Opinion: Hail to the chief
Political scrutiny of world leaders
President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron at Les Invalides for official ceremonies in July.
President Donald Trump is not the only head of state to experience a recent bout of unfavorable polls. French President Emmanuel Macron's popularity has fallen as well. What central factors are to blame for this trend, and how might they shape these new political landscapes?
The state of the Office of the Executive, while not the most crucial metric by which to measure governmental competency, is frequently perceived as an indicator for a range of national priorities. Objective responsibilities which fall to the chief executives of many democracies include commanding militaries, discussing the allocation of federal budgets and serving as chief diplomat both in foreign and domestic capacities. An executive’s approval has historically been a prominent statistic in assessing public confidence in an elected official as a leader and communicator, as well as a measure of perceived comprehensive public-sector function.
In recent months, several individuals have sustained municipal scrutiny following their elections. According to The Guardian, as of July 2017, France’s newly elected President Emmanuel Macron’s disapproval rested at a modest 43 percent. Macron has undergone increased scrutiny in past weeks concerning several dramatic changes in the structure of French – largely domestic – policy. Macron’s disapproval rating has climbed 15 percent since July, while his American counterpart President Trump has experienced a similar steady decline in approval since taking office at the beginning of the year. Why have these two controversial leaders become particularly unpopular among voters and officials alike? Attempting to answer this question may allow an understanding of the related core issues marring these young administrations.
Current trends in administrative politics, with respect to the United States and France, have shown a tendency by party members in coalition with voters to break with their respective executive’s means of leadership. While the ends (i.e. approval) may appear to correlate, we ought not be so naive as to assume these falling popularities share completely similar origins.
Rather, Macron’s woes stem from bold socioeconomic policy shifts. Whereas, President Trump has suffered criticism concerning his responses to certain events, including the recent Charlottesville protests and general executive inefficiency such as the prospective Affordable Care Act replacement, which has yet to come to fruition. This is in addition to frequent cabinet and staff resignations.
Questions remain regarding both the Macron and Trump administrations’ campaign policy intentions, the means of how such lofty changes – including immigration policy for the United States and long-standing French government assistance regulation – will be employed and implemented. How will party officials, internal and external, carry on as these unpopular men continue their tumultuous terms?
RELATED: Opinion: A plea for roads
It's crucial the details of the administrations’ political adjustments and behaviors be acknowledged, particularly those regarding the semi, or in some instances, complete, defection of former advisers and loyalists.
One such high-profile resignation was French military chief Pierre de Villiers. In a July Sky News report, Villiers is said to have resigned because of €850m ($1 billion) in French defense cuts. In a statement, General de Villiers reiterated his frustration with the prospective cuts. “I no longer feel able to command the type of army that I think necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people.”
President Trump has experienced an even more prolific and often bizarre series of resignations and dismissals, including former press secretary Sean Spicer and former FBI director James Comey, whom the president fired in May.
The defining factor between the two administrations? Their fervent disregard for classical political norms, whether they be professional or superficial. These actions and trends speak to a broader tendency by voters to back unique, bombastic and often controversial figures with the intention of flipping the political status quo. This is a well-documented phenomenon that has attracted the international attention of political scientists and news affiliates alike. Nonetheless, it's uncertain whether these political quasi-movements will prove their stamina or fizzle, remembered as reactions to legislative inefficiency and public distrust of establishment power.
The efforts of the fledgling Trump and Macron presidencies may well form stark and unified bipartisan opposition capable of alienating or even dismantling the already listing administrations’ aims. Is this to claim that presidential impeachment, let alone removal, is eminent on either front? Absolutely not. For the time being, these two individuals will continue to tend to their duties, competently or otherwise.
That said, Macron has overseen a building coalition of representatives opposed to his budgetary aims, many of which include sweeping spending cuts to social programs and defense, unpopular among many along the political spectrum. Further, these cuts are a risky maneuver for a candidate elected on a semi-socialist, “centrist” platform, even if they are fiscally necessary. Despite having championed reformed social policy on the campaign trail, the voter mindset tends to shift once, for instance, public housing assistance distribution stops.
President Trump faces even greater unpopularity. There is burgeoning opposition in Congress from an already bitter left and a right weary of the president’s continually impromptu or erratic behavior, unchanged since the campaign to the chagrin of Republican hold-outs waiting for a refined Trump who never arrived. More concretely, Trump’s structural and administrative priorities are forthcoming; that is, work is in fact being done, yet in a characteristically scrambled or rash manner. Some of those initiatives include the Affordable Care Act replacement, Afghanistan strategy, the infamous border wall and, chiefly, the recent flared tensions with the North Korean regime. The consequences of executive neglect with respect to Congress and its members may result in further internal GOP disregard for President Trump’s early attempts at legislative cooperation.
It's not unforeseeable that a refreshed Republican party will take it upon itself to ensure vital legislation is passed in spite of party infighting. A recent example was the case between the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell concerning health care reform.
The exceptional political moment at which we now stand has been brought about by the circumstances of the past several decades. Wars, legislative gridlock, corruption, terrorism and debates of national identity have brought many democracies to these uncharted waters. It is critical that we, as patriots and civic leaders, continue to responsibly oversee the powers of authority. The United States and France, among other republics, are nations of citizens just as we are nations of laws. Through the midst of sensational media, political flippancy and misleading rhetoric, it's critical that the bearers of our experiment in democracy at home and abroad calmly and competently see that the nation presses on.
Follow Eric Roshak on Twitter