A setback for fascism

I predicted that Marine Le Pen would win over 40% of the vote in the French Presidential election.  Obviously I jinxed her.  You’re welcome, world.

This was a blowout of historic proportions.  Even Barry Goldwater and George McGovern won a greater share of the vote than Marine Le Pen.

Compared to her father’s performance in the 2002 French Presidential election, however, her 2017 performance looks pretty good.  In France there is still a taboo against voting for the hard-right Front National, but the taboo isn’t nearly as strong as it was fifteen years ago.

Also, in 2002 French voters turned out in huge numbers – 80% turnout – to beat back the fascist candidate.  This time around, abstentions and spoiled ballots were at a level unseen since 1969, due in no small part to far-left supporters who insisted they saw little difference between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

Timothy Garton Ash explains why the Le Pen crowd could come back stronger, should Macron fail:

Thanks to France’s superior electoral system and strong republican tradition, the political outcome is better than the victories of Donald Trump and Brexit, but the underlying electoral reality is in some ways worse. Trump came from the world of buccaneer capitalism, not from a long-established party of the far right; and most of the 52% who voted for Brexit were not voting for Nigel Farage. After Le Pen’s disgusting, mendacious, jeering performance in last Wednesday’s television debate, no one could have any doubt who they were voting for. She makes Farage look almost reasonable.

From the country which gave us the 1789 example of violent revolution, we now have the personification of today’s worldwide anti-liberal counter-revolution. Le Pen is the very model of a modern national populist. She herself boasted in the TV debate that she is best placed to deal with this brave new world, “to talk about Russia with Putin, to talk about the United States with Trump, to talk about Great Britain with Theresa May”. (How sickening to see a British prime minister listed in that company.) There is every reason to believe that this wave of populist reaction against globalisation, liberalisation and Europeanisation still has a lot of pent-up anger behind it.


…Macron knows what needs to be done in France but is unlikely to succeed in doing it. To those who supported Le Pen you have to add the many who abstained, including leftwing voters who described this second round as a choice between cholera and the plague. The president-elect has no established party behind him, so it is totally unclear what majority will emerge from next month’s French parliamentary elections.

He is already being described as “Renzi 2.0”, a reference to the Italian would-be-reformist former premier Matteo Renzi. His super-ambitious target is to reduce public spending from 56% of GDP to just – wait for it – 52%. The obstacles to change in France are enormous, from powerful unions and a bloated public sector to farmers who make a habit of blocking roads with tractors. If Macron fails to reform France, in 2022 we may yet have a president Le Pen.

For now, ironically, Le Pen and the European hard-right may be dragged down by the emergence of another extremist:

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