(Lyon, France) Was I too uncompromising in last week's piece about the challenges facing Nicolas Sarkozy as he embarks on his first term as President of France? Some readers, drawing on their own experience of France and French people, may have thought so. However, today, as I perused material on the US presidential election of 1964 as part of my doctoral research, I came across something that makes me think not. It's an article written by Alan L. Otten and published in the Wall Street Journal on September 16, 1964, which quotes extensively from a statement Senator Barry Goldwater “prepared for a 1962 Encyclopaedia Britannica volume on ‘Great Ideas Today’.” There Goldwater gave his definition of the people whom he called “the Forgotten Americans” and whose concerns he endeavored to articulate in the 1964 campaign. He wrote:
“The forgotten American is that dragooned and ignored individual who is either outside the organized pressure groups or who finds himself represented by organizations with whose policies he disagrees either in whole or in part. Big power-blocs and lobbies, labor unions, farm organizations, racial groups, civil liberties groups, consumer groups, nationality groups, cooperatives, educational associations, and even cultural and artistic groups have used their pressures to obtain through Government large benefits for their members, or, at any rate, what the leaders of these groups say are benefits. But the average citizen of the United States, a member of the real majority, pays the price of such pressures, and often is adversely affected.”
Goldwater went on to point out that:
“Though most of [the forgotten Americans] are patient men and women, they are beginning to get their backs up, and no wonder. Every special interest or “minority” has powerful backing in Washington but the forgotten American, who pays the taxes and fights the battles and does the work of the nation, feels that he has been left out. Minorities have real rights which must be protected. But majorities also have rights, and the people outside the pressure groups actually constitute the American majority.”
And the senator said in conclusion:
“[The forgotten American] is annoyed at certain welfare measures that seem to put a premium upon indolence and fraud. He does not like being pushed around. He thinks he has some things worth conserving -church and family and home and constitutional government and property and freedom of opportunity.”
It is quite clear that parallels may legitimately be drawn between the situation described by Sen. Goldwater in America in the early 1960s and the state of affairs in France today, after decades of government expansion. The only exception may be that, at least prior to the 2007 Presidential election, “the Forgotten Frenchman” was assuredly in the minority. Be that as it may, what “the Forgotten Frenchman” now hopes for in the very near future is a conservative revolution of Goldwaterite proportions.
Somebody order a copy of The Conscience of a Conservative for Mr. Sarkozy, Elysee Palace, please.
Note: "Paoli" is the pen name, or should we say nom de plume, of our French correspondent, a close student of European politics and a good friend of America. He informs us the original Pasquale Paoli, 1725-1807, was the George Washington of Corsica.