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The Triumph of Marine Le Pen

It was only back in May that Marine Le Pen, the head of the National Front and daughter of its antisemitic founder, performed staggeringly well against Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential election. Winning 40 percent against Macron in the second-round vote and electing eight candidates to the French National Assembly, Le Pen produced a dream result for her party and her platform of immigration skepticism and political populism. The National Front made all the big headlines, and her candidates dominated primetime TV news.

Several months later, Le Pen’s National Front is in shambles, torn apart by infighting and strife. What happened? It’s important to understand—and resist the temptation to engage in schadenfreude.

Many National Front members were, despite the record result, disappointed after the election, having hoped they’d be able to elect Le Pen president. So the Front’s vice chairman Florian Philippot created a think tank to restructure the party. That effort was undermined when in early September, as her approval ratings declined [1] and Philippot raised more criticism over the party’s policy line, Le Pen decided to strip him off of his responsibilities, which led him to quit the National Front [2]. This divided the party, and put Le Pen at a crossroads.

Le Pen is known for her low-tolerance attitude towards those she regards as traitors. According to Agence France Presse (AFP), she’s either arranged for the departures or straight-out excluded 17 percent of the party’s internal board since 2014. Her heavy hand towards her own allies famously extended to her own father [3], who she booted from the party after concluding that his antisemitism was a liability. This ruthless purging was the reason the Front lost seven out of its 24 seats in the European Parliament, stripping it of its title of the strongest French party in the European Union.

Le Pen’s authoritarian approach has today left her facing tough questions about her future in the National Front. These woes have led the French press to repeatedly ask: Is this the end of the French far right?

But covering just everyday party politics doesn’t necessarily position one to understand why political movements emerge in the first place. Le Pen wasn’t successful because she had a good team or a fantastic strategy: alas, Donald Trump has shown that neither is really needed to win a presidential election against an establishment opponent. Le Pen’s success is that of her ideas.

Take her protectionism. According to an IFOP (French Institute for Public Opinion) poll in 2012 [4], prior to the presidential election that year, 53 percent of French people believed that free trade has a negative impact on consumer prices, 69 percent asserted that it aggravates the deficit, and a staggering 81 percent believed that it has a negative impact on employment. These views are not limited to any particular demographic: they’re shared throughout the private and the public sector, across different kinds of professions, between urban and rural areas, those working and retired, men and women. Nor did voting intention—whether a respondent was far-left, far-right, centrist, conservative, or socialist—seem to make much difference as to how trade was perceived.

And while age groups did show marginal differences when it came to opinions on protectionism, the perception that Le Pen’s National Front is only supported by old people longing for a new Charles De Gaulle is highly misleading. In the first round of the 2017 presidential election, Le Pen gathered more support among those aged 18-24 than she did from those over 60. In fact, between them, the communist-backed Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Le Pen—both staunch protectionists—amassed over 50 percent [5] of support among young people. The National Front itself ironizes this on its website [6], in response to the suggestion by other party leaders that the French voting age be lowered to 16: “Since the National Front is the favorite choice for young people, we might be suspected to be interested in such a measure. That is, however, not the case.”

This is why it doesn’t matter if Le Pen’s party stands or falls. It will either reassemble elsewhere or the voters will hijack another party. Ideas don’t just disappear because the messenger left for an early pension. The question in politics is much less “who is in charge?” than “why are they in charge?” Those who oppose the National Front need to change the hearts and minds of people rather than pronouncing a political party dead based on its leadership changes. The best way to defeat the far left and far right is to challenge the economically illiterate and welfare-heavy promises that both sides make, which are exactly what France doesn’t need right now.

Until then, even if Marine Le Pen fades away, France will see a new figure of her kind pop up in the coming years. It’s bad ideas we have to fight, not people.

Bill Wirtz is a Young Voices advocate. His work has appeared in Newsweek, the Washington Examiner, CityAM, CapX, the Mises Institute, Le Monde, and Le Figaro.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "The Triumph of Marine Le Pen"

#1 Comment By collin On October 17, 2017 @ 10:06 am

In the first round of the 2017 presidential election, Le Pen gathered more support among those aged 18-24 than she did from those over 60.

The biggest difference of Trump vs. Le Pen was the 65+ went overwhelming Trump in the US and 65+ overwhelming Macron. So why is this true? I suspect a lot of 65+ don’t want to move from the Euro while young people are not as tied to the currency. Le Pen had literally no idea how hard it would be to remove itself from the Euro with bank jogs, long lines and banking holidays.

And dont assume that young people may change their views as they age.

