PARIS—On a recent evening in Paris’s 10th arrondissement, Cyrille Boulanger, a volunteer for French President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche (On the Move) movement, was out ringing doorbells. An En Marche pin fastened to the front of his jacket, stacks of questionnaires loaded in his arms, and a broad grin stretched across his face, he went door-to-door, greeting residents with an upbeat “Good evening, madame!” or “Good evening, monsieur!” He explained that he had come not to sell them anything or recruit them, but to ask for their views on Europe and the European Union. With Macron leading the conversation about EU reforms and next spring’s European Parliament elections approaching, the topic is a top priority for both him and his organization. Boulanger described this nationwide effort as “part of the DNA of En Marche, and [that it is] something that has never been done by any other party before.”
Last May, Macron was elected president of France with the help of En Marche, his upstart, grassroots-fueled political organization. Vowing to wipe out the French political establishment, Macron bet, correctly, that a message centered around transcending traditional political divisions would resonate. Yet now, En Marche, which has rebranded as La République En Marche (LREM), or “The Republic on the Move,” is no longer the feisty upstart. (It continues to reject the label of political party, and still refers to itself as a “movement”.) Macron’s call for ambitious EU reforms faces resistance in Brussels and Berlin, and his sweeping overhaul of France’s rail system has prompted nationwide strikes. This has left LREM to grapple with the question of what role an insurgent political operation should play when its leader and all its top officials have effectively become the new establishment.