After They've Seen Paree

April 14, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Remember “freedom fries”? The phrase was part of the spirit of France-bashing that the Bush administration and its friends in the media whipped up six years ago. France and other European countries were saying that invading Iraq might not be such a nifty idea. They even voted against it in the U.N.

The Bushies sure showed them who was right.

The Republicans still use France and Europe as synonyms for various forms of political wickedness. We Americans, they say, don’t want a “European-style” health care system (i.e., one that delivers health care at a lower price to all its people).

But the Americans-don’t-like-France idea is largely a figment of the right-wing imagination. These Republicans are speaking for a smaller and smaller portion of the US population. The Daily Kos poll recently asked the “favorable/unfavorable” question, and it turns out it’s not just us liberal, urban, coastal elitists who have a soft spot in our hearts for France.

QUESTION: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable
opinion of the country of France?


France is well-liked everywhere . . . except the South. The pattern was nearly identical when the places in question were not France but, respectively, Europe, New York, and San Francisco.

It looks as though what Sarah Palin referred to as “the real America” is merely one region of America. And if recent voting patterns in Virginia, North Carolina, and Missouri are any indication, that region is shrinking. Tant pis.


brandsinger said...

Professor Jay, this is liberal self-delusion at its most delightful. France turned right at the last election, did you notice? The new leader Nick. Sarkozy is a champion of DUTY and FAMILY and COUNTRY, unlike the leftists who were in power during most of the Bush years. Sarkozy gained strong support from voters worried about the cultural and civic threat of immigrants. So being "favorable" to France today is being "favorable" to values you and the Daily Kos doubtless find abhorrent. Tant pis pour vous, mon vieux. Quant a moi, j'aime les Francais beaucoup -- surtout aujourdui sous le sagesse de Sarkozy.

Jay Livingston said...

We don't really know what the people were responding to. Specific policies under Sarkozy? Maybe, but I doubt it. More probably, people are offering a global impression of what me might call the "brand." After all, if conservative French policies are driving US reactions, and if Sarkozy's policies are inimical to us effete Northeastern and California liberals, the stats should have been reversed. The South should have been loving France, and Northeast and West should have hated it. But it was the other way round.

As for Sarkozy's sagesse, while you are able to perceive it, it is far less visible to the people in his own country. His approval ratings were down there in Bush territory, under 40%, with more than half the people saying they just don't trust him. His approval is slightly higher this month (43%) but on either side of the Atlantic, your teams aren't exactly winning hearts and minds.