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Le Pen Doubles Down at Crunch Time

I’m sensing a little boost for Marine Le Pen. She was just on for a pretty lengthy interview [1] on BFMTV, the main news station. The host, who is surely no Le Penist, asked her a lot of questions about her life, growing up as the daughter of France’s most prominent extreme-rightist, etc. She is always very good on such topics, coming across as both normal and wise. She’s led a full life and is raising three kids as a divorced mom. She was appealing in talking about her decision to keep them out of the campaign limelight. She’s attractive but no knockout; I think she is very relatable not only as a populist tribune, but as a woman in full navigating the shoals of a modern life. I liked it when the host asked her what she was reading, and she laughed and said nothing but campaign-related dossiers and reports. My guess is that none of her opponents would come across so well in this format, and it can’t hurt her that clips of it will be rebroadcast all day on the main news channel four days before the first round.

Some in the press have had Le Pen in a little bit of a slump: a slight dipping in the polls, an inability to bring the campaign to focus on her subjects. One observer noted that she seemed a bit outside-looking-in during the televised debates; she would say something bold or provocative and no one would respond. That’s not the case this week; she’s back in the center. She did it by doubling down hard on her key issue, immigration.

On Monday evening she spoke at big rally at the Zenith, on the edge of Paris. Paris is not a Marine stronghold, so she filled an arena of 5,000, perhaps a third of the size of Macron’s rally earlier that day. But she made news with real proposals—so, in contrast to Macron, the papers were full of Le Pen headlines for the next two days.

The Zenith is on the northeast edge of Paris, near the suburbs where riots are always possible, and leaving the subway I was not unhappy to see a full contingent of riot cops. I got into the arena early, but shortly thereafter the “antifa” assaulted rallygoers with Molotov cocktails. When we left, the cops told us to use one subway station (there was another possibility) because it was “fully securitized.”

The Le Pen crowd in Paris has that embattled group which has been on the outs for a while. But it gives them a kind of esprit de corps. A few parents brought children though this was an evening rally at the end of a holiday weekend. Among the older faces, there was a working-class, or what in New York would be an outer-borough, feel; the younger Le Penists looked somewhat hipper.

As music to warm up the crowd before the speakers, Macron’s rally deployed somewhat sanitized rap; Le Pen went with Ravel’s Bolero.

Finally Marine Le Pen strides onstage, wearing black pants and a scarlet jacket. She talks for an hour and a half, from prepared text but with some real rhetorical power. She speaks mostly about immigration and globalization: “civilization is at stake” and she will protect France and the French. The crowd regularly breaks into the Le Penist chant “on est chez nous(“We are at home”)—a chant of defiance to globalization, something that would make sense only to a people whose sense of being at home in their country felt actually under threat.

Globalization of course is a vast subject, and she can dip into one corner of it after another without ever sliding into genuinely racist discourse. France will either put itself in order and reclaim its identity or become a little planetary village. “In France we drink wine whenever we want. In France we do not force women to wear the veil because they are impure. In France we get to decide who deserves to become French.” We will not be “dispossessed our our history, our memory.” This last incites long rolling chants of “On est chez nous! from the crowd.

As president Le Pen vows to end the Schengen agreement, which allows open-borders travel between the countries of Europe. Schengen has “made our country a railway hall for all the migrants of the world.” Massive immigration is “not an opportunity for France, but a tragedy for France.” 240 killed by terrorists in the past two years. She will end birthright citizenship; she will impose a moratorium on all legal immigration. (This a hardening of the line she put out in proposals several months ago.) The burkini (the Muslim swimming suit) is “not a religious garment but an Islamist provocation.” “Give us France back” she exhorts. She reminds the crowd that Fillon supported Turkey’s entry into the European Union, which would grant unlimited residency rights in France for Turkish citizens. And after Turkey, she notes, tomorrow we could have Algeria and Morocco. She doesn’t mention this, but this was the ambition of the moderate Muslim French president elected in in Houellebecq’s novel Soumission.

At one point Le Pen had said that Mohammed Merah, one of the many French born Islamic terrorists, wouldn’t have had French citizenship if her preferences had been in place. This provoked a shame-on-her-editorial from Le Monde, which contrasted Le Pen unfavorably with George W. Bush of all people—for trying to make political capital out of terrorism.

