Macron and Trump: Birds of a Feather?

At first glance, the two presidents have nothing in common. One cites philosophers known only to him; the other pours his heart out on Twitter. One knows what he’s talking about; the other swears by Fox News. But upon closer inspection, they are also quite alike.

Both presidents are very much of their time. Take their approach to democracy, for example. Marcon thinks little of the political parties, not even of his own, and speaks directly to the people while acting like an enlightened despot who sees assemblies and intermediary bodies as beneath him. Trump, in the same way, is a practitioner of direct democracy and belongs to no political party. He stands against both Republicans and Democrats, as Macron rejects the left and the right.

Even their economic policies sometimes converge. Of course, Trump says he is against free trade, while Macron supports it provided more safeguards are introduced to protect French interests. But both leaders use fiscal measures to accelerate growth by rolling back taxes for the wealthy to the detriment of the middle classes. These bonuses for the rich in both our countries is based on an unfounded theory — the idea that, with their additional means, the wealthy will invest more in their country and therefore create more general prosperity. However, experience has taught us that this does not work, as the rich simply turn to complex fiscal strategies to avoid paying any taxes at all.

The final trait shared by the French and American presidents is that they govern surrounded by technicians, rather than traditional politicians. Each adheres to his own culture: Trump relies on businesspeople and soldiers, while Macron turns to senior officials from the French Ministry for Finance. But are these affinities superficial? Or rather a sign of long-term changes to our democracies? I personally believe the latter to be true, although I do find Macron far more reassuring than Trump.

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