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

The French Right Goes Wrong

France’s Republican Party has chosen a new leader, Laurent Wauquiez, who did not hesitate to divide the party in order to conquer it. Now, having expelled his erstwhile comrades of the center-right, he has no alternative but to try to poach voters from the extremist Front National.

On December 10, the card-carrying members of France’s Parti Républicain elected Laurent Wauquiez as their new leader. But the party he hopes to shape into a vehicle for recapturing the French presidency is but a pale shadow of the political machine built by Jacques Chirac and transformed by Nicolas Sarkozy. How did the party that dominated French politics from 1995 to 2012 end up where it is today? One reason for the Republicans’ dilemma is that the incumbent president, Emmanuel Macron, has occupied political territory that the right once claimed as its own. As prime minister he chose a Republican, Édouard Philippe, and two other Republicans, Bruno Lemaire and Gérald Darmanin, were tapped to occupy the top posts at the finance and budget ministries, the key positions in domestic policymaking. In his presidential run Macron eagerly wooed center-right voters left standing at the altar when their preferred candidate, Alain Juppé, was defeated in...

Dredging Memory

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's new documentary is an immemorial tale of men at war, almost Homeric in its directness and simplicity.

AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File
Forty-seven years ago last month I returned from an outpost in the Mekong Delta to graduate school at MIT, from which I had been drafted two years earlier. For the past two weeks I have been dredging up wartime memories, spurred by the epic documentary produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick for PBS. Not that my war bore much resemblance to the war so vividly depicted in the film. The filmmakers devote most of their footage to bloody battles and bloody-minded politicians. The contrast between the two constitutes the moral of their work. They want to honor the soldiers on both sides for the authenticity of their courage and sacrifice, which they contrast with the mendacity of those who send them off to die. “The blood is real,” novelist Tim O’Brien says, leaving the viewer to infer that the rest—the political deception and self-deception, the continuation of the Cold War by other means, the high-flown rhetoric of national liberation and social revolution—was...

Germany Votes

In this year’s federal election, Angela Merkel won a fourth term, but the German far-right achieved its strongest showing since World War II.  

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
This Sunday, September 24, Germans went to the polls to elect a new Bundestag. The preliminary results confirm predictions that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU; and its Bavarian partner Christian Social Union) would come in first, with about one-third of the vote, but this is down about 8 percentage points compared with four years ago. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), led by Martin Schulz, turned in its worst performance since World War II , with just over 20 percent of the vote. The SPD thus becomes the latest victim in the collapse of center-left establishment parties nearly everywhere. In the May presidential election in France, the French Socialists also turned in their worst performance since their founding and have been forced to put their party headquarters up for sale to pay the bills, and of course Democrats in the U.S. lost to Donald Trump. Finishing in third place was the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which rose to...

France and Germany: An Aging Couple Carries On

Merkel and Macron need each other, as emblems of a still vital European center. But can Macron deliver more than symbols, and will Merkel take her foot off Europe’s oxygen hose?

Guido Bergmann/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
This article appears in the Fall 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . It has been a torpid summer in Europe. Five hundred eighty people died in France in a freakish June heat wave, and Corsica recorded historic high temperatures in August. Yet the political climate has cooled noticeably since the previous winter of discontent. Last winter, it seemed possible that the far right could sweep to power in France, while Germany’s hitherto invincible chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to be facing a serious challenge from a resurgent Social Democratic Party (SPD) led by Martin Schulz. The Brexit vote of June 2016 had also put Europeans on edge. With Britain on the way out of the European Union, the election of a vociferously anti-EU party like France’s Front National might well spell the end of the European project. And then there was the stunning news from across the pond. The United States had elected Donald Trump, from whose incorrigibly loose lips...

Party Realignment in France

The election of Emmanuel Macron as the next president of France could presage a dramatic party realignment.

AP Photo/Christophe Ena
Last Sunday, Emmanuel Macron became the eighth president of France’s Fifth Republic. It was a stunning victory, with Macron grabbing two-thirds of the vote against his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen. Yet skeptics have claimed that Macron’s triumph was not really a victory at all but rather an expression of fear of the extremist alternative. Macron therefore has no mandate, claim the nay-sayers, and his presidency will soon succumb to the various forms of conservatism and resistance that doomed his two predecessors, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. This analysis ignores the extent to which Macron’s victory has destabilized the French party system. He won the presidency without the support of an established political party. That has never been done before. Neither of the major parties, the Socialist Party of incumbent President Hollande nor the Republican party of scandal-plagued candidate François Fillon, made it into the final round. As France...