PARIS -- While outsider U.S. President Donald Trump continues to battle establishment foes on all sides in Washington, newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, who wasn't even on the radar as a candidate during most of Trump's campaign, has managed to annihilate the old-guard French political establishment. How did he do it?
France held the first round of its two-stage legislative elections on Sunday. Of the 577 seats up for grabs in French Parliament, Macron's party, La Republique En Marche, which didn't even exist a year ago, is set to win up to 455 of them. The good news for conservatives is that the only other party with any real voice will be former President Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right Les Republicains and their allies, with 70 to 110 seats.
As for the National Front, with its anti-immigration platform mooted by economic nanny-statism that scapegoats the European Union for socialist policies, let's just say that leader Marine Le Pen would have been better off spending all those millions of euros in campaign funds on a seat aboard Elon Musk's SpaceX moon flight. Le Pen will be one of the only members of her party to get elected.
Speaking of space, the 39-year-old Macron is a political UFO. He attended the top establishment schools, yet unlike those who cling to power once they get a taste of it, Macron ejected himself from his position as minister of economy, industry and digital affairs last August after just two years and then formed his own political party. Although Socialist incumbent Francois Hollande was unpopular, the field for the presidential election was crowded with heavyweight establishment contenders -- former prime ministers, ministers and Sarkozy himself. Then there was Le Pen, running primarily on an anti-establishment platform at a time when anti-establishment sentiment was a trend with voters, as seen in Trump's election and the Brexit vote.
Macron's decision to bail out of a minister's job to create a political party with the thought that he would not only win the presidency but also place enough largely unknown candidates in Parliament to obtain an absolute majority would seem to border on delusion. It's not the kind of thing that a French politician does, particularly once he gets a foothold on the establishment ladder. It's like quitting an executive job at Microsoft to found a startup.
Never mind that Macron was an investment banker for Rothschild in an anti-banking era, and a government minister in an anti-establishment era. He leaves the impression that he's not of the establishment machine, yet understands the system well enough to be capable of subverting it.
And here is where Macron has an advantage over Trump. While Trump still struggles with the system, Macron has managed to bring it to heel. It was remarkable to see former ministers from all sides pleading to be invested as La Republique en Marche candidates -- or to be spared from having to run against one. The first round of legislative elections has already eliminated much of the old guard in a bloodless revolt.
Evidence suggests that Macron views the world through a business prism. That's what Trump was elected to do and should be doing much more of. Rather than going to Saudi Arabia and railing against Iran, Trump should have been pitching the Saudis cooperative business projects with the Iranians. People fight less when they're busy counting money.
Macron has even turned climate change into a business opportunity. Rather than sell enviro-hogwash at face value, he set up a website, makeourplanetgreatagain.fr, to recruit entrepreneurs and scientists to France. I visited the site and identified myself as a "business/entrepreneur" from the USA. When asked why I'm fighting climate change, I entered, "Because I want to make $$!" The site churned out a page with the heading: "Your new homeland," providing me with contacts from the Business France agency and a link to a website outlining the immigration process.
Macron's first order of business is to tackle the source of France's economic problems: French labor laws. If he's going to make France productive again, there's going to be a lot of resistance. Only time will tell whether Macron can do what previous French presidents have failed to achieve, but it's already expected that he'll be ramming through labor reforms by decree -- bypassing parliamentary debate -- over the summer while potential protesters are at the beach, distracted by their sacred minimum 30 days' paid vacation.
With more than 51 percent of French voters considering last weekend's scorching-hot weather enough of a deterrent to keep them from voting in an important election, Macron may indeed manage to change the system by playing it like a fiddle and giving the French back their sovereignty in its most important form: personal freedom from the state.