I have to admit I thought Le Pen’s speech was fine. Her ideal France isn’t attacking any foreign countries, brandishing aircraft carriers and nuclear missiles, threatening regime change. It wants simply to be able to be itself. But in the forced march to a world without borders, that is considered an extremist and shameful ambition. It shouldn’t be.

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "Le Pen Doubles Down at Crunch Time"

#1 Comment By Conewago On April 19, 2017 @ 10:38 am

Question, though. And this is an honest question for informational purposes, not a rhetorical question.

When you say Le Pen (who, is after all, merely a populist) wants France to “be able to be itself,” what is “itself”? Is it France as truly civilized, as the elder daughter of the Church? Or is it France the mother of secularism, with its “French” identity being only tangentially conservative and tangentially Catholic? Because that France seems better, but not much better, than a commie France.

#2 Comment By collin On April 19, 2017 @ 11:38 am

What I see the big problem with France and Muslims is most of the Muslim population are native citizens here due to past colonial wars. So immigration is the Big issue but it will turn off Muslims and possible middle/upper class voters in the message. And exchange Hispanic-Americans with Muslim and the Le Pen is mirroring the Trump campaign issues. In reality, she is probably a better politician than Trump (her promises are more narrow and reality) but lacks the marketing & publicity expertise/experience of Trump.

Overall, the US,GA06?, nor France are done with these issues and these battle will continue. (I still think Handel wins GA06 but it will be a battle.

#3 Comment By grumpy realist On April 19, 2017 @ 12:46 pm

What’s ironic is that if you put about five yards of ruffles on a burkini you’d have a Victorian swimming dress.
What’s Le Pen going to do, insist that all women wear bikinis at the beach?

#4 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 19, 2017 @ 1:07 pm

Scott, you mentioned that Marine Le Pen said last night that “she will impose a moratorium on all legal immigration.”

Almost all legal immigration. At least according to Lizzie Dearden (The Independent) who writes: “Watched by thousands of supporters at a rally in Paris on Monday, the Front National leader announced plans for a moratorium on immigration to cut net migration to 10,000 people a year. The proposal would freeze long-term visas and see any company hiring foreign workers hit with a 10 per cent tax. Ms Le Pen said: ‘This does not constitute a moratorium on tourist visas, and we are also excluding students requesting their visa for the following year’.”

I thought that Marine Le Pen reacted to the topless woman protester – the one carrying flowers who rushed the podium — in the classic, confident Marine Le Pen way: She threw back her head and enjoyed that raucous, infectious Marine Le Pen laugh! (Photo of her laughing in the same article from The Independent.)

[2]

#5 Comment By sophistry On April 19, 2017 @ 2:29 pm

The origins of Schengen were admirable. Why should Germany and France spill the blood of their young men over the border territories? The World Wars were so unnecessary.

The problem is that the ideals needed to be updated in this current age. The problem isn’t that Germans from Germany are abusing the agreement. It is that 3rd parties not thought of at the time of ratification are using the agreement to bring different problems, completely foreign problems, to France, and indeed, Germany.

Unfortunately, to fix the problem means confronting uncomfortable truths, truths that indeed are racist but still are truths.

#6 Comment By a cap doff for the ladies On April 19, 2017 @ 6:41 pm

Le Pen really lays into Merkel, but in many ways she reminds me of Merkel. More fire, less cool, but still … a shrewd, capable woman with bottom. Britain’s May strikes me somewhat the same way. It would be fascinating (and gratifying) to see them all in power at the same time.

#7 Comment By Kevin On April 19, 2017 @ 7:38 pm

“It wants simply to be able to be itself. But in the forced march to a world without borders, that is considered an extremist and shameful ambition.”

But what is “itself?” Muslims (and Jews, who she wants to ban from wearing religious garb in public) are already there. Attempts to remove them or force them to basically renounce their religion are going to change France. As will attempts to reverse “globalization.” (How will the farmers of France profonde react when the farm subsidies paid by the Germans and the Dutch stop flowing)? What happens to tourism and the restaurant industry –
quintessential French institutions – once you decided that open borders are bad?

