Through two strains of nationality, birth and parent, I have dual citizenship in France and the United States. I was born in Paris. My mother was French and my father, an American who fought in France in World War II, declared me at the U.S. Embassy in Paris after my birth. As a result, I am a citizen of both nations and registered with the French consulate here in Los Angeles.
So in the lead-up to the French election on Sunday, I received via email one long message from each candidate full of policy positions. By regular mail, I received a fat packet that showed where my polling station was, and a double-sided foldout (four pages) from each of the 11 candidates.
In addition, the leading national paper Le Monde set up a web page that set out the issues in short form, accompanied by little headshots and a two- or three-word summary of where they stood on each issue.
Candidate Marine Le Pen, for example, wanted to se rapprocher, get closer, to Russia. Emanuel Macron adopted une position ferme, a firm stance, toward Russia.
The whole of the emails, the packet and the newspaper analysis provided an overriding impression that the French political and news establishments really want the people to vote and want it to be with a full tank of information.
I compared that with the steps I need to take here at home to vote in local and national elections. My polling place has moved at least five times and its location is not provided by mail, email or otherwise.
You can easily find it if you get to the right website. But there are plenty of folks who get confused. My mother in her old age had great difficulty with the internet, flooded as she was by a blizzard of spam every time she tried to sign on to her email.
As far as efforts to become informed on a candidate’s position, I have direct and repeated experience with that search. The employees here at the Pasadena office of Courthouse News get together before each election and discuss the various referendums and the candidates, including those running for judicial positions.
Getting that information requires going to a combination of less-than-complete resources: the California voter’s pamphlet, candidate websites, newspaper interviews, the League of Women Voters website, referendum statements by supporters and opponents, and newspaper endorsements.
But each source is thin, and it takes what is essentially a journalist’s research project to get a pretty good idea of what each candidate stands for, and the intent and effect of any referendums.
As far as email, the communication from the U.S. candidates in the last election seemed less to inform than to ask for money. I became so jaded by the Democratic Party pitches for $5 that I stopped reading the emails.
On the Republican side, the steady campaign to disenfranchise the popular vote by putting in place just enough obstacles to push away those of lesser means has resulted in one judicial ruling after another undoing the measures — while gerrymandered legislatures continue to impose them.
In contrast, the French consulate provided me with a full range of information on a platter. One email — only one — came from each candidate in the week before the election. The 4-page package that came by regular mail was complete and informative.
The Le Monde site was more informative than any similar survey in a domestic newspaper, covering a remarkable range of issues. I was scrolling through the candidate comparison and after about 15 issues I was surprised to see on my scroll bar that I had a long ways to go. There were 80 issues, with candidate positions, in the survey.
They included the size of the French bureaucracy, the “uberization” of work, veils in public, day care, the suffering of animals, compulsory military service, agricultural policy, executive pay, the value-added tax, immigration quotas and much, much more.
After reading my packet and the Le Monde site as well as articles in U.S. newspapers, I called two old family friends in France on Saturday. Both were in favor of Macron, as I was.
Emanuel Macron is a center-left candidate running as an independent and an economic reformer. The rest of the field was split between a center-right candidate beset by a financial scandal, a far-left candidate and the far-right, anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen.
The result on Sunday was closely followed in U.S. newspapers and announced a little before noon here. In France, Le Monde quickly edited its survey of positions down to two candidates, Macron and Le Pen.
The rightist favors departure from the EU and NATO, a return to the French franc and limited quotas for immigrants. The centrist supports a continuation of the euro, membership in NATO but no new members, tightening of border controls and continued support of the European Union.
They both agree on something, though. In the land of wine, they both want to keep in place the prohibition against le cannabis.