That hasn't stopped the press from gushing over Hollande anyway as if there were anything to gush about, or prevented the release of "48 H AVEC FH," a viral campaign video that tries to marry Hollande's sheepish campaign route with rap bravado. Set to "Niggas in Paris" a rap song by Kanye West, French voters are treated to quick cuts of mainly African and Muslim voters showing their enthusiasm for Hollande while Jay Z and Kanye West make the usual boasts and threats transplanted to Paris that, in their own way, are every bit as tired and empty as Hollande.
Hollande hardly appears in "48 H AVEC FH" which is a smart decision. It's easier to sell him as a revolutionary candidate if you don't have to look at him or listen to him. It makes it easy to forget that, in this race, Marine Le Pen was the revolutionary candidate. Hollande isn't revolutionary, he's as much a figure of the reactionary left as Bo Xilai, the corrupt Chinese Communist leader and former Red Guard who tried to revive the Cultural Revolution with his Red Culture Movement. A clueless apparatchik of an old regime promising the old socialist virtues that no one can afford anymore.
"Niggas in Paris", a song inspired by Kanye West's trip to Paris, where he hung out with the fashion elite, is a perfect soundtrack for a fake revolution. West, the middle-class son of a Black Panther and a professor of English, is about as revolutionary as Hollande, part of a generation of rappers who make the usual ghetto boasts, but who are as suburban as neatly mowed lawns. The bravado of "Niggas in Paris" isn't that of a kid from the hood making it bigger than life, it's an obnoxious American brat visiting Paris. It's as revolutionary as Hollande or Obama, whose girlfriend related that "He felt like an imposter because he was so white. There was hardly a black bone in his body."
Hollande's banlieue tour in "48 H AVEC FH" tries to borrow the bravado of the rap star party circuit, and that seems about right when he's promoting economic policies that stopped being socially relevant around the time that rap stopped being socially relevant. Hollande, like West, doesn't have anything to say. He's just around, capitalizing on cultural malaise and bad decisions.
The banlieues, the suburbs, are a symptom of France's malaise, and Hollande, like Royal before him, is pandering to a source of easy votes. Unlike Sarkozy who talks like Wilders before elections and then forgets about it afterward, he may even pay up on his promises. During the debate, Hollande did take care to affirm his Republican credentials, there would be no tolerance for veils or gender segregation. But French Jewish leaders have been warning against voting for Hollande in a country in which such preferences are rarely openly expressed by Jewish leaders.
The peculiar condition of French politics has made it hard to find French candidates. Sarkozy is the son of Hungarian and Greek immigrants. Hollande is descended from Dutch Calvinists. Marine LePen was the only French candidate to score and she finished third. But compared to the festering banlieues, Sarkozy and Hollande are as French as they could be.
"48 H AVEC FH" summons up a different kind of France, a hip-hop nation equal to New Britain, a party land that happens to speak French, but isn't French in any other sense of the word. A place where everyone votes the Socialist ticket in between riding trains and taking photos of socialist candidates who venture down once every few years to ask for their vote.
The cash won't start flowing until after the elections are done, to avoid making them a partisan issue, but who can really object? The banlieues are a disaster and if the Al-Thanis want to blow some dough on them, that's money the Republic doesn't have to spend on them. Close observers might wonder if Qatar might not want to do to France, what it has already done to Egypt and Tunisia, not to mention Libya and Syria, but those observers are invariably dismissed as paranoids.
Qatar has been close to Sarkozy, who fought one war for the Al-Thanis in Libya, and helped drag in Cameron and Obama to help out, but like smart investors they might be considering buying a little property in Hollande. While Sarkozy is good for Qatar's international ambitions and business interests, he's not the man that French Muslims need. Sarkozy's Islam policies have been weak, but there's always a long way down.
The Qataris have met with a Hollande associate at the Royal Monceau, a French hotel owned by Qatar, and the Al-Thanis have been major investors in Correze, where Hollande served as President of the General Council and Hollande has been suitably grateful. Qatar has been investing in French politicians for a while. Take Jean-Christophe Lagarde, a Vice-President of the National Assembly, Executive Chairman of the New Centre Party and President of the Assembly's Friendship Group with Qatar.
Hollande is all for higher taxes, but Qatar wants to make sure that the higher taxes don't apply to it. Qatar is exempt from Capital Gains taxes in France, which gives the Al-Thani royals a solid commercial advantage when buying up French assets. And tethering that economic power to a growing domestic minority by way of the banlieues makes it all but impossible to budge Qatar. With the banlieues, Qatar doesn't just have some French banks and hotels, it has France's Muslim minority with all its ready capacity for violence at its disposal.
Compared to Turkey's thuggish attempts to take charge of Germany's Muslim minority, the Qataris know how to be subtle. That's something the makers of "48 H AVEC FH" don't know how to be. The video isn't really about the little grey man who smiles awkwardly while holding up his ballot to the camera, it's about the colonized colonizing the colonizers. But it's not the Somalis or the Algerians, like Kamel Hamza, ANELD's president who famously described himself as Algerian and French, who will really do the colonizing.
If the Republic of France becomes an Emirate, it will not be ruled by the riffraff out of the banlieues, no more than the mobs of Tahrir looting their way across Cairo will inherit with the Muslim Brotherhood. The mosques of the banlieues are calling for the faithful brothers and sisters to come out for the little grey man, the bank teller of socialism, who will sign over Qatar's checks to them, but it is the Emirs who plan to rule the Emirate of France.
Like the rest of Kanye West's music, "48 H AVEC FH" is empty bravado. The revolution here isn't Hollande's reactionary socialism or even the rise of the post-French France of hip-hop tracks boasting of the rape of the republic, replaced in the viral video by the relatively sanitized "Niggas in Paris" with West regaling his trip to France as an aggressive fame odyssey. They are what is replacing France, but a hole is not a vessel. It is the emptiness and chaos of the banlieues multiplied infinitely across the entire country. And then across all of Europe.
Hollande, the likely beneficiary of the French public's dissatisfaction with Sarkozy, is a placeholder for the long fall of the republic into night. The Qataris are buying up France and the banlieues are swelling because of the malaise leading to the fall. They are the phlegm and sputum that show the presence of the illness, but the illness is there in the body of the nation. The short term debates over economic growth will define the election, but the long term future will be defined not by elections, and not even by demographics alone, but by the soul of a nation.
France, like the rest of Europe, like America, is falling into its own dark night and only a revival of its national values can save it.