Donald Trump has put his finger on the challenge facing Emmanuel Macron.
As small town protesters in yellow vests wreak havoc in Paris, Macron is trying to work out how to take the heat out of the situation without compromising his long-term plans for the economy
and the environment. Trump suggested a different approach: ditch your green strategy and give the angry people what they want.
It’s probably a stretch to say Macron now agrees with Trump on climate change.
But he might concede the US president knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the politics of populism.
Trump’s comment highlights an inconvenient truth for Macron: his bold plans to turn around the French economy and lead the fight against climate change will come to nothing unless he can convince voters tempted to don their yellow vests that it’s in their interests in the here and now.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde set out the stakes at an event in Washington.
“Imagine what the world might be look like if we fail to build and adapt,” she said. “We could live in an Age of Anger.”
And so far Macron is failing.
His bold policy initiatives simply rile up small town voters who are suspicious anyway of his metropolitan lifestyle.
His job is safe until 2022. But before then he faces European elections in May and local ballots in 2020 that could see more expressions of rage.
Macron retreated on several of the energy tax hikes included in his plan to make France more green. History shows that most French presidents eventually cave in to protests.