Author: Nicholas Dungan, nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative, associate research fellow of the French Institute for International and Strategic Relations, and an adjunct faculty member of Sciences Po Paris.

Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged that he has not succeeded in reconciling the French people and their leaders in other words, himself. Macron’s approval ratings stand at an all-time low with over seventy percent of French people not expressing confidence in his leadership. Even if he has recently attempted to change his tone, the problem is not a communications problem, it a problem of political positioning. Fixing this entails a shift in political emphasis from himself as the protagonist to the French people not as the objects but as the subjects of policy.  This means attacking France’s structural ills: unemployment, vocational training, the university system, productivity, work ethic, economic growth, competitiveness. The cool entrepreneurial scene in Paris, making France a ‘start-up nation’ won't compensate for not addressing the problems of real people in stagnant jobs who have trouble making ends meet.

Macron needs now to design a strategy of influence that will allow him to successfully woo the French people making them understand that he cares about them, not that they should care about him. Like any strategy, this involves an unbiased realistic assessment, followed by determination of a set of objectives, the design of a plan, then its implementation and, continuously thereafter, measurement of its impacts and consequent course adjustments. Only if Macron succeeds in a strategy of influence with the French people, a strategy based on addressing their problems as they see them, a strategy rooted in a ruthless sense of reality, will he have the full credibility required to make France genuinely great again in the wider world.


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