Paris riots: The political divide between urban elites and their hinterlands

Political protest in France tends toward the dramatic and the revolutionary, but the underlying issues in the riots currently convulsing Paris bear some similarity to the political issues that divide America into red and blue camps. English language media reports emphasize that the issue is fuel taxes on gasoline and diesel, but don’t bother to connect the dots on what underlies the anger and violence. John Hinderaker of Powerline correctly noted that these are riots against “green policies,” something that the mainstream media would be loath to admit. Global warming theory is supposed to be above criticism, or even close scrutiny, because it is “settled science” (based on a fictitious “consensus”) so the thought of a popular uprising against measures (taxes, actually) a government adopted to purportedly ease “global warming” is anathema.

It is clear from the pictures and videos we see from Paris that these protestors are very angry, more angry than Americans get over a gasoline tax hike. Anyone with a minimal familiarity with French history knows that when street barricades go up, the scent of revolution is in the air. And the rioters have provoked a powerful response from the police, including tear gas and water cannons:

YouTube screen grab

Although I am far from an expert on France, I sense that deep anger against the elites who dwell manly in Paris is the deeper cause of the anger and protest. It bears more than a little similarity to the divide in this country between flyover country and the coastal elites. For Macron and the people he associates with, increasing the price of gasoline and diesel to incentivize less driving and use of electric vehicles (which France subsidizes, as does the US) makes perfect sense. They don’t drive much, if at all. Parisians use the Metro, railways, and taxis, and rarely have to lay out cash at the pump.

But for people who live in rural France, electric cars are not practical because they may drive long distances and not have time to re-charge their vehicles (which takes hours) every time the battery is low. Moreover, the spare cash for a new vehicle is not readily available. So, this is basically class conflict, and a cry of outrage that their viewpoints and interests weigh little if at all in the deliberations of their rulers.

So far as I was able to discover, my report on November 15 of the then-rural demonstrations against the fuel taxes was the first American report on the yellow vest movement. The movement was confined to rural areas. Mainstream journalists, to the extent they pay attention to politics in France, focus on the urban elites.  The opioid epidemic devastating the Rust Belt drew little media attention until recently in this country, and the decline of the industrial Midwest was of such little concern to elites that Hillary Clinton didn’t even bother to campaign in the Rust Belt states that delivered the Electoral College to Trump. Ruling Class elites are not concerned about the effects of their policies on those of lesser status until they are forced to be.

Around the globe, the educated, prosperous urban elites have imposed their preferences on the rest of their nations. They are now reaping the blowback.