#2 Comment By Hildebrand On October 17, 2017 @ 10:27 am

Strange piece. Mme Le Pen didn’t win 40% of the vote in the second round against Macron, but only 33.9, lets say 34%. Before the election she polled 40% but after the disastrous debate for her, her polls went down.
And for her ideas, well, protectinism was always popular, especially in the left. No change here. With the exception of immigration policy, the FN is quite a far left party. The FN ideas didn’t win, it is the FN who moved closer to the french leftist ideals, thanks to Philipot.

#3 Comment By Youth Culture On October 17, 2017 @ 10:49 am

“And while age groups did show marginal differences when it came to opinions on protectionism, the perception that Le Pen’s National Front is only supported by old people longing for a new Charles De Gaulle is highly misleading.”

The same is true of “right wing” performance throughout Europe. Young people are driving it at least as much as the “old racists” of the media’s preferred narrative.

Consider Austria: the youngest national leader in Europe is now an avowed anti-immigrationist who shut down refugee routes into his country and banned wearing of the burqa. He is about to form a government with another right wing party that not long ago was deemed beyond the pale for civilized political society.

At 31, Kurz is eight years younger than Macron in France. He’s 13 years younger than Justin Trudeau. Earlier this year, the youthfulness of Macron and Trudeau had the media swooning, making glowing predictions for a globalist future once all the evil racist oldsters were good and dead.

But now we’re seeing that young native born people both in the US and Europe are going hard right. And why not? They have even more to fear from migrant floods and rampant “multiculturalism” than older people do. They are the ones being beaten and raped in public schools and on inner city streets by ethnic gangs. They are the ones competing with immigrants for school places, for scarce jobs and resources. They are the ones being told that their parents and ancestors are racist criminals and that they themselves are “entitled” and “privileged”, with the heavy implication that compensation is owed and revenge will be taken.

#4 Comment By G. K. On October 17, 2017 @ 11:12 am

What exactly is happening to this magazine? In its early days it was a lone voice in the wilderness for Paleoconservatism. It advocated mild protectionism, non-interventionism and sensible immigration restriction in the name of cultural preservation. Now, for the first time in ages we actually have candidates like Trump and LePen who can break through and accomplish it, but your writers work tirelessly to criticize and undermine the rise of the national sovereignty we are in need of. If TAC is turning into another globalist, neo-liberal journal then it is time that you considered changing your name.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 17, 2017 @ 11:54 am

“Le Pen had literally no idea how hard it would be to remove itself from the Euro with bank jogs, long lines and banking holidays.”

I think that i key and I am not sure that she didn’t comprehend this much as had a plan to deal with it.

I am keenly aware that when we talk about immigration, illegal immigration, decreaing cheap labor of any kind that i an end around run to the law or the spirit of the law, it demand some grasp of the consequences to the real people in relationship to the economy.

But the longer our leadership ignores dealing with it, the more exacerbated the issue will become.

their answer: manufacture overseas crisis.

#6 Comment By spite On October 17, 2017 @ 6:42 pm

G. K.
“What exactly is happening to this magazine?”

I have to agree with that question. It’s bad enough that they invite liberals to write as a conservative (at least then put some kind of label saying they are talking from the liberal perspective), but this author so despises right wingers that he openly admits to having schadenfreude that she lost. They should seriously rename this from “American Conservative” because it is not even remotely close (except to the resident liberals that commenting here that decide how a conservative should be).

#7 Comment By Andrew On October 17, 2017 @ 9:26 pm

GK-what happened was Daniel McCarthy and now Bob Merry. They are not Scott McConnell. People are naive to think this place is still guided by the hands of Pat Buchanan or Taki. It isn’t.

#8 Comment By DWSWesVirginny On October 17, 2017 @ 10:50 pm

According to the author of this article, “Le Pen is known for her low-tolerance attitude towards those she regards as traitors.” Yet the only concrete example he gives is Le Pen’s booting out her father because his antisemitism is a “liability”. One could consider that a good thing? The author apparently wants us to question Le Pen’s motive but one could say that the moderation of extreme or repugnant views (such as antisemitism) by any means is, as I said, a good thing. Besides, the most visible and virulent antisemitism in Europe seems to be largely a phenomenon of the Left.

I agree with the other commenters that a major impetus for Le Pen and her party and other similar parties is the sense by ever greater numbers of Europeans that their identities are being deliberately suppressed by globalists who look at the old cultures they seek to flatten as obsolete. This includes a certain amount of economic nationalism. People are more than economic units which is why a purely economic argument for immigration and unrestricted trade is looking more and more inadequate to what it means to be an Englishman, Frenchman, German and so on. No human being or group of human beings can be totally inclusive and we seem to thrive best when we assemble around common features and culture; despite claims to the contrary which, again, are looking increasingly hollow.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 18, 2017 @ 8:23 pm

Laugh . . .

I am always amused about the surprise that the authors write on TAC write from a liberal perspective.

A lot has happened since 2002 . . .