January 22, 2009 § Leave a comment
In Le Devoir today, Catherine Côté, who teaches Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, has an interesting piece on the political discourse of Barack Obama and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, entitled “Obama et Sarkozy: Même discours.” In it, she notes the similarity in their campaign trail discourses in the French presidential election of 2007 and the American presidential election of last year. Indeed, even their campaign slogans are remarkably similar. Sarkozy: “Ensemble, tout devient possible.” Obama: “Yes, we can!”
I’ll leave those interested in the article to read it themselves, but I will offer up here a few quotes Côté provides us to compare the two politicians. In the first istance, she compares Sarkozy’s speech eight days before the French election at the palais Omnisport de Bercy, with Obama’s infomercial six days before the American election.
Sarkozy: “Huit jours pour fair de nos rêves une réalité; huit jours pour se lever; huit jours pour bâtir l’espérance dont la France a besoin; huit jours pour dire ce que nous voulons pour nos enfants; huit jours pour dire que la France est un vieux pays qui a tant de choses à dire au monde, à l’Europe; huit jours pour faire du travail, du mérite, de l’effort, de la récompense, de l’humanisme, les valeurs de la République française; huit jours pour que l’avenir soit une espérance; pour convaincre, pour rassembler, pour que tous ceux qui aiment passionément la France nous aident à bâtir la France de renouveau…J’ai besoin de vous, comme jamais un candidat n’a eu besoin du peuple à ses côtés; j’ai besoin de vois, pour être le candidat du peuple de France; j’ai besoin de vous, la victoire est en vous; la victoire sera belle parce que ce sera la vôtre; vive le République et vive la France!”
Obama: “In six days, we can choose an economy that rewards work and creates new jobs and fuels prosperity from the bottom-up; in six days, we can choose to invest in health care for our families, and education for our kids, and renewable energy for our future; in six days, we can choose hope over fear, unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo; in six days, we can come together as one nation, and one people, and once more choose our better history…If you will stand with m e, and fight with me, and give me your vote, then I promise you this: we will not just win North Carolina, we will not just win this election, but together, we will change this country and we will change the world. Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless America!”
Côté does not suggest that Obama is ripping off Sarkozy, but she is arguing that they are making very similar arguments that might seem to stand at odds with what we think of when we think of Obama. Let us not forget that Sarkozy is a conservative, or at least that’s how he was elected, as the candidate for the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, the mainstream right-wing party in France. Côté concludes that: “Dans les deux discours, une même incarnation pour conquérir les coeurs: patriotisme, conservatisme et populisme, une même incantation qui se fait homme.”
Barack Obama as a conservative populist. Hmm.
I would also suggest that there are more similarities between Obama and Sarkozy than their political discourse. Both tout their non-partisan approaches to politics. Indeed, Sarkozy has appointed Socialists to his cabinet. Obama has appointed Republicans to his, though we have yet to see how Obama will work in this sense. But perhaps even more, both are cultural phenomena. Sarkozy, largely because he left his wife, or she left him, and he hooked up with Carla Bruni, the sexy chanteuse. But through Bruni, “Sarko,” became the number one celebrity in France. Indeed, so obssessed did Sarkozy become with his image, he had his buddies in the media airbrush his love handles off him in a photo of him canoeing. It got so bad that last year, the French people began to turn on him because they saw him more as a rock star than a president and there was a sense that he was beginning to do damage to the Office of the President.
Obama, on the other hand, is a rock star of his own accord.
Either way, Côté brings up some interesting points about everyone’s (including mine) favourite American president.