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Marion Maréchal Le Pen’s Dynamic Speech

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the right-wing French politician, delivered a solid speech to CPAC today. It’s embedded above. It was not the usual American conservative boilerplate. For example, check out this passage:

To open oneself to the outside, you must have a solid core. To welcome, you have to remain, and to share, you must have something to offer. Without nation, and without family, the limits of the common good, natural law, and collective morality disappears, as the reign of egoism continues.

Today, even children have now become merchandise. We hear now in the public debate, we have the right to order a child from a catalog, we have the right to rent a woman’s womb, we have the right to deprive a child of a mother or father. No you don’t! A child is not a “right”. Is this the freedom that we want? No. We don’t want this atomized world of individuals without gender, without fathers, without mothers, and without nation.

She went on to condemn euthanasia, gender theory, and transhumanism. Le Pen said that the fight cannot be political alone, but must take place in culture, in media, and in the education system. She ended like this:

I finish with a Mahler quote I like very much, a quote which sums up conservatism in modernity: ‘Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”

I like that quote very much too:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [3]

Michael Brendan Dougherty picked out the most unusual thing about her speech [4]: how it inadvertently revealed how very, very Protestant most American conservatism is. Check out his short reaction piece for the details. That is what occurred to me as well, especially having just returned from a week in France. Even though The Benedict Option [5]was written for an American readership, I find it so much easier to discuss it with French and Italian Catholics, for reasons that I have not been able to figure out. Hearing Le Pen in an American context really brought that out. Even American Catholics are a lot more Protestant in how they think politically than they realize.

I don’t say this as a put-down; it’s what you would expect from people raised in an overwhelmingly Protestant nation, one built on Protestant, classic-liberal principles. But there it is. My friend Fred Gion, a Catholic and political conservative in Paris, told me over a decade ago that the arguments in my book Crunchy Cons, which was being attacked by many US conservatives for being crypto-liberal, made perfect sense to European conservatives.

Continental conservatives in the Le Pen mold are more traditionalist, focusing on natural law, religion, and culture. Conservative US Protestants share a lot of the views of European conservatives, but there seems to be among conservatives from Catholic cultures a deeper sense of order unifying these principles. There also tends to be much more skepticism of the free market and individualism.

Readers who have thought more about this than I have: tell me why this is. Which principles define conservative politics in Britain and America as more Protestant than conservative politics on the continent? Let’s talk about this — but anybody, Protestant or Catholic, who wants to sneer at the other, keep it to yourself.

I agree with this from Dougherty as well:

And I have a warning for those who would warm to [Le Pen’s speech] uncritically. As my career grants me friendships with other conservatives across Europe, I notice the tendency in them and in myself to idealize or project hopes onto the conservatives in other nations. My Irish and English friends tend to be far more positive about Trump than I am. And I have been far more positive about some of their would-be champions than they can be. Unfamiliarity breeds fantasy.

This is true. I was asked quite a bit about Trump while I was in France. It was interesting to me that most of my interlocutors regarded him ideally, in contrast to Emmanuel Macron, whom they detested. I could tell that folks didn’t really understand why I was so cool on Trump. I bet that things would be exactly reversed in the matter of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen (but not her secular nationalist aunt Marine, whom I find unappealing!).

78 Comments (Open | Close)

78 Comments To "Marion Maréchal Le Pen’s Dynamic Speech"

#1 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 23, 2018 @ 11:30 am

The main reason why nothing ever gets done in the Beltway is because the two-party system has strangled everything. It is an archaic system which cries out for reform.

Hear! Hear! Three or four parties doing some honest horse trading would serve us much better.

‘Look, you know we’re never going to agree to X, but, none of us alone have sufficient strength to form a government, so, we could give you Y if you’ll go along with Z, and pretty much all of us agree on Q.’

#2 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 23, 2018 @ 12:34 pm

Any way there are a lot reasons that Trump is still unpopular in a nation with ~4% unemployment.

The European country with the lowest unemployment rate is the Czech Republic (also with good economic growth and tied for the second-lowest Gini index in the world), and they’re also the most ethnocentric and, in a value neutral sense, the most opposed to ethnic diversity. Denmark and Switzerland among others have also seen major reactions against ethnic diversification, in spite of being model high performing social democracies. I don’t know what they think about Trump per se in the Czech Republic or Denmark, I doubt they care for him at all, but I do think it’s a mistake to reduce all concerns about ethnicity and identity to economics. (As noted, it’s also a major mistake to elide all anti-liberal, ethnic-tribalist politicians together. Trump is not Marine Le Pen, much to his discredit, and he’s a cut below most other major cultural-reactionary leaders in Europe as well, both in terms of ideology and personal character).

#3 Comment By David Nash On February 23, 2018 @ 12:41 pm

Interesting that also published on February 22 was Cardinal Chaput’s speech on faith, state, and society.


I think that speech and your article have some commonality. What do you think?

#4 Comment By Anne On February 23, 2018 @ 2:22 pm

Yes, as