The people of France are currently engaged in a major political battle with their government. But those of us on the outside watching the “Yellow Vests” bring their nation to a standstill are also learning a valuable lesson: how to make politicians bend to your will through relentless activism. Within just a few weeks of widespread and continuous protests, French President Emmanuel Macron has given in to several demands, postponing a planned fuel tax hike and offering both tax cuts and a minimum-wage increase.
Macron even issued a mea culpa in a televised address to the French people—an act that American politicians might find humiliating. “The anger is deeper. I feel it is justified in many ways,” he told them. “It is 40 years of malaise that is resurfacing … no doubt over the past year and a half we have not provided answers.”
Through weeks of mass direct action, the French have shown their government who is boss, and elected officials have been forced to accept and acquiesce—at least to an extent. It is a dynamic we can only dream of here in the U.S.
President Donald Trump has his own view of what the French protests mean. Trump has exploited the demonstrations to denounce the Paris Climate Accord agreed upon three years prior, packing three separate lies into a single tweet. First, he wrongly attributed the protests to the pact itself, writing, “The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France.” In fact, the planned fuel tax increase was legislated well before the 2015 meeting in which the climate deal was signed. He added that “People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment.” Those tax revenues would not benefit other nations at all. Trump ended his tweet with the most ridiculous of lies, saying that the protesters could be heard chanting, “We Want Trump!”—a statement not even worth dignifying with evidence to the contrary. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian shot back at Trump, asking him to mind his own country’s business.