The one campaign promise that Donald Trump has fulfilled as President is to be “different” from his predecessors.
From the first moments of his Inaugural Address in which he openly disrespected some of the guests at the ceremony to his recent broadscale attacks on top managers at the Justice Department, FBI and CIA, Donald Trump has been beyond “different.” He’s been unique. We’ve never had a President remotely like him.
Alas, none of this seems to represent “difference” in a good way.
Across the Western world, rejection of the passing generation’s set of national leaders has produced a lineup of wannabe successors whose calling card is that they, too, are very “different” from the people they intend to replace. The flamboyant white supremacist Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the former comedian Beppe Grillo in Italy, the radical Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont start and finish their appeals to voters with a declaration, “I’m not like those other politicians.”
Of course, the worst thing to be said of all of them –is that that ARE like the politicians they despise – they are big talkers, whose big difference is the recklessness and bitterness and bigotry of their talk, but whose terrible sameness is in their unfulfillable promises…from Trump’s 2000 mile wall to Puigdemont’s uncontested secession from Spain.
Of course, if these folks had a magic mirror and asked it, who’s the most different of us all, the face that would appear would likely be that of French President Emmanuel Macron. In a country with a long history of well-defined ideological political parties of the left, center and right, Macron refused all such characterizations, running as a wild card, less a politician than a political scientist, whose training and passion were for making government work.
Once elected President he picked a Cabinet containing people from right, center and left backgrounds, and created a new party whose only ideological orientation seems to be, follow the leader.
And, very different from his recent predecessors in the French Presidency, Emmanuel Macron has actually started fulfilling his campaign promises. His first target…one that conventional French politicians had rated tough to impossible to achieve, has been reforming France’s Labor laws. So far, that reform has tilted right…making it easier for French companies to get rid of employees…while re-training programs for the laid-off workers look to be at least a year or two short of functioning.
But, observers say, some big-time employers seem to be responding not just with layoffs, but with fresh investment and new jobs.
On another once inconceivable reform in Macron’s plans, cleaning up unemployment insurance, Macron’s proposed balance for cracking down on people who use unemployment payments to avoid work is extending jobless payments to thousands of workers not presently eligible. Both the yin and the yang on this reform are still just promises. But no one doubts President Macron takes them seriously and probably has the votes to get them done.
As the French famously say, “Vive le difference.”
Angela Charlton has worked in the Paris Bureau of the Associated Press (AP) since 2006 and been Bureau Chief since 2010. In 2016, she won an Oliver S. Gramling Award, the highest internal honor of The Associated Press. Angela moved to Russia in the early 1990s and spent most of the ensuing decade in the former Soviet Union working as a journalist. She was the Moscow correspondent for the Associated Press for six years, before moving to Paris. She also studied in St. Petersburg and worked in Kiev.