To this imperative of the movement must be added another one, which is more profound: providing a response to the deep and lasting crisis that our democracies are going through, the mistrust of policies, the rise of populism, reconciling power and the people, elites and citizens.
The Great National Debate cannot, of course, achieve this on its own. If it succeeds, it could constitute the first steps of this great staircase that is so difficult to build.
What are the criteria that will determine whether this project is a success or a failure?
It is difficult to answer this question, precisely because there is no precedent. Let us first recall some of the conditions for success:
- that all issues can be raised - this is the case, as has been said and repeated;
- that all kinds of opinion leaders accept the Great Debate, participate in it and call for participation. Such seems to be the case, only the far left-wing party La France Insoumise and a number of Yellow Vests call more or less openly for a boycott;
- that the political authorities take the debate into account when it is over. This was understood by the French President in his almost seven hours of face-to-face meetings with 600 mayors in Bourgtheroulde on Wednesday, January 16, where he considered that the last two deadlocks, his own - the ISF (the Solidarity tax on wealth) - and that of the Prime Minister, the 80 km/h speed limit, could be lifted very soon.
Success is therefore possible. What will be the criteria? First, the extent of participation. Lower than that of the Yellow Vests - let's say 400,000 people when taking the peak of November 17: it would be a failure. More than one or two million: we could talk about success.
In addition to the quantitative criterion, there is also a qualitative one: freedom of debate, absence of massive instrumentalization by a party or lobby, and so on.
Beyond the debate itself, its true, profound success would be that it has made it possible to respond to the two reasons that created it in the first place: an end to the Yellow Vest crisis, and an entry into the very beginning of a reconciliation between the French general population and the elite.