“There is no little irony in the fact that the man who was seen as the answer to populism has provoked the most high-profile demonstration of the populist rage Europe has yet seen,” writes Larry Elliott, economics editor of The Guardian
40-year-old Emmanuel Macron is the first president of France with no direct memory of what happened on the streets of Paris in May of 1968. And just like in 1968, some of the protesters want the president to resign even though he was democratically elected just 18months ago.
It began as a movement among a few people in lower-middle-class rural France protesting a new eco-tax on fuel they felt would push their budgets over the edge.
Macron’s government which is known for favoring the rich, allegedly cut the taxes for the rich, made it easier for companies to hire and fire, and took on the rail unions.
If the above is true, it was only a matter of time before the backlash began.
The movement of “gilet jaunes,” which is named after the yellow high-visibility jackets French motorists must carry in their vehicles, has morphed into a movement of many colors, with extremist groups jumping on the bandwagon.
“Politicians need to realize that the financial crisis and a decade of flatlining living standards have made a difference to what is and what isn’t politically feasible,” Elliott writes.
“It is feasible – indeed, desirable – to use the tax system to tackle climate change, but only if the hit to living standards is fully offset by cuts in other taxes. Otherwise, it is simply more of the austerity that voters everywhere are rejecting. And it is politically suicidal to be known as the president of the wealthy and then tell voters angry about rising fuel prices to car share or take public transport.”