Serge Desprat- 14th November, 2018 (Prague)
Serge Desprat- 14th November, 2018 (Prague)
Dear Partners in thought,
If I may I would suggest seven take aways for the recent midterms as follows:
1. Many Americans still support DT, definitely among GOP and conservative voters and thus vote GOP for reasons of their own very often not especially liking the man but supporting his policies and not usually seeing their impact on the world (and sadly onto the US and them)
2. DT and the GOP retain control of most red states but waver in some states which propelled DT to the White House. Not a good sign for DT
3. DT and the GOP are losing the affluent suburbs and gradually the women’s vote nation-wide. Not a good sign for DT
4. The GOP only kept control of and increased their seats in the Senate because of the particular seats on offer (the one third of the Senate to be renewed) these midterms. Bad timing if there was ever one
5. Although the Dems scored a major House victory that was not a foregone conclusion together with seizing a few Governorships, theirs was weakened by “symbolic” defeats especially with the short one in Florida (Governorship) but also in Texas (even if O’Rourke did far better than ever expected, all the more as it seemed he could win early on as votes were counted, creating a hope that was that night, quite late, shattered) and the (still?) unsettled status of the top Georgia race (Governorship)
6. The DT press conference yesterday, putting aside any peculiar style, was Orwellian in nature where “defeat” was simply “victory” in what is becoming a gradually accepted norm
7. While DT is actually heavily weakened on a nationwide basis (excellent side analysis of Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe today), a sure way for him is to benefit from a radicalised Democratic Party and House that would focus on investigations and impeachment proceedings over the next two years which may likely bring the political process to a standstill, allowing DT to do more finger pointing come 2020. And potentially win.
I know I am partial but I encourage you to read the excellent analysis of Ed Luce and his Insights in the FT on what is happening and may happen in American politics and after the midterms. Great insights and style indeed.
Serge Desprat- 8th November, 2018 (Prague)
Dear Partners in thought,
Having been born and raised in Paris in the land of Descartes, I like to think things always came naturally with some degree of clarity and logics to me (I hear some laughs), even if I was likely delusional and some of my countrymen arguably could not spell the philosophers’ name at various points of our history. As such, I thought it would be good to draw up a clear and Cartesian list of what most “men and women of good will” would object with DT as President of what is still and not fully yet was the leader of the free world. Strangely enough, while we are subjected daily to a deluge of DT news, usually worrying, I found very little by way of a summary that would show a full picture of why DT does not work for America and the world. Here is an attempt at a list that would have the merits of simplicity and clarity.
There are obviously two main “issue” areas to look for: personal and professional but as the two are rather intertwined in that type of role you will forgive me for doing just one list that will include both.
In order to be fair, I think it is good to state DT’s positive features (or perceived as such), that are very key to his core electoral base:
To be fair I am now at a loss to find other key redeeming features, hoping I do not fall into any partisan mindset (a hard one for sure considering the subject at hand…)
Looking at the negatives, the list sadly is a bit longer and heavier in substance:
It’s so good to review those points and, let’s admit it, frankly therapeutic. The list, though it claims to be definitive, may not be complete even if a good attempt at capturing the full picture. I have also tried to be fair and am aware that I can only come across as hard on DT. There must be a reason would surely say…Descartes.
Serge Desprat- 31st July, 2018 (Prague)
Dear Partners in thought,
While I was much looking for a friendly Waterloo rematch and regardless of who wins the World Cup on Sunday, we know two things. The World Cup winners are Russia which did a great organisation of the event and also surprised on the field. And the other big winner is…the EU, with the four last teams standing being member states, still including England, if not the UK.
Thinking about this, I wanted to address a very sensitive matter in some quarters of Europe and of course Britain…”Why the EU matters”.
Having gone to bed listening to the early Gibraltar results, I woke up in disbelief at the news that Britain had voted at 52% to leave the EU back in late June 2016, more than two “long” and “painful” (for my British friends) years ago. It was hard to comprehend why a majority of otherwise very sensible British people went into the bloodiest self-inflicted wound in British history, at least from my European vantage point.
One could see that facts were scarce during the campaign (on both sides, though the additional GBP 350m a week to the National Health Service got the Oscar) and emotions ran high, with immigration and globalisation being key at the time, also due, for the former, to the shock of the great migration crisis and the erstwhile open door policy of Germany that looked for demographic solutions, also driven by the inner generosity of its leader. Without going back into details, it is fair to say that populism, with its easy answers to complex issues, as well as a return to a glorious, elusive and never directly experienced Victorian past (forgetting the electricity shortages of the 1970s) and part of the elite, notably on the elder well-off and slightly disconnected Tory side going for the imperial way, played major roles in the outcome. For the Remainers, the main question was: How can we best prosper economically as a nation?” while for the Leavers it was: “Who should govern us?”, making for a rather arduous, cross-purpose, conversation. After two years of facts sinking in and a debilitating Brexit process, I now hear from a few hard core Leave supporters that “it does not matter if we are a smaller country if we are sovereign in the end”, the feeling being driven by the leading and essential feeling that Britain somehow had lost its sovereignty to Brussels while the Brussels leadership “could not run a pub”. The fact is that Britain will suffer economically, with many Leave voters on the Labour side, in more economically desolate locations (in part of North England and Wales), will be prime victims, similarly to the core heartland Trump base will if trade wars go on. It is hard to imagine that a country is stronger or simply more viable while poorer. I feel personally very close to Britain, all the more given her stand alone sacrifice during WWII but also the very useful attachment to free markets and capitalism which Europe – and indeed the EU – always benefited from all the years when they were a member state. I would like to dream of ways whereby we could get it back, also for her sake as I deeply care for her.
