Political Correctness Is Dying, Even in France
French socialist Christiane Taubira -- the minister of justice, also known as the “keeper of the Seals” -- formally resigned last week over what she called “a major political disagreement” with French socialist President François Hollande on anti-terror policies.
At stake was a constitutional amendment known as the Protection of the Nation Constitutional Act (Loi constitutionnelle de Protection de la Nation) that would strip persons who join ISIS or other jihadist networks, or who commit “grave crimes against the life of the Nation,” of their French citizenship.
The measure is largely symbolic. Still, it is immensely popular: according to an OpinionWay/Le Figaro poll, it is supported by 85% of the French as a whole, 80% of the socialist voters, and even 64% of the hard-left voters.
But Taubira, who was supposed to endorse and defend it as the minister of justice, claimed that it unfairly differentiated between the ethnic French and other groups of French citizens. Indeed, a first version targeted only binationals and had to be corrected. Taubira resigned nevertheless. Hollande and the socialist prime minister Manuel Valls may have preferred she stay.
Taubira, 63, can be described in some ways as the French Barack Obama.
She was born in the French overseas county of Guiana, an enclave in South America. She was initially affiliated with local independent parties. Then, she admitted that secession from France was an unrealistic proposition: Guiana, a place as large as Austria or nearly as large as Maine, is underpopulated (250,000 inhabitants) and derives most of its GDP from French subsidies and investment. She then joined French mainstream politics with a new ambition: taking the lead of the “neo-French,” the combined non-Caucasian overseas and immigrant communities. This was a smart gamble, since this constituency is rapidly growing in numbers and assertiveness: from 10% of the global French population in the 1990s to 15% today, and -- according to demographic projections -- to 20% or more in the 2020s.
Her first step was to draft a “politically correct” law in 2001 -- the Taubira Law -- that retroactively declared the Atlantic slave trade and slavery “crimes against humanity.” It turned her into an icon.
One year later, she ran as a dissident left-wing candidate in the 2002 presidential election, thus depriving socialist candidate Lionel Jospin of a fraction of the national vote and preventing him from taking part in the second ballot. The socialist leadership got the message: they made sure in subsequent elections to have her on their side, whatever the price.
Hollande, who is as fine a political strategist as Taubira, entrusted the ministry of justice to her in 2012. She was to be the architect of far-reaching “societal” plans that would compensate for the administration’s shortcomings in economic matters: budgetary austerity, tax raises, unemployment.
Taubira obliged, from a 2013 law granting marriage status to same-sex partnerships to a 2014 penal reform that abolished or limited jail sentences for many offenses or crimes. Similar reforms were undertaken for similar purposes by other ministers in public education, public housing, and environmental affairs.
However, a new situation arose last year in the wake of repeated and horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris.