The dictionary defines the word “hate” as “antipathy and aversion towards something or someone whose evil is desired”. In the case at hand, perhaps the definition falls short. Because no French president has aroused such feverish and visceral hatred as Emmanuel Macron. Articles and books have been written about the phenomenon, but it is inexplicable in rational terms. There is simply something about him that hurts millions of citizens.
“I couldn’t tell you why, it’s something that comes from inside me,” says Georges, a farmer from La Corrèze who changes the channel as soon as the president appears on the screen. “I can’t stand that air of superiority and that little smile with which he despises us,” he adds.
Pierre Rosanvallon, Emeritus Professor of Contemporary History at the Collège de France, spoke a few days ago on France Inter public radio about “what happens with Emmanuel Macron”. “It is not the policies developed by Macron that are the cause, although many may criticize them,” he commented. “Something happens with the character, with the person. He embodies something that causes extremely deep rejection. He has an image of distance, of contempt attached to his skin… ”. Rosanvallon praised Macron’s bravery when he confronted someone in the street who called him out or insulted him. “Then he says his magic phrase, ‘I’m going to explain it to you,’ and he starts to unravel arguments, which is fine, the problem is that he doesn’t stop to listen to the other’s arguments.”
Still, it’s hard to understand so much hate. Macron has not been a dire president in the last five years (despite difficulties such as the revolt of the yellow vests, the pandemic, the economic crisis and now the war in Ukraine) and proof of this is that he is the favorite for re-election. For many citizens, Sunday will see if the majority of them represents the best possible option.
On the other hand, Macron’s predecessors have included cocky presidents like Nicolas Sarkozy and less than competent presidents like François Hollande. Both could be capable of bristling the most tempered nerves. And neither of them was re-elected. But when they had to go home, they didn’t provoke nearly as negative feelings as the current president suffers.
The journalists Nicolas Domenach and Maurice Szafran, a classic couple of political investigation, are authors of the book Macron, why so much hate? They consider that the irruption of Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 presidential race (after betraying his boss, François Hollande; without ever having been a deputy or mayor; without belonging to any party until he founded his own; and “with that face of almost beardless young man”) was the beginning of the hate story, fueled by “his know-it-all attitude” and his “insulting youth”.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
In their book, they suggest that his marriage to his former teacher Brigitte, 24 years older (when they started their relationship, Emmanuel was a minor) “perhaps violates some kind of strange and unspeakable taboo in part of French society.” When Emmanuel Macron himself was asked how he explained to himself this fanatical rejection of him by some of his fellow citizens, the president said that he had probably “hurt” many people because of his haste to change things. It was a rational and unsatisfactory explanation.
In the 2017 campaign, the rumor circulated that Macron was homosexual and he denied it with a laugh and without any hint of homophobia. Nicolas Sarkozy took advantage of the malicious rumor to throw a poison dart at the centrist candidate: “It seems to me that Macron is half man and half woman to please everyone.” Perhaps his relative (very relative) androgyny and his occasional outbursts of adolescent petulance fit among the confused causes of hatred.
The green candidate in the first round, Yannick Jadot, gave his own explanation in an interview: “Macron is still an adolescent theater actor, he has plenty of narcissism and lack of sincerity.”
Hissa, a young waitress in a cheap restaurant in Clermont-Ferrand, a left-wing voter (Jean-Luc Mélenchon), justified her abstention in the second round “even at the risk of a victory for Marine Le Pen” by the fact that she did not “swallowed” Macron. “He is a guy,” she argued, “that he never had to face a serious misfortune or a great personal defeat, his life has been easy, from an outstanding student to a high official and from there to the presidency. If they even let him marry his teacher! He cannot know anything about the difficulties that we French face every day. Still, he allows himself to lecture us with that smug air. I don’t drink it! I hate that guy!”
Follow all the international information in Facebook Y Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.
Exclusive content for subscribers
read without limits