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Analysis: What Trump could learn from French history

October 12, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Americans are on the eve of a momentous political choice this November. But for a jump on how the story goes from here, consider what happened in France, where another "back to normal" candidate challenged a firebrand incumbent.

Let me explain: I was born and raised in Paris, France and on the eve of the 2016 US presidential election, I relocated with my family to the southern state of Georgia for CNN International.

It reminded me of France a decade earlier, where then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy had reveled in incensing liberals, dominating the headlines, and borrowing from the lexicon of the far-right.

Highlights of Sarkozy's colorful conduct as president include him telling a hostile bystander, "get lost, asshole!" and egging a heckling fisherman to "come down and say it!" His post-election holiday on the private yacht of a French billionaire -- a no-no in French politics -- was never quite forgiven.

And this is where the parallels matter most: After Sarkozy's million-miles-an-hour presidency, France -- like America now -- was running on fumes.

And Sarkozy's raucous re-election campaign, like Trump's today, did nothing to suggest a second term might offer something different.

And that's what he did: Asked during the French presidential debate what kind of president he would be, Hollande spent half of his three minutes detailing what he wouldn't be: An anti-Sarkozy manifesto, widely considered the signature moment of the debate.

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