NRO has a powerful (and extensive) post-mortem on the French election. Here's a tidbit to whet your appetite:
First, the Gaullist exception in both the domestic field and in international affairs has finally been done away with. Domestically, Gaullism has been terrible for the Right. In France, after 1945, the figure of General de Gaulle singlehandedly prevented the consolidation of a powerful and durable Christian-Democratic party as arose in Germany or Italy and as existed in Britain. Even after de Gaulle’s retirement, his legacy prevented the often-attempted establishment of a conservative, right-of-center party. This fragmented the center and the Right, and forced a general shift to the center. The Right was softened, which in turn enabled the rise of an uncouth ultra-right in the form of Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose National Front took a large part of the conservative electorate.The summary, of course, ties it all together:
Furthermore, de Gaulle essentially established a pact with the Communist party, which paralyzed the political landscape: Against an erratic coalition of Gaullists and Communists, it was virtually impossible to effect significant change. For the better part of fifty years, the Communist-dominated unions were like a lead balloon burdening the body politic, a powerful lobby on behalf of corporatist status quo.
No figure comparable to that of Mrs. Thatcher ever rose to break the back of the unions, no figure remotely comparable to that of Ronald Reagan ever appeared to free the political system from the poisonous legacy of Gen. de Gaulle. Sarkozy’s ascent represents the consolidation of a genuine right-of-center force in French politics and the final vanquishing of the Gaullist exception.
The exceptions of Gaullism, the Communist party, and Le Pen have been fatally weakened or eliminated altogether. The French body politic is ripe for a thoroughgoing reshuffle, and this is what will occur now. A new, post-Gaullist conservative pole will take shape around Sarkozy. Should the new president go to the country to acquire the parliamentary majority he needs, he would consolidate a five-year majority for himself, enabling him to implement what priorities he will select, which, if the campaign is any indication, will represent a pro-market inflection (not revolution) in the étatist policies of the French state.There's lots of meat between those two excerpts, too.
The Socialist party will be torn by defeat, by the exhaustion of the ’68 generation, by the failure of the post-’68 (Ségolène Royal’s) generation to capitalize on even as calamitous a 12-year legacy as that of the pseudo-conservative Chirac. The moderate, more Social-Democratic types in the Socialist party have been signaling their willingness to deal with the center: Former Socialist government minister Bernard Kouchner, founder of the “French Doctors,” is now talking of joining François Bayrou’s new Centrist (Christian-Democratic) party. Claude Allègre, renowned geophysicist (and noted global-warming skeptic) and a former Socialist minister of Education, was spotted leaving Sarkozy’s offices a few days ago.
The grip of the “Sixty-Eighters” (soixante-huitards) on the political and cultural establishment and the complete connivance between Gaullists, Communists, and ’68ers on anti-American, anti-Israeli, anti-Christian, pro-Arab, pro-Muslim, pro-Russian, and pro-“third world” policies has now been seriously weakened. In his campaign, Sarkozy emphasized national identity and cultural roots (Judeo-Christian, Catholic, French, and Western) — subjects that drive the Left into fits of rage. The ’68ers idolized cultural relativism and multiculturalism; the new president has no sympathy for their shibboleths. The virtues he stresses and the vices he attacks have nothing in common with the worldview of the ’68ers.
With the end of its persistent and toxic “exceptions,” from the so-called French social model to the conceit of French international leadership, and with a new chief executive unburdened by these follies, France will join again the ranks of reasonably governed nations. Good news for the French, good news for us.