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For decades now, the French have been voting with lasers, not to bring to the presidency of the Republic someone to whom they really wish to entrust the power to act on their destiny, but to remove those who seem to them the worst choices. Hence their immediate disaffection with the elected representative, whom they did not really want; and the permanent search for something better, something different.

Always in vain: because the power over things is no longer with the Elysée.

If, at least until François Mitterrand, political power was still very much there, it has gradually disintegrated. By the combined effects of cohabitation; by the intrinsic limitations of a mandate reduced to five years; and by the systemic reductions of the countless previous attributes of the executive: Thus, it no longer has monetary power (because of the euro), industrial power (because there is almost no public sector left), power over regional planning (because of decentralisation); and power in countless other areas whose competences have been surreptitiously passed to committees that were initially consultative, and then became High Authorities or Agencies, extremely jealous of their independence.

All that is left to the executive is defence, police, justice, education, health and social transfers. And even then, under terrible constraints. The time is over when an all-powerful political power, or at least an ultra-powerful and competent administration, could embark on structuring economic and social projects.
Too many French people still act as if they believed that elections were important; they are amused by the grandiloquent invective and derisory polemics that agitate the small political scene. And many of them continue, as “resigned reclaimers” no longer hoping for major reforms, to ask only for themselves a greater share of the national wealth.

There are still too few of them who have understood that they are alone and that the future depends on them much more than on their elected representatives; that if the school is going badly, it is largely because of the parents, teachers and pupils, and not only because of the programmes; that if the health system is going badly, it is not only because of the carelessness of the Ministry for the past 30 years, but also largely because of the lack of hygiene and sport, a disastrous diet, and the waste and failures of French research; that if integration is going badly, it is not only because of the insufficient means of public policies, but also because the richest refuse to accept to share their schools with the children of other social classes; that if our external deficit is so catastrophic, it is not only because of a non-existent industrial strategy, but because of the fault of a whole society incapable of producing what it wants to consume.

Most of the power has shifted to the market, to the companies that produce and dictate what we consume, and to the financial institutions that choose who has the right to be financed…

All this can only precipitate the French decline.

Some of those who have understood this have concluded that there is nothing more to expect from this country, and, after having shamelessly accepted to have their studies paid for by the taxes of their fellow citizens, and after having gorged themselves on subsidies, they fly away, fortune almost made, to live elsewhere on the fruits of their labour and that of the French taxpayers.

Others have understood that the impending catastrophe can only be avoided by acting together, before it is too late. They have understood that our life expectancy does not only depend on the budget of the ministry, but also on our physical and dietary behaviour; that the quality of education depends largely on the way we fulfil our role as parents, grandparents and students; that the safeguarding of our democracy depends on the daily courage of each one not to lower his eyes in front of those who threaten it, and to defend its values and principles, including that of secularism; and that national solidarity also depends on the way each one of us reaches out to others.
A presidential campaign should therefore be much more than the choice of a passing person to occupy an increasingly symbolic post. It should above all be an opportunity to reflect in depth on the nat

ion we want to leave to our children, on what each of us must do, on a daily basis, in every dimension of our lives, to be worthy of the magnificent country we have inherited and to prepare ourselves to pass it on.

Civilisations do not die from the stupidity of leaders, but from the cowardice of peoples. We still have all the means to avoid it. All we need is intelligence and courage.