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How the French do politics

The Palais Bourbon building, very ancient Green in style, where the French parliament meet in Paris

I live part of the year in Provence and one day I was reading Le Monde and a headline about a “sexy politician” caught my eye.

Well, those are two words you don’t see together very often,” I thought. So I read the article and found out that there had been a poll asking French women, “What politician would you like to have a summer fling with?”

Wow,” I said to myself, “they would never have a poll like that back home in the US—it’s way too sexist.” And if they did conduct such a poll, American women would take one look at our politicians, imagine a fling with them and immediately flee the country.

I showed the article to my wife Val. “Honey,” I asked sweetly, “if I was a politician and they did this poll, would you vote for me?”

She looked me up and down and said, “Don’t quit your day job.”

Another time there was an election for the European Parliament. In France, it doesn’t take much to field a slate of candidates, so there were 48 (yes, 48) different parties running. And some had very interesting names.

New Anti-Capitalist Party
Union of Struggle Against the Banks
For a Royal France at the Heart of Europe
Cannabis Without Borders
Esperanto, a Fair Common Language for All
Libertarian Program for a Europe Setting an Example Against Sexism and Precariousness

Each of these parties got equal airtime to run TV ads and they were one of the highlights of the day.

The various Green parties seemed to run the same kinds of ads, all rainbows and lollipops “We believe in a clean environment, good jobs for everyone, and puppies.”

The Regionalism Party was the opposite. Their ad was an angry guy who kept shaking his fist and railing against the Jacobins in Paris.

Do you know who the Jacobins are?” I asked Val. “A bunch of guys named Jacob?”

She didn’t know so I looked it up. It turns out that they were a group that existed way back during the French Revolution, so getting upset about Jacobins was kind of like complaining that you just can’t find a good snuffbox these days.

Then there was the New Deal Party ad that, trust me, would never be allowed in the US.

It started with a naked young couple lying in bed and energetically doing, um, what naked young couples do.  Suddenly a lady comes into the room and sits on the bed.

You’re trying to make a baby, aren’t you?” she demands.

Uh, yes.”

Well, have you thought about what kind of future that baby is going to have? Have you thought about whether that baby will have political leaders who will make sure there are good jobs, fair wages, and a clean environment?

No,” says the guy, looking miffed, “I definitely was not thinking about that just now!”

Why yes,” says the gal, “I was!

So vote New Deal in the European elections!” says the lady.

I can’t wait for the next election…

Keith Van Sickle is the author of One Sip at a Time and Keith & Vals’s Adventures in Provence: Available from Amazon. Find him at: keithvansickle.com

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