Emmanuel Macron gathered his ministers on Wednesday for a first Council marking the political return of the government. Referring to the climate emergency and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the Head of State expressed concern about a “series of serious crises” and announced to the French the “end of abundance”, adopting a tone of deep gravity. How to interpret this discourse in terms of political communication? Bruno Cautrès, researcher at Cevipof, answered questions from France 24.
The holidays are over for the French government: the Council of Ministers, meeting Wednesday, August 24 at the Elysée, marked the political return of the executive.
This occurs in a national and global climate filled with uncertainties, fueled by the war in Ukraine: record inflation, contraction of the European economy, concerns about energy supplies at the approach of the winter.
So many political puzzles to which is added the climate emergency, even more pressing in France after a summer where droughts, accompanied by gigantic fires, competed with torrential rains.
As a preamble to the Council of Ministers back to school, Emmanuel Macron called on the government for “unity” in the face of the “great shift” marked by the “end of abundance” and that of “recklessness”. In a speech with particularly dark accents, the head of state worried about a “series of serious crises”.
If the new international situation does not encourage optimism, for Bruno Cautrès, political scientist, researcher at the CNRS and Cevipof (the Political Research Center of Sciences Po), the president has made use of methods of communication already tested since his accession to the Elysée.
France 24: What method of political communication do you first recognize in Emmanuel Macron’s speech?
Bruno Cautrès: That of dramatization, especially since this is not the first time that the Head of State has used this tone: he has always had a communication aimed at showing that he is at the rendezvous of historical events of great magnitude. We were able to observe this dramatic communication during the Yellow Vests crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and then the war in Ukraine.
Dramatize makes it possible to give meaning to the National Council for Refoundation, the launch of which is scheduled for September 8 by the executive, which promises a “dialogue” on the overhaul of “major public services”. The logic being the following: if we are going through a serious crisis, refoundation is essential.
Another element of communication to which Emmanuel Macron has accustomed us: the meticulous preparation of his speeches. The president intends to use fairly chiseled formulas, then retained and relayed by the media, which will allow him to position his role in a historical perspective. It is a communication exercise that is meant to be talked about. It works: we are talking about it today.
At the end of the Council of Ministers, Olivier Véran renewed the government’s promises to maintain the tariff shield on energy until the end of the year. Is Emmanuel Macron’s tone a way of preparing minds for the end of these guarantees ?
No, because we went through the Yellow Vests crisis. Among all French political, economic and social actors, everyone knows that France cannot afford the “luxury” of a second Yellow Vests crisis. And for good reason: during the winter of 2018-2019, we came close to a democratic crash by a few millimeters.
In France there is significant tension based on the feeling of an unjust and unequal society. Our surveys at Cevipof indicate that an overwhelming majority of French people feel that they live in an unjust society.
This is why the soaring energy prices that the British are going through, for example, would simply be impossible to pass on to the French.
“Sobriety”, “end of abundance”, predicts Emmanuel Macron. Where did the president go who, in 2020, mocked a certain ecological thought, explaining that “the problems of our time” would not be solved by a return to the oil lamp? ?
Emmanuel Macron has indeed repeatedly positioned himself against the followers of degrowth, arguing that the production of wealth ensures benefits, which allow redistribution, for the benefit of greater social justice.
And the irruption of sobriety in this picture is indeed one of the various contradictions of Emmanuel Macron’s speech, because sobriety rhymes more with decrease than growth.
A more “intelligent” way of producing, taking into account ecological parameters, is part of Emmanuel Macron’s original software… but not sobriety.
This seems to him to be an imperative to ensure the sustainability of our collective energy supply. Given his personal and political trajectory, sobriety has undoubtedly become a short-term goal for him, which he finds difficult to sell to his opinion.
Because what worries it is to bear the cost of the ecological transition and sobriety alone. These fears are fed by concrete questions, such as “How much will I pay my electricity bill?” or “If I am forced to buy a less energy-intensive boiler, will I receive state aid?”
Without answers to these questions, the dramatic tone of Emmanuel Macron’s speech will only reinforce the apprehensions of a society that looks to the future with concern, fearing more – in comparison with other countries – the consequences of the economy. globalized. The French do not need to be made more pessimistic than they are.
Make people fear the worst in order to better avoid it… What if this was Emmanuel Macron’s strategy?
It may indeed be a hypothesis of the president: to explain to the French that times are hard, to then announce to them that they have been “good citizens”, and that “we have arrived there”.
A dialectic already proven, during the vaccination campaign against Covid-19. Laborious at the start of the pandemic, it first left France among the dunces in the rate of vaccination coverage, to then bring it to the top of the international ranking.
Emmanuel Macron had thus said, in essence, to the French: “It was hard, but look, we triumphed over it together.”
We find today the same narrative: that of the effort which makes it possible to demonstrate later that “when we are welded together around fundamental objectives, we manage to triumph over obstacles”.
This narrative is that of the French president from 2017. It is part of the genetic code of macronism.