From the 27 January edition of Daniel Mermet’s Là-bas si j’y suis. Translated by David Broder. Based on French transcript.
Frédéric Lordon: Well, the upcoming elections… There is something weird. For me, the prospect of this election awakens very mixed feelings. Very contradictory feelings.
I should say that as the years have come and gone — and it is a while since I stopped voting — I have truly come to consider the Fifth Republic’s institutions’ electoral pantomime as something empty, a dead end.
And from a certain point of view, what happened with Nuit Debout was the expression of this same frame of mind. Playing the game within these institutions is either a game lost in advance, or an entirely senseless one. And the only political question…
While many of us are still reeling from Donald Trump’s unlikely presidential victory in November, best-selling author Naomi Klein argues that it is precisely during times of shock — the disorientation that follows a disastrous event for which we have no preexisting narrative — that we are most vulnerable to interests that would exploit our need for answers. Our first step, Klein contends, is to find our footing, find our narrative, and find the common threads that connect our movements.
Since Donald Trump’s electoral defeat of Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, liberal commentary has fixated on the problem of identity politics. Like the incessant tonguing of a sore tooth, this fixation locates a problem but doesn’t address it. It doesn’t even analyze it. It tells us nothing about the appeal of identity, attachments to it, investments in it. At best, liberal commentary (such as has appeared in the New York Times) repeats conservative criticisms of political correctness, glossing them with erudite condescension.
Clinton’s most prominent campaign slogan was “I’m with Her.” The “I” in the slogan is the voter. The “Her” is Clinton. The slogan is the voter’s statement that they are voting not specifically for Clinton but for a woman. The voter is the kind of person to whom gender matters, whose vote is one that is first and foremost a vote for gender justice — it’s her turn. Men have been president; it’s time for a woman. The slogan tells us something about what the voter values, about who the voter is as a person. About the candidate the slogan tells us only her gender. The candidate’s gender is what is most distinctive, most politically salient, about her.
According to Hillary Clinton, her defeat was caused by two interventions by James Comey, Director of the FBI. The first, eleven days before the election, announced the discovery of a new trove of emails. The second, two days before it, stated that they did not change his original view that Clinton should not be indicted. This explanation is reminiscent of historians who say that World War One would not have occurred if the Serbian carriage driver had continued past the pub in which the Archduke’s assassin was sitting. It erects a minor factoid into an explanation, at the cost of thinking historically and structurally about an epochal event.