Election 2017

Sunday morning. I shaved my face, donned a fresh black t-shirt and walked up to the Mairie to witness the climax of this most confounding and portentous election.

Charlie, the mayor of Maury, did a double take, smiled warmly, said “Ah, Ron”, and came to shake my hand. He introduced me to all the other poll workers, who nodded as they recognized “le photographe’, and said of course it would be fine for me to take photos as people voted. I shook hands all around the room and one woman said I had taken a beautiful picture of her father, Adrien. I remembered it, found it on my phone and showed it to her. “He died last year,” she said.

Charlie asked: “What’s going on in America, this Trump?” I gave my best French expression of disgust, a vehement “Beh!” Then said: “C’est pourquoi je suis ici.” “That’s why I’m here.” Everyone laughed and welcomed me back to town.

Voters select names to take in the booth.

There are stacks of cards for each of the candidates and I asked if voters had to take all of them into the booth. “No, no, minimum two.” So you present identification, take at least two cards and an envelope into the booth, put one in the envelope, throw the others away, have your name checked off against the roll of eligible voters and your voting card stamped, deposit the card in a clear plexi box as the official calls your name and adds: “à voté”. But I noticed some voters took no cards, apparently intending to deposit an empty envelope in protest against all the candidates.

I told Charlie I’ll return for the results and went home to lunch.

Charlie, the Mayor

The Count

Envelopes are collected into batches of 100 and placed in larger envelopes, then opened, passed to someone else who reads the name aloud, which is then hand-tallied by two other officials. When the envelope is finished the count is read aloud, agreed and recorded. The room is absolutely silent except for the reading of names and results. No groans, no expressions of dismay, no wringing of hands although everyone I had talked to was appalled at the thought of President Le Pen. I had a good chat with Charlie, a test for my French but we made it. He really didn’t think she could be elected but he was certainly aware of the anger and uncertainty here, and everywhere and understands the decline of the traditional party structure and how many fear globalization and, of course, the anti-immigration fear of the “other”. And the alternatives are not terribly attractive. Mélenchon is a demagogue from the left, Fillon, a dinosaur on the right, Macron is pretty but who knows what lurks behind the façade.

Maury gave Le Pen a victory by about 25 votes over Macron, Mélenchon third, Fillon fourth. It surprised me—this area is traditionally solid Socialist—but maybe it shouldn’t have. Like many small villages, Maury is suffering. There are many houses for sale as the older generation dies off, few services for those who remain, and no jobs for the young. People are angry, confused, certain traditional politicians have let them down, but unsure where to turn. But it’s worth noting that about 75% of the Maury electorate voted, about a dozen cast blank ballots. Democracy may be unsettled in France, but people still care enough to participate.

Elle a voté

Conventional wisdom says the French vote with their emotions in the first round, their brains in the second. We’ll see. I was watching Charlie during the count and saw him receive a text, smile, and raise a clenched fist. I’m guessing Macron is doing well nationally.

Late results before a dinner of leftover chicken and salad: it appears to be a Le Pen/Macron runoff with Macron, supported by the political establishment, the heavy favorite. Le Pen will no doubt run hard against the elites, charging them with abandoning hard working and struggling French citizens by allowing manufacturing jobs to disappear, then opening the public treasury for immigrants.

The count

Sound familiar?

Whither France?


©2017 Ron scherl

A Letter from Barbara Lane

Dear friends and family:

Yesterday I resigned from the JCCSF.  I had planned a community panel, to take place on February 8, in response to President Trump’s executive order on immigration with representatives from the ACLU, American-Islamic Society, a rabbi who would speak about the Jewish experience with exclusion, and an immigration attorney working with the sanctuary movement in San Francisco, moderated by KQED’s Scott Shafer. The purpose of the panel, free and open to all, was to inform and allow community members to ask questions.  It was approved by my boss.


Late yesterday afternoon I was informed the JCCSF did not have the bandwidth at this time to host this event, that perhaps we could re-schedule it two weeks down the road. Among the reasons cited were security issues and concerns about the “messaging” of the event.


For a long time I have struggled with the fact that certain issues (mostly to do with Israel) are off the table for discussion at the JCCSF, largely due to concern about the reaction of conservative donors (remember the debacle at the Jewish Film Festival?).  It has always been my belief that the JCCSF is precisely the place that those discussions SHOULD take place.


The current climate with the Trump administration makes ever more essential informed and open discussion.  Particularly in regard to the JCCSF’s stated intention to spend the first 100 days of the new administration doing just that and assigning me to develop programming in that regard, this panel seemed not only appropriate but necessary.

I’m proud of the program I’ve helped build over the past 11 years.

Thanks for all your support.


Dear Barbara,

I am so proud of you. It is easy to express opinions and beliefs, so much harder to act on them. In this time, when everything we care about is threatened, the only power we have is in moral principles and the willingness to act on them.

We can all sit back, sign petitions, and send $5 to the ACLU or MoveOn. It’s right and we should, and it’s really all most of us can do, but from their cave of fear and compromise, the JCCSF has given you an opportunity to take a stand – and you have.

Thank you and congratulations.

Now I call on Feinstein and Schumer and the rest of the compromise-prone Democratic “leaders” to lead. Stand up for the constitution and damn the consequences. There is no compromise with a tyrant. Resistance is the only way to preserve our democracy.

Thanks again,