What's at stake in these negotiations is the Spirit of Liberty. But that spirit no longer represents the sort of liberty she did in 1789 or 1848 — liberty from oppressive monarchies — or even, as in 1936 or 1981, liberty from French industrialists and bankers. Instead, the oppressors many in France blame today are foreign governments and transnational institutions that, in the eyes of French voters, have inflicted on them a set of economic policies that are not only ineffective but punitive.
Whether Hollande will succeed where his predecessors failed remains to be seen. In an age of globalization, it will be even more difficult to carry out a policy of socialism in one country than it was in 1936 or 1981. More difficult, however, is to ignore the fears and hopes of the people. Hollande knows that while plaster elephants come and go, the memory of liberty abides.