Culture Magazine

Anomalies of French Life: Loving Obama

By Sedulia @Sedulia

09-01-19-barack-obama

In general I try to avoid politics on this blog, partly because I have relatives and even friends of extreme persuasions in both directions. But I don't think it's controversial to say that President Obama is not overwhelmingly popular in the U.S. right now and is by no means sure of being reelected. [Full disclosure: I voted for him and plan to do so again.] However, the same is not true of France. The French love, or at least loved, Obama, can't understand why anyone would even think of voting for most Republican candidates, and tend to ask about Americans' preferences in a black-or-white way (haha!): if you don't like Obama, it's a dealbreaker. I can only compare it to an ordinary American's finding out that a French person they were meeting was a communist.

Courrier-international1

Part of this is the décalage between the American and French political mainstreams. Sarkozy is quite far to the right in France, and Obama quite far to the left in the U.S.A., but in fact they are very similar in their politics. It's their countrymen who are different. 

Having lived through most of the George W. Bush years in Paris, I must say that the change in atmosphere towards Americans after the election of Obama was remarkable. George W. was so unpopular in France that when he won in 2004, one headline read, "George W. Bush reelected, the French disappointed."

But when Obama won against all French predictions of American racism, an American suddenly went from being persona non grata with many French people (much like the French in the U.S. when they were "cheese-eating surrender monkeys") to being a rather cool person to know. While a lot of his original supporters here have become disillusioned, they still prefer him to Mitt Romney (Mormons are unusual and the religion considered a cult here) or any of the others.

If Obama were running here, he'd do just fine.


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