Simply said, it is essential for centrist Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! to defeat far-right Marine Le Pen of the Front National in the French presidential election, which takes place on May 7.
To start off, let’s talk economics. Some have argued that Emmanuel Macron either publicly or secretly champions the same economic policies that put current President Francois Hollande’s popularity in the single digits and caused the farleft Hamon to win the Socialist Party nomination. While this statement holds some accuracy, the magnitude to which it should be considered must be taken into account. While Macron was responsible for some unpopular economic policies and supports globalization, Marine Le Pen’s plans for protectionism and pulling out of the E.U. make her a much greater danger to the French economy than Macron.
The markets enjoy nothing more than stability in global political affairs. Just days before the U.S. presidential election, as Donald Trump was gaining ground and increasing his commitment to challenging a “rigged election” if he lost, the markets began to slip. Yet, after he was elected and Hillary Clinton conceded defeat, showing that she would not challenge the election result, the markets rallied and the Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up to a record 21,000, something Donald Trump has been quick to take credit for. With that in mind, it is important to note that if France were to leave the E.U. after Britain did, and as Le Pen has promised it will, this would likely lead to a collapse of the E.U. This in turn would cause unprecedented global instability that would likely do great damage to the markets and cause global job losses and possibly even a recession. Compared to Macron’s lukewarm economic policies, this is catastrophic.
Then of course there is the case of social policy. It is easy to forget about Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father and the founder of the National Front, who famously described the Holocaust as but a detail of history. Yet, Macron is trying not to let people forget, most recently by “visiting the Holocaust Memorial…aimed at reminding voters of the anti-Semitic past of Le Pen’s National Front Party” (“Macron visits Holocaust Museum,” The Independent, 04.31.2017). While it could be argued that this strategy is misguided due to Marine Le Pen’s supposed dilution of the National Front since taking the reins of power from her father, it is important to understand the difference between rebranding and true ideological reform.
France, while consisting of around 85 percent Roman Catholics, is governed rather secularly and Le Pen has been consistent in her devotion to that, sometimes to a militant degree. Yet, that militant degree is usually enforced at the expense not of Catholics, but rather of Muslims, who make up around 5 to 10 percent of the total population.
So people have argued then that while Le Pen has maintained the Islamophobia of the National Front, she has cast off the anti-Semitism that has plagued it. Yet, that should be met with a healthy amount of skepticism simply because while the leaders of right and far right in many countries have forged shaky alliances with their country’s Jews and the nation of Israel, they continue to push forth their theocratic Christian platforms. These platforms, unfortunately, are not compatible with the protection of the Jewish people in the long run. We have seen Trump’s administration bungle foreign relations with Israel, Holocaust Remembrance Day and general respect for the Jewish people on a number of occasions simply because Zionism and the Western far right are proven incompatible. No matter what Le Pen purports about her party in regards to the Jewish people, it should definitely be treated with substantial skepticism.
Finally, there is foreign policy. There is some contention over just how good an ally Le Pen would truly be to Donald Trump; she has condemned his missile strike, and her promise of an E.U. referendum threatens the stability of global markets, which Trump has been able to point to as a concrete example of his presidency’s success. Yet, there is very little contention about whether or not she would be a better ally to Trump than Macron; she would. If for no other reason, then simply because “Le Pen, like Trump, ran a campaign that was anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and traded on white supremacist themes. (It’s no coincidence that former Klan leader David Duke has publicly praised both Le Pen and Trump.)” (“Why Putin and Trump both like Le Pen,” CNN, 04.23.2017). She has also “publicly praised Trump and met with some of his top surrogates” (CNN). Yet, just like we consistently ask ourselves about Russia, is a good relationship with France in our better interest or theirs?
A great bolster to Trump’s global doctrine would be the continued victory of the far right, as well as the elevation of far-right leaders who would consistently fail to condemn his misguided actions and policies. Essentially, if Le Pen were to be elected we likely wouldn’t hear much criticism of Trump out of France, and Trump would be able to point to France as an example of the continued success of his political movement. Furthermore, Le Pen, like Trump, has proven to be a consistent apologist and supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Most notably, “Le Pen made international headlines when she met with Putin in Moscow just a few weeks ago, the only one of the 11 French presidential candidates to do so” (“Why Putin and Trump both like Le Pen,” CNN, 04.23.2017). A Le Pen presidency would be a very real check in Putin’s game of international chess and would mark yet another leader of a major power failing to condemn his provocative actions on the global stage.
So you’re probably asking yourself why the heck you should care about an election in a country you’ve probably never been to. Well, for one thing a substantial Macron victory would certainly rain on the far right’s current parade and hopefully dampen their spirits in coming electoral contests. Furthermore, it might help us see that moving to the center, as opposed to the radical fringes, is a substantial electoral strategy to defeating Donald Trump in 2020. With all that in mind, I urge everyone to keep close eye on the French presidential election. Tell your friends to go out and vote and, most importantly, En Marche!