There is an undercurrent of Anglo-titillation with a Le Pen victory
Yesterday, Politico published an article titled: “The Return of Marine Le Pen” with a dramatic first sentence: “Marine Le Pen has never been closer to seizing power in France than she is now”. This must be a case of early election fever. France’s next Presidential elections are taking place in May 2022, and we are starting to see the first polls and commentators beside themselves with catastrophile excitement.
The first surveys by Ipsos and Harris institutes are placing Marine Le Pen slightly ahead of Emmanuel Macron in the first round, around 25-28% against 24-27% for the current French president. Since her father Jean-Marie Le Pen and his National Front party made a splash in French politics thanks to the introduction of proportionality in the legislative electoral system in 1986 (proportionality since then revoked), the story of the French far Right has certainly been one of electoral ascent.
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However, and to put it bluntly, this does not make Marine Le Pen any closer to seizing power. Why? Mostly because the two rounds of the French presidential elections will always work against her. It is a tradition, almost a culture, for French voters to vent their anger on the first round, hence the high scores of the Far Right at this stage. At the second round, French voters choose the better of the top two candidates or, as some would put it, the lesser of two evils.
In recent years though, a sense of titillation among both parts of the French electorate and the Anglo commentariat, have nourished an unhealthy climate, one that is betting on, and secretly wishing, a Le Pen victory in France. In France, that “après moi le déluge” spirit among the far Left was already apparent in 2017. In an interview to The Guardian in May 2017, the writer Laurent Binet summed up the French far Left rhetoric:
No doubt, we will hear as much, if not more of that, next year.
Among the Anglo commentariat — people who don’t actually cast a vote in those elections — the titillation of a Le Pen victory is a purely conceptual one as they won’t be the ones suffering its direct consequences. And this dark desire of theirs makes the subtext of many comments and articles.
This sentiment is grounded, I believe, in old and new prejudices about France and the belief that, at heart, France is far more Vichy than it cares to admit. For instance, back in November, on French public radio, the New York Times bureau chief Adam Nossiter judged that Charlie Hebdo cartoons mocking Religion was equal to the antisemitic propaganda exhibition organised by the Nazi administration in 1941 in German occupied Paris.
This alone informs us why instead of seeing, for instance, Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to root out Islamist separatism in France as a way to stop the rise of the far Right, they see it, on the contrary, as evidence that France is really just made of fifty shades of Le Penism. This is of course a point of view like any other, but it is also a more pernicious one than many others. Let’s hope the French will prove both Le Pen and catastrophiles wrong again in May 2022.