold steps.
Shaping a post-industrial economy while addressing issues of inequality, greenhouse emissions and public education requires a huge amount of optimism.
Pessimists and traditionalists want to turn back the clock. A shortfall of optimism in liberal democrats has opened the door to Trump-style demagogy, Theresa May-style lies and Le Pen-style rejection.
Because optimism has retreated in public opinion, reforms to protect the environment, curb discrimination, defend seniors’ income, connect nations’ economies and strengthen security are not recognized for the good they have accomplished.
Yet reforms have made the world a better place. Optimists recognize a nation’s faults and, like French voters on Sunday, decide it is time to roll up one’s sleeves. Those full of hope want Macron to take fresh, bold steps.
On May 7, France voted for unity in diversity, for hope, for a new start, for strength.
(The views are the author’s.)
Emma Jouenne is a French national who is in her third year of undergraduate studies at King’s College London, where she is pursuing a degree in European Studies and Spanish. She is interested in foreign affairs, conflict resolution and politics. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree with a focus on how to combat terrorism.