The national movements launched by France’s President Emmanuel Macron and the United States’ Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE, ultimately culminating in their presidencies, provide an unparalleled view of two world leaders who share remarkable similarities but whose remedies to their countries’ challenges differ sharply.
Macron describes globalization as a positive force and marches boldly toward the future, while Trump singles out globalization as the primary source of America’s “decline,” promising to restore policies and jobs that secured prosperity in the past. A clue to the two wildly disparate approaches to common problems might lie in the perceived economic security of the people in each nation.
Both Trump and Macron never held public office before their inaugurations spending their working lives in the private sector. However, both fashioned successful movements pledging to upend the political dysfunction in their respective countries. Macron established a new party En Marché! (Onward!), and Trump refashioned the Republican Party to advance his agenda.
Both men were considered electoral longshots, and France and the U.S. faced similar challenges. France has long struggled with economic stagnation and high unemployment — especially among its youth. Uncontrolled immigration and jarring terrorist attacks have been persistent problems as well. The United States recovered more quickly than most Western countries from the 2008 financial crisis, however large segments of the American population were left behind economically. Macron encourages his countrymen to “have confidence in themselves again” and is committed to renewing France’s prosperity and strength. These goals are not unlike Trump’s promise to “Make America great again”.
This is where the resemblance ends and the vast differences begin.
En Marché is on track to recruit a full roster of candidates for next month’s parliamentary elections representing a cross-section of French society. Fifty percent are women and more than 50 percent have never held public office. Those who are career politicians are defectors from parties on France’s political left and right. Macron’s is a true unity party that seeks to change his nation’s politics fundamentally. His selection of a center-right prime minister, Edouard Philippe, who has also worked in the private sector underscores this resolve.
Macron emphasizes French exceptionalism and purpose with a vision toward the future. In his inaugural address, Macron affirmed “the world … needs France more than ever” offering his country as a source of strength, ideas and possibilities for itself and for the world. He references innovation and international openness as the drivers of France’s future economic expansion seeking the world as his partner emphasizing that France will always be on the side of liberty and human rights describing democracy and republican ideas as French values and principles.
Macron’s vision is aspirational, inclusive and reminiscent of traditional American leadership rhetoric. He does caution that he will rely on the French people to “deal with deep change.” However, it is easier to steel a population for potentially dislocating change; exhort it to approach the future with optimism and calm reflexive fears of globalization in a nation with more modest income disparities, greater social mobility and a stronger safety net.
The America that Trump describes is a broken and damaged place of whom the world has taken advantage of for far too long. Seeking to restore what America has lost, he advocates protectionist trade policies losing sight of the fact that globalization ignited an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity worldwide. The U.S. has benefitted as much from the post-World War II global structures and the explosion of international trade they occasioned as any nation on Earth.
Trump yearns for an America that “wins” for itself as opposed to one that leads the world. However, American fortunes are inextricably linked to those of other countries and global participation strengthens the United States. The U.S. had a far stronger strategic and economic position in the Asia-Pacific while a negotiating partner in the Trans-Pacific Partnership than it has since withdrawing from the trade framework. International leadership is a national priority, but so is reaching out to “the forgotten men and women” whose frustrations Trump channeled during his campaign and in his inaugural address.
A reformed, effective Trade Adjustment Assistance that reaches out to all dislocated workers irrespective of dislocation cause and relies on public-private partnerships to train the long-term unemployed for the jobs of the twenty-first century would be more valuable than empty promises to resurrect coal and factory jobs that have been automated and opting out of the very trade agreements that create manufacturing jobs.
Karla Jones is the Director of the Federalism and International Relations Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.