Foreigners are fascinated by French President Emmanuel Macron. And why shouldn’t they be? He’s the youngest-ever president of the French Republic, elected with no party and no previous electoral experience, a virtual nobody just two years before he leaped to the forefront of the French political scene. Of course people are curious.
But there’s another reason my non-French friends bombard me with questions about my president. Like myself, most of them have advanced degrees and upper-middle-class backgrounds. This sort of socioeconomic status correlates strongly with affection for Macron.
His views mirror those held by most of this “elite” class. He thinks the left-right divide should be transcended. He doesn’t care about outworn ideologies, but about solutions that work, wherever they come from. He thinks startups are cool and the economy should be generally entrepreneurship-friendly, but he also wants some sort of welfare state. He’s got no problem whatsoever with gay marriage. He believes immigration is desirable for both economic and moral reasons.
But he doesn’t just think like an elite. He embodies many elites’ idealized lifestyle. He did very well academically (but not too well, having failed the entrance exam to the ultra-prestigious ENS civil service school), in a way that suggests some depth of mind (master’s degree in philosophy), but also practical success (ENA’s graduates run the country’s public and private sectors), because come on, how many people actually want to be philosophers? * He did very well in investment banking, but not too well. His marriage to a much older woman who was once his drama teacher is socially transgressive to just the right degree. He’s handsome, but not too handsome.