Having voted No to the Maastricht treaty in 1992, still enamoured of dreams of national glory and basking in a strong Gaullist family past, I can only understand the drive of those who want to be, in their own minds, “who we truly are”. Identity is key and main trigger topics like immigration need to be carefully handled, not because voters are racist, but due to a common heritage that has made nations. However this need to be reconciled with daily historical, social and business reality. The EU is far from being perfect though should be reformed and not discarded to be replaced by one-on-one relations between states. The EU and its predecessors were set up for one main reason that people forget: Peace in Europe. My generation has grown without war on the continent (except in its outskirts like in the Balkans at a vivid transition time), something that should be remembered and is actually not the norm for all past generations. In times of the supremacy of mega-states, like the U.S., China or India and the emergence, albeit slow, of the African continent, Europe can only be strong as a bloc of nations, which its leading global trading status has shown (and even if common defense should be much strengthened, all the more given recent NATO developments). These two facts, added to all the smaller reasons we know, especially in the area of the economy and business (which the British discover daily with the dreadful negotiations process) are simply key. We tend to focus on lofty ideals while forgetting the “essential”, like with the tree and the forest. We can only be strong together, which does not mean a loss of national identity or a Federation even if all forms of togetherness can be reviewed among partners. We also need to explain the EU far better to the people forming it, even those who have greatly benefited from it (Think Poland and other Central European states). We need to take into account real issues like the immigration flood in Italy and not give lessons when we are not at the frontline. But we need to work together and keep peace and prosperity on our continent, putting the sirens of populism at bay through education and communication, avoiding all the suffering and costs of a divorce that can only be messy at all levels and particularly at the human one.
It is clear that there has been a majority in Britain for about nine months that no longer wants to leave, even if the famous “will of the people” may still conceptually prevail and keeps propelling the national ride to hell. It would be useful for the British to vote again, as democracy also means the possibility of changing one’s mind or for Parliament to get involved as it should have more freely in the past two years, if only to vote on the terms of any Brexit, the latter which we all know will be in name only, simply as Reason will prevail. I also believe that the EU should welcome back Britain with open arms and not penalise it for the last two years and wasted time as a clear show of restored unity and focus on the future.
Happy Bastille Day to all!
Serge Desprat – 14th July, 2018 (Boston)
Dear Partners in thought,
Having amply covered DT, directly and indirectly, and just focused on EM, I thought it was fun to see what brings them together and obviously separates them in terms of form, substance and approach both as man and State leader. Having a foot in both countries (and a third one in Central Europe, so still distant if only geographically) I thought I could try doing this quick review for your benefits.
DT and EM look more alike than one would think even if they do not stand for the same values and world ideals.
On where they are today
They are both “improbables”. Both won presidential elections nobody thought they could. They initially had no party nor electoral base (even if DT had more time to build it given the longer primary process).
On their impact on the political landscape
They both transformed their own political landscape, EM by totally redefining it, DT in changing the ethos of the Republican Party that became the Trump Party.
On their social origins
Both share a privileged background in their countries, EM the son of an upper middle class family, DT the son of a successful real estate developer. If anything DT is more the son of his father than EM is, while the latter is definitely a product of the French meritocratic system, enhanced by privileged childhood.
On their personality
They greatly differ. DT’s personal life, involving three marriages, is riddled with extra-marital affairs and a loutish behaviour. EM was married once to his former teacher, 22 years his junior, not known for any affairs and well known for a total respect of women, the latter that drove his drive for gender parity in government and parliament. EM and DT could not be more different in terms of persona.
On their style
They greatly differ. DT speaks mostly about anything for its core base, to cement support and reassure, with little primary regard for actual facts. EM does not communicate much and could explain his policies more, which has been an issue lately though, when he does, focuses on policies that are aimed at reform rather than his political base.
On their view of the world
They greatly differ. DT is a Palmerstonian where one has no permanent friends and only permanent interests, thus projecting a nationalistic policy that no living American can remember. EM is a defender of the Western world and values, believing in Truman’s NSC 68-based order where alliances do matter to ensure a stable world.
What if we dreamed a bit?
Give his profile and values, EM would be a great American President, which would benefit the U.S. and the world would love.
Serge Desprat- July 7th, 2018 (Prague)
Serge Desprat- June 10, 2018 (Prague)