French Election March Madness
Here’s one for the books. The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat likes Marine Le Pen, or at least he seems to think she’s a lot better than Donald Trump, and he’s remarkably immigrant unfriendly too:
[Macron’s] support for Angela Merkel’s open door to immigration — he recently said that it saved Europe’s “collective dignity” — is the kind of thing that could become a major liability should unrest surge or terrorism strike.
It’s also mistaken on the merits, since Merkel’s policy was reckless, Europe’s immigration-and-integration problem is severe and likely to get worse, and Le Pen’s dire warnings on this count are wiser than the blithe optimism of the establishment. Which points to an interesting difference between the National Front’s candidate and the populism that triumphed in America’s presidential race: Hers is better thought out, more disciplined, and more often correct.
Le Pen’s pessimism about mass migration may be too dark, but it’s a needed corrective to Merkelism, and much more reasonable in the European context than Trump’s overhyped warnings about refugees. Her brief against the follies of the euro is almost inarguably true (for reasons that you can about read about on Vox, not Breitbart). Her party platform overall suggests what Trumpism would look like if it were more coherent — and, for that matter, more responsible, since she’s actively tried to distance her movement from the sort of toxic bigotry that Trump’s campaign saw advantages in winking at.
So while Le Pen probably faces longer odds at this point than Trump did last October, she has one advantage to add to whatever strange assistance providence might send her way: She might actually deserve to win it.
In other Le Pen news, the EU continues in its quest to have her elected by making it look like she’s a victim of persecution. In this case it is the the European Parliament withdrawing her immunity from prosecution for tweeting images of IS Brutality:
The European Parliament stripped far-right French lawmaker and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen of parliamentary immunity for posting graphic images of victims of the ISIL group.
The lifting of immunity allows a Paris court to prosecute her for posting three images of brutality by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, on Twitter in 2015, including a photo of the decapitated corpse of US journalist James Foley.
The offence being considered is “publishing violent images,” which under certain circumstances can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of $78,930.00.
It is beyond me why a French court wants to prosecute her for this offence, other than to give her lots of publicity and remind the electorate that Islam is violent, but they do and the EP has decided to be complicit in the act.
Moving on, Francois Fillon is having a bad time of it though. His house has been raided by prosecutors looking for evidence in the Penelopegate affair and, since he is now insisting on staying on even though he’s being officially investigated, he is shown to be a liar. All this is not going down well with his staff, who are resigning, and political allies, who are looking for alternatives. Unfortunately there aren’t many options. He beat Juppé and Sarkozy handily because neither is liked very much (and both have accusations of sleaze and corruption anyway) so who can the right pick? Unless a decent candidate shows up very soon the right is going to fracture in exactly the way that the primary system was supposed to avoid and that almost certainly means the second round will be Macron vs Le Pen. It is possible that Juppé will try and re-enter but I think that’s going to require Fillon to fall on his sword and actually quit first because Juppé can see the potential fracture problem as well as anyone.
Macron, who was literally left with egg on his face earlier this week, is now according to an opinion poll ahead of Le Pen for the first time as a result of the Fillon mess. He also revealed some policies and is clearly positioning himself as both Mr Clean (to mop up those upset with Fillon) and Not Le Pen.
Amusingly, as someone who has criticized Fillon saying that “The future of France is not a set of British-style reforms from the eighties”, he’s planning additional privatization of various (partly) state-owned enterprises in order to raise money. That’s not a bad policy but it’s not going to be popular with the unions and neither, potentially, are his pension reform ideas. Likewise, while not being as heavy handed as Fillon, he plans to cut the number of bureaucrats and indeed of politicians. Despite his claims to be a Thatcherite I’d class Fillon as being Thatcher-lite and hence Macron is Thatcher Ultra Lite – i.e. bland, tasteless and an insult to horse urine. Perhaps the egg was intended to add some color and body to the Macron….
To finish up, The Week magazine had an article on Macron which is interesting mostly because it says exactly what I’ve been saying – namely that Macron is “a populist from the top” and not the real thing. There’s still almost two months to go and a lot can change but at present it seems like the runoff will be Macron – Le Pen and the opinion polls strongly suggest Macron winning that handily. However I’m absolutely sure the polls are under counting Le Pen voters so that win is not, IMHO, etched in stone. If Macron plays the “globalist” card too strongly or anything happens that bolsters the Le Pen positions on Islam and immigration then I can easily see her winning because Macron still comes across more as a phony Tony Blair than a real agent for change.
The Shadow of the Olive Tree