In April 2017, Gilles Finchelstein described the three states of democracy – solid, liquid, gaseous – in an illuminating lesson in electoral chemistry. On the occasion of the 2022 presidential election, Édouard Lecerf, deputy general manager of BVA, pushes the exercise here. The disciples of the hard sciences will forgive him this improbable and candid new diversion.
Macron precipitated it
Emmanuel Macron’s electoral eruption in 2017 was rushed.
A “heterogeneous dispersed phase in a majority phase”: this is how physics and chemistry textbooks coldly describe this visually striking phenomenon of a product instantly aggregating when poured into another liquid of the right composition. .
It is obviously tempting to transpose the way in which the “at the same time” took shape by coming into contact with the electoral system. Those who remember their chemistry lesson on this topic will understand the analogy. The precipitate only occurs and is visualized when the chemical characteristics of the two “phases” allow it. Politically, the singular Macronian project was thus able to take shape quickly only because it was brought into contact with a particular social and electoral body. The presidential election played the role of the chemist, pouring the disruptive Macronian product into an environment with a high concentration of desire for change compared to the usual political game.
Pécresse and the question of the emulsion
Chemically, an emulsion is the heterogeneous mixture of two immiscible substances. Preparing a vinaigrette gives the simplest way to understand this notion of emulsion, when oil and vinegar struggle to mix in a stable and lasting way. For the emulsion to occur, an external action is necessary: agitation, mixing or addition of an active principle. Therefore, the product may have a macroscopically homogeneous appearance, but it will remain microscopically heterogeneous.
When Valérie Pécresse emerges victorious from the second round of the right-wing primary, she understands that she must immediately incorporate into her team and into her speech at least some of the ingredients that allowed Éric Ciotti to become the unexpected challenger of this second round. . The momentum provided by his victory, the dynamics of a greater possible victory and the first favorable polls then play an effective emulsifying role. The Republican right seems to have found itself around a single candidacy and a program mixing all the sensitivities that make it up. Alas, the first hitches in the campaign, the meetings running out of breath or the sometimes contradictory positions on which he is asked to explain himself slow down the movement. We are then quick to distinguish again the contrasting components of the mixture. The mayonnaise no longer takes.
Left candidates victims of the laws of attraction
When we observe the proliferation of left-wing candidates for the 2022 presidential election, political reason seems to be so shaken up that we are tempted to call Isaac Newton to the rescue. The law of universal attraction, of which he is the author, explains to us that the more massive a body, the greater the force of attraction it exerts on another, the further apart they are, the weaker the force exerted.
Rather than uniting, forming a mass and thus building a greater capacity to attract voters, the left has chosen the exact opposite path. The force of attraction of each candidacy, proportional to its mass, measured in particular by opinion studies, is weak. Left-leaning voters are simply no longer attracted. Logically, they move away. And the increase in the distance with the candidates in turn participates in the collapse of the attraction (inversely proportional to the square of the distance).
“A Tefal campaign”. The success of the expression used on France Inter by Brice Teinturier, Deputy CEO of Ipsos, to describe the campaign two months before the first round owes both to its relevance and to the familiarity of the image it arouses. As on a frying pan of the brand in question, everything seems to slide, nothing catches. Teflon (or polytetrafluorethylene, PTFE), chemically inert, which lines pans or molds refuses exchange with other molecules and therefore adhesion.
The campaign of the candidates, their programs, their speeches, their speeches seem however to possess, as during the previous presidential elections, sufficient capacities of friction. We can also consider that the subjects of concern put forward by the French through opinion polls are sufficiently “hot” to promote a molecular exchange (just as the intense heat under a metal frying pan promotes the attachment of the product cooked). And journalists, media and opinion polls spare no effort and come back to the bench daily to give substance to the experience.
It would therefore be on the side of the electorate that we must turn to detect Teflon at work. The distance shown by the French with regard to politics and its representatives, mistrust or weariness with regard to the system, the difficult battle for attention: all these elements combine to make the electorate more inert (at the chemical sense of the term) and the meeting points and exchanges with the rarer candidates.
A lack of activation energy?
We can, despite everything, consider the presidential election and the legislative elections which follow it in France as a particular moment of politico-chemical reaction. An episode where reactants interact, modify the nature of the initial substances and produce new substances, endowed with new properties.
When the criteria influencing the speed of reaction are taken into account, the parallel with politics takes on all the more meaning. the pressure level echoes the importance of the stake that the French attach to this political moment. The temperature which agitates the molecules and makes them react recalls the possible intensity of the debates around major issues. The concentration molecules can be applied to the mobilization of the electorate, whether through the interest it gives to the campaign or when going or not going to the polling booth. The presidential election in France also has a reaction surface most important, which should a priori speed up this reaction. Conversely, the political apathy or electoral fatigue from which some French people sometimes seem to suffer could not produce theactivation energy sufficient for the expected chemical reaction.
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A few principles of physics and chemistry to analyze the presidential election – Fondation Jean-Jaurès
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