Macron’s imaginary ‘average Jojo’ spells disaster for France

It was revealed Macron refers to the average French voter as ‘Jojo’

Emmanuel Macron’s term will end in 2027
Published Last updated

Who needs help in France right now, and why does he or she matter? It’s a question that any politician with a social conscience should be asking. Emmanuel Macron, the president who came into office six years ago, uses an imaginary person called Jojo as his benchmark citizen when he’s debating such issues.

Well-placed sources told Le Monde that the Monsieur or Madame Average cited by Macron “feels that the country is falling apart” and “feels forgotten by politics”. We don’t know what Jojo does for a living – he or she may well be unemployed – or what their qualifications or beliefs are. All that matters is that people like this are angry and upset, and that France needs to start prioritising them before nationwide angst turns to disaster.

Read more: France plans to better protect officials after arson at mayor’s home

Macron’s end of tenure

Extremism is on the rise, and it may well be that relatively restrained politicians have had their day. Macron himself must retire in 2027, because he will have served two terms, and Marine Le Pen on the far right and Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the far left are desperate to replace him. Their support is already massive and growing, and with better organisation and a bit of deal-making, one of them could certainly capture the Elysée Palace.

Just as crucially, Macron has evidently been ignoring Jojo as he focuses on helping the super-rich Parisians who really power the French economy. They include billionaires such as LVMH luxury goods boss Bernard Arnault and L’Oréal cosmetics chief Françoise Bettencourt Meyers – respectively the richest man and woman in the world right now. (Editor’s note: Elon Musk recently overtook Bernard Arnault as the world’s richest man, according to Forbes.)

The fact that both tycoons ultimately generate their wealth from hugely expensive non-essential products says everything about how out of touch the French establishment is with ordinary Jojos. That is one of the main reasons why there has been so much dissent during Macron’s terms of office.

Within a year and a half of him coming to power, the gilets jaunes – or ‘yellow vests’ – were squatting roundabouts and blocking roads as they protested against rising prices and, more generally, inequality and injustice. Macron poured around €18 billion into measures trying to pacify these mainly traditional working-class demonstrators, but he could not quash the growing sense of rebellion.

Read more: Do you agree? Protests and polls undermine real democracy in France

Rioting has become a common theme

Rioting has continued right up until this summer and involved everybody from ethnic minority teenagers incensed by police brutality to retirees livid about pension cuts. The ‘yellow vests’ are still very much out there, even if they do leave their distinctive yellow jackets at home to avoid instant arrest on demo day.

A common factor among all those taking to the street is the belief that the so-called ‘President of the Rich’ heads up a decrepit Fifth Republic that fails to work for the majority. Thus, Jojo is not simply asking for a few basic demands – reductions in the price of food and energy, for example – but wants a complete overhaul of state machinery.

In this sense Jojo is just like the Brexit voter who aimed to expunge the entire system within which the UK had been developing as a leading EU member since 1973. Jojo can also be compared to the millions of ‘left behind’ Americans who now vote for Donald Trump, and also want a reset of the United States. “Let’s drain the swamp,” as Trump would put it.

Nobody should be against rapid change – it is a sign of dynamism and progress in any society – but when a rather moderate government is evidently unable to deliver for its Jojos, and is more interested in tax cuts and global expansion for the Bernies and Frans, then the Jojos will naturally rise up. Macron has had numerous warnings, and unless he starts doing something for those who need the most help – instead of just imagining them – then France’s already chronic problems will become critical.

Related links

Local French officials lose appetite for job despite public confidence
Who is who in France’s new-look government?
New report reveals cost of Brigitte Macron to the French state