Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer is a writer, translator, and Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard. He blogs at French Politics. Follow him on Twitter: @artgoldhammer.

Recent Articles

France Chooses a New President

The 2017 presidential race in France has already produced one major upset and may yet see several others before a new president is chosen in May. Whatever happens, the Fifth Republic is no longer the regime Charles de Gaulle conceived in his own image nearly 60 years ago. Nor is the Socialist Party the force that François Mitterrand conceived in his own image a decade and a half later. The end of an era has arrived.

AP Photo/Francois Mori
AP Photo/Francois Mori The shadows of former French Prime Minister and left-wing candidate Manuel Valls are seen during his speech at a campaign press conference in Paris, Tuesday, January 3, 2017. F rance is in the throes of choosing a new president. The race, though short and cheap by American standards, has become more American in recent years. For the first time ever, both major parties will choose their candidates by primary. The mainstream center-right Republican Party has already had its primary, and the upset winner was François Fillon, a 62-year-old former prime minister who races cars for a hobby but could pass for an undertaker or a parson. He surprised everyone by handily defeating the favorite Alain Juppé, another former prime minister, as well as former President Nicolas Sarkozy, in November of last year. Now it’s the turn of the center-left Socialists. Unlike the Republicans, the Socialists have taken the primary route before, in 2007 and 2012. But this time their...

Interregnum

Can Donald Trump govern the United States as he presided over The Apprentice? The president-elect brings his genius for cruelty and delight in humiliating competitors to the White House.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci Supporters of Donald Trump wait for his arrival to a rally at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. A merican interregnums are often peculiar times, but none has ever been more peculiar than this one. As autumn subsides into winter, much of the country lies in the grip of a paralyzing chill. Democracy is under threat as never before. Each day brings a fresh report of a high-level nomination by the president-elect, and each new nomination strengthens the impression that Mr. Trump is determined to create a kakistocracy , a government of the worst. Trump has yet to be sworn in, yet a train of fawning nominees, CEOs, and financiers are vying for the boss’s ear and eye as though auditioning for The Apprentice . And the boss himself seems unable to tell the difference between the low-brow entertainment he used to peddle and the high-stakes arena in which he is now competing. Upon being elected president of the United States, an ordinary mortal might declare...

Will Marine Le Pen Become France’s Next President?

Next spring’s French presidential contest is shaping up as a battle between the right and the far right. Will a majority coalesce around the right-wing candidate to keep the far right out of power as in 2002? Will a viable challenger emerge on the left? Don’t bet on it. The world has changed, and so has the Front National.

AP Photo/Christophe Ena
AP Photo/Christophe Ena French far-right leader Marine le Pen makes a statement on the presidential election in the United States on November 9, 2016, in Nanterre, outside Paris. Y esterday, François Fillon won the primary of the French Republican Party (Les Républicains, known as LR). As I predicted last week, Fillon handily eliminated his lone remaining rival, Alain Juppé, by a margin of 2-1. How does this stunning victory affect the handicapping of next spring’s presidential election? The short—and perhaps surprising—answer is that it makes the election of the Front National’s Marine Le Pen more likely. I will explain why in a moment. But first a word about Fillon. He served as France’s prime minister throughout all five years of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency. The two men could hardly be more different in style. Brash, flashy, and in-your-face, Sarkozy wears a watch worth tens of thousands of dollars, a gift from his supermodel wife (the third of a trio). He cusses out hecklers and...

In France, Another Stunning Election Upset

Former Prime Minister François Fillon crushes the opposition in the first round of the primary for the presidential nomination of the center-right Republican primary. The winner of the runoff could well become France’s next president—if he can beat Marine Le Pen.

Bernard BISSON/JDD/SIPA/1505311317 (Sipa via AP Images)
Bernard BISSON/JDD/SIPA/1505311317 (Sipa via AP Images) Former Prime Minister François Fillon. A fter the major earthquake of Brexit, 6.5 on the Richter scale, and the megaquake of Trump, at least 7.5, the results of yesterday’s “primary of the right and center” in France have to count as a minor aftershock. Yet even this small tremor is potentially an ominous sign that the tectonic plates of politics in the major Western democracies are still shifting about unpredictably, with major changes in the landscape still to come. What happened yesterday is this: François Fillon, who served as prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012, defeated his former boss along with five other candidates in the first round of the primary to choose the candidate of the center-right Republican party. The upset was stunning, because for most of the campaign, polls had shown Fillon running fourth in the field behind favorite Alain Juppé, also a former prime minister (under Jacques Chirac),...

The Evil Demons of Our Nature

From Lincoln to Trump: Are we witnessing an irrevocable change in the American soul or a temporary warp in the “arc of the moral universe,” which will someday again “bend toward justice”?

AP Photo/John Bazemore
AP Photo/John Bazemore Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Bentonville, Arkansas. H ow often since Lincoln uttered the phrase in his First Inaugural Address have politicians exhorted us to heed “the better angels of our nature”? Rote repetition has drained the words of their original intent, which was to remind Americans that the national soul, far from being unalloyed, is rather an inextricable compound of good and evil. We have our better angels, but we also have our evil demons, which many who ritually invoke Lincoln’s message would rather forget. Sometimes the demons win out, as they did in 1861, even as Lincoln tried to calm his “dissatisfied fellow-countrymen.” The new president knew that malign spirits were on the verge of carrying the day. The “momentous issue of civil war,” he warned, was not in his hands but in the hands of those who bitterly opposed him. Passion had “strained … the bonds of affection” that bound the country together, but he still hoped a final break might...

Pages