You can’t step into the same river twice- especially when the river you want to step into was never a real river, but a nice landscape painting.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 19, 2017 @ 8:09 pm

Bravo to her ——–

She makes perfectly clear sense . . . clear waters.

#9 Comment By bayesian On April 19, 2017 @ 10:44 pm

Is there any independent corroboration of the claim from (FN official) Jean Messiha about Molotov cocktails being thrown (by the “antifa” protestors)? Considering how much press coverage, with lots of pictures, there is of the rally, it’s remarkably hard to find any pictures of Molotov cocktails – perhaps I just didn’t look hard enough (my very poor French did not help).

If you (Scott McConnell, or for that matter other readers) have first hand knowledge of this, you might want to e.g. contact Reuters, who say they are looking for confirmation of Massiha’s claim.

Pending confirmation, I tentatively assume that is one of those claims which is supposed to be taken “seriously but not literally”; I did not realize that rhetorical style was now house style at TAC.

#10 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 20, 2017 @ 4:15 am

“Is it France as truly civilized, as the elder daughter of the Church? Or is it France the mother of secularism, with its “French” identity being only tangentially conservative and tangentially Catholic? Because that France seems better, but not much better, than a commie France . . .”

I think her classic response her would be,

“That’s for France to decide. And we need not jettison who are historically but for the blemishes.”

While she would react vehemently against my suggestion that she deal with her past as part of her history. I tend to lean in the direction that its for France determine her destiny as opposed to the open borders crowd.

#11 Comment By Diogo Silva On April 20, 2017 @ 9:23 am

“the burkini is not a religious garment but an Islamist provocation.” One can argue that the burkini is “not French” (whatever the implications may be for French non-Christians), and as such it should be banned. But the idea that Muslims are simply being “provocative” in bad faith, as opposed to, you know, finding a balance between their religious beliefs and their leisure, is ridiculous. You may dislike Muslims, but pretending their more interested in annoying you than following their faith is disingenuous.

#12 Comment By mark_be On April 20, 2017 @ 9:28 am

@grumpy realist:

I saw that idea in a cartoon a while back, going like this:

France, 1960, a police officer to a young lady wearing a bikini: “Cover yourself, miss, this is indecent.”

France, 2017, a police officer to a young lady wearing a burkini: “Undress yourself, miss, this is indecent.”

The more I read about political parties whose main selling point is a return to the glory days of the 1950s (or the 1930s, if they get their exit from the EU), the happier I am to live in a country that has never had such glory days. Our politicians are mind-meltingly stupid as it is without chasing that mirage.

#13 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 20, 2017 @ 10:30 am

The origins of Schengen were admirable. Why should Germany and France spill the blood of their young men over the border territories? The World Wars were so unnecessary.

Um, no they weren’t “admirable”. And quite aside from the Muslim and migrant issues, the effects of Schengen have been terrible in a lot of ways. Much of Eastern Europe has become stripped of its younger and more educated / skilled people through mass migration to the west.

Your point about French and German wars is so much of a non sequitur I’m not sure what to do with it. What do wars have to do with immigration? Plenty of countries don’t have open borders and also don’t find it difficult to refrain from going to war. In any case, the major wars since 1945 have been civil wars not cross border ones and have been about ideology rather than borders.

Schengen was a horrible idea because if you don’t control who is allowed into your country, you don’t really have a country in any meaningful sense, and you can’t impose a particular vision of the good if people are always free to seek their own private good by moving. The East Germans, rather than the West Germans, had a much more correct view on the question of walls vs. bridges.

#14 Comment By SJS On April 21, 2017 @ 8:17 am

Once again a civil comment of that makes a critical reference to Pat Buchanon is rejected. How pathetic. Methinks I have had enough of your journal….

#15 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 21, 2017 @ 11:59 am

Le Pen really lays into Merkel, but in many ways she reminds me of Merkel. More fire, less cool, but still … a shrewd, capable woman with bottom. Britain’s May strikes me somewhat the same way. It would be fascinating (and gratifying) to see them all in power at the same time.

Merkel is terrible, but I quite like Theresa May. I’m no conservative but I wish the conservative party in America had politicians as smart and tough minded as Theresa. Unfortunately we don’t.