Less than a year ago Emmanuel Macron was the golden boy of Western politics. The youngest French president ever, he was good-looking and well-heeled, brilliant and bold, centrist leaning and forward looking. Macron was also strikingly ambitious. He successfully started his own political party. He successfully updated France’s political agenda. And he successfully fashioned a plan to revive and reinvigorate the European Union. For a brief shining moment Macron was the great Western hope – one of the few leaders of a liberal democracy likely to beat the odds. Likely to succeed where most of his counterparts had failed – in the exercise of leadership.
Now his future, and France’s, and Europe’s, are less clear. Because Western followers refuse to give Western leaders much if any slack, the bloom is already off Macron’s rose. His approval ratings have dropped. Strikes and demonstrations have tested his mettle. His former mentor, his predecessor, Francois Hollande, has trashed him in a new book. And in a recent interview on French television, two veteran journalists went out of their way to demean and diminish the president they purportedly planned politely to question.
Whatever history’s ultimate judgement on this young and clearly clever politician, we are to blame for putting our leaders on such a ridiculously short leash. If Macron fails to restore France to even a measure of its former glory, and if he fails to inject the European Union with a fresh sense of possibility and destiny, it will be less his loss than ours.