In his column “What Happened in France,” Bruce Bawer tries to explain why Front National’s Marine Le Pen suffered what he calls a “devastating loss.” His conclusion is basically that Europeans have been “psychologically manipulated to the point where they truly believe, on some level, at least in some Orwellian doublethink kind of way, that acting in clear defense of their own existence, their own culture, their own values, and their own posterity, is an act of ugly prejudice.” And so Emmanuel Macron, the darling of the politically correct left and Brussels, won.
That sure sounds like a wonderful, easy-to-grasp explanation, but I’m afraid Bawer is overlooking one rather important detail: the Front National is simply a horrendous party. Yes, yes, I’m aware that we all have to celebrate the rise of populism, and yes, to some degree those parties certainly have an important role to play in modern Europe. Even if you disagree with Le Pen’s policy ideas, you can at least respect her role as a battering ram against political correctness.
But if you look at the actual content of the Front National’s platform, you can only conclude that the party is anything but conservative. Le Pen and her party are opposed to the free-market system; they’re against free trade. They actually believe the government should take over entire sectors of the economy. Additionally, Front National supports France’s untenable and unaffordable welfare state. Thirty-five-hour work week? Check. Lower the retirement age to 60? Check. Introduce trade barriers? Check.
Let’s face it: When it comes to economics, the Front National and Marine Le Pen are diehard socialists.
Oh, and if that isn’t bad enough, the party was also the subject of a controversy because Le Pen’s intended temporary successor as FN’s leader, Jean-François Jalkh, had in years past publicly doubted the existence of Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers. When he was confronted with those statements Jalkh quickly resigned, but it was too late: he had reminded French voters of Front National’s less-than-stellar reputation on the issue. And that’s exactly what Le Pen could not use.
It must give American “nationalists” a great feeling of superiority to simply declare that Europeans have surrendered to political correctness and have forgotten who they are, but the fact of the matter is that French immigration and integration hawks used a very problematic party to take on Macron. Le Pen personally certainly has potential, but she’ll need to change her party’s platform of nationalistic socialism if she ever wants to become president. If she does not, well, I guess that just means that conservatives’ best hope for the future is a revived Republican Party — that’s the party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy that lost this year’s election because its candidate, Francois Fillon, was involved in a corruption scandal. Had he not been, he, not Macron, would have been the favorite to win.
Another point that has to be made is this: yes, Le Pen lost, but it’s nonetheless a good result for her party. It’s the first time in history that Front National has received some 35% of the vote. This means that the party has finally gone mainstream, even though it’s certainly not a majority party yet. If Le Pen continues to reform Front National — by both getting rid of old anti-Semites and by changing the party’s horrendous economic plans — she may be a player in 2022. But that’s one big if.