When politics come to the Christmas table



Do you know the turkey theory? The idea, which is circulating in some campaign headquarters and newsrooms, would have the Christmas dinner be a pivotal moment in the presidential election. So, an injunction for the candidates to create the event (“to make the buzz”) to be at the center of family discussions, between the turkey, the log and the gifts. “It’s a myth, retorts Frédéric Dabi, the director general of Ifop. Certainly, a few months before the first round, the holiday season is an important moment, there will be discussions, debates, but that is not where things will play out ”, insists this connoisseur of voting dynamics. He recalls two fundamentals: the campaign is ” a process “, with convictions that are often forged in “Progressive” ; as for the voters, “They decide later and later”, according to him. According to a 2017 study by its institute (1), the proportion of voters claiming to have “Hesitated until the last moment” thus rose from 22% in 2007 to 27% ten years later.

This is also the point of view of the essayist Stéphane Rozès. “Christmas is first and foremost a family moment, centered on loved ones, children, the nativity for Christians”, underlines the one who advised several candidates for twenty years. “It’s a parenthesis before the pivotal months of January and February, during which the main contenders for the Élysée will begin their conversation with the country. “ But he adds: “If, despite everything, the political debate emerges at the Christmas table, it is because it is really important. “

And this will undoubtedly be the case, at the end of such a unique year and five-year term. “Three subjects marked the French, to the point of dividing families, recalls Stéphane Rozès : the yellow vests, the vaccine and the health pass and the emergence of Zemmour in the presidential election. “

In fact, in the family of Agnes, we do not usually talk about politics at the table. “But this time it will be different”, confides this Cévennes tradeswoman, who plans an intimate Christmas with her relatives. “I am sure that Basile, my 15 year old son, will talk about Zemmour. He finds that he speaks correctly, that he does not practice the language of wood. “ Agnes agrees, although the candidate “Scares him a little”. “I will give my opinion, she slips. My husband criticizes me for wanting to straighten things out. He wants things to move! “ At the other end of France, at Grégoire Fraty, we will talk more about ecology and Yannick Jadot. And for good reason, the Norman was one of the 150 citizens of the Climate Convention. “The political discussion will start with the gifts, does he project: reusable paper, the choice to offer gourds and books on the environment. “ However, it could escalate, especially on the issue of air travel. “We have already had somewhat heated exchanges via the family’s WhatsApp loop. I have relatives who work for Airbus in Toulouse or who are executives and take the plane to go to China for two days to meet a subcontractor. We don’t always understand each other ”, recognizes the thirty-something, who is nevertheless delighted to have his teenage nieces on his side.

“This presidential year is not a break, as could be 1981, 1995 or 2007, continues Frédéric Dabi, at Ifop. But there is a certain dramaturgy: are we going to attend the 3e defeat of Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen? Or a new “April 21”? What score will Éric Zemmour make?, Etc. ““The stakes are heavy, visceral, adds semiologist Mariette Darrigrand, it takes us to the guts. It would not be surprising if the political discussion is lively at the table! “

In the “guts”, in the literal sense of the term: the question of the vaccine is indeed that of the body, she remarks. As for the issues at the heart of the campaign today – the relationship to others, to territories, to purchasing power -, “They also refer to the body in the psychoanalytic sense of what has been transmitted to us, of what is sacred to us or frightens us”.

From there to going from a warm dinner to a ferocious castagne? As in the drawing by Caran d’Ache in the midst of the Dreyfus affair – and his famous “… They talked about it…” ? In her latest work (2), Mariette Darrigrand recounts a dinner with her nieces during which the verbal storm between neofeminists and old-fashioned feminists “Threatened to submerge everything”. His family, however, is used to spicy exchanges and loves them, “Socialists against ecologists. Territories versus Paris… scooters versus vaporettes… meditation versus running », she writes. But this time the conversation abruptly turned on The brown odalisque by the painter François Boucher. For the aunt, the libertine table only does “Celebrate beauty” women ; for Léah, 23 years old, it is “Rape culture”.

If it can be difficult to understand each other on certain subjects, Anne Muxel, director of research at Cevipof (Sciences Po) nevertheless relativizes the idea of ​​a political divide between generations.

“Families most often share a common culture, recalls the researcher. They remain, moreover, the crucible of the political identity of individuals, the first place of political socialization. And this, even in a context of “de-institutionalization”, with the increase in divorces and blended families. You might think that this limits the strength of the transmission, but this is not the case ”, assures Anne Muxel (read the interview opposite).

And for good reason: the vector is that of “Affectivity”, she says, which allows you to dare to confront your family around the holiday table, when there is disagreement. “We are still able to debate without breaking glasses! “laughs Grégoire Fraty, who does not forget that two years ago, he was much less green and that the Climate Convention changed him.

“These meals are a framework of trust and love, in which we want to understand each other”, confirms Mariette Darrigrand, stressing that there is no lack of assets for talking politics with the family. Humor, first of all, but also “Modular alliances” : an uncle on the right and his nephew on the left can argue then “To meet again because they are the only ones at the table to love bone marrow!” “, illustrates the semiologist. In the Cévennes, Agnès is not worried about her Christmas meal. “We respect each other and listen to each other, it should be fine! “

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