Riding the crest of a record eighty-five percent turn out in France, Conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy shocked Lefties everywhere with a stunning victory in the French presidential runoff. Sarkozy, who is the first French presidential candidate in over two decades to describe himself as a true conservative, pulled off what many consider to be an unset victory over Socialist Segolene Royal and immediately vowed to take France in a new direction.
During the campaign, Segolene staked out her extreme anti-American position by saying she would refuse to shake President George Bush's hand if given the chance. She had hoped her hard line stance toward the United States over the war on terror, including the war in Iraq would carry her over the top. However, a majority of French voters appeared ready for France to demonstrate a new attitude toward the U.S. According to exit poles, a surprising forty-nine percent of blue collar workers, normally reliable leftist voters, chose Sarkozy. The inability of France to strike a balance between guaranteed employment for workers and overall job productivity may have been the motivating factor for many of these voters. Those who have jobs in France are protected by strong unions but the unemployment rate stands at 8.3 percent. France has a mandatory work week of just 35 hours coupled with laws that make it virtually impossible to fire someone for a lack of productivity. Sarkozy has promised reforms in both areas.
Immigration issues also loomed large in the election with Sarkozy taking a relatively hard line on immigrants. Under former president Jacques Chirac, France erupted in several weeks of violent protests led by immigrants that included car burnings and violence against French police. Sarkozy has promised an immigration policy "that is going to be controlled" and a development policy "that is going to be ambitious."
Speaking of improving France's strained relations with the United States Sarkozy said he wanted to tell his "American friends that they can rely on our friendship…France will always be next to them when they need us." The new tone was moderated only by a call for the United States to go from blocking United Nations proposals on global warming to setting an example of enthusiastic support for global warming initiatives for the rest of the world.
Though Jacques Chirac was part of the conservative party in France, his leadership has been characterized by a love of socialism. Sarkozy's election is good for France, good for the United States, and good for the world. It is always good when people reject the idea of the nanny state in favor of government reforms that call for individual responsibility and accountability. France will most certainly not move sharply to the right and it may not move at all unless Sarkozy's victory can be translated into the pick up of conservative seats in the French legislature. Elections for those seats are scheduled for June 10 and 17. Failure to win a majority in the legislature by Sarkozy's UMP party would result in a stalemate that would greatly hamper any proposed reforms.
But having said that, Sarkozy's victory means socialism will be forced to retreat to some degree in France. Anytime a free society rejects socialism for even a slightly more democratic form of leadership it is a good day for all democratic forms of government. When you couple Sarkozy's win with the victory of Angela Merkel as Chancellor in Germany you have a strong sign that Western Europe's love affair with socialism may be starting to wane. Chancellor Merkel is also considered to be pro-American and she is a strong advocate for reforms in Germany that would take that nation away from the welfare state mentality. It seems at the very moment in history where Americans are looking to the left for big government solutions to national problems Europeans are growing tired of their countries being ruled by run away bureaucracies.
Commenting what the loss means for the Socialist party in France, Socialist Bernard Kouchner called for his party to stop courting the far-left and move more toward the center. Kouchner said, "We have to change our formatting, our ways of thinking on the left." Democrats in this country were able to win control of the both the House and the Senate this past November by capitalizing on voter frustration with the war in Iraq and by fielding candidates who took mostly conservative positions on many national issues. It remains to be seen if voters in this country will wake up to the same destructive tendencies of Socialism and reject the far left agenda in November of 2008.
Socialism is destructive to any society because it lulls people into a sense of apathy and complacency and removes any incentive for hard work and creativity. It also blunts the biblical principle of individual accountability and responsibility. The extreme type of socialism which drives the ideology of the extreme left in American politics is really little more than Communism without walls and tanks in the streets. As we move through the political process toward electing a new president, may we see the failed socialism of France and Germany and the people's rejection of it's bondage as both a wake call and an inspiration to restore true conservative leadership.
Dr. Tony Beam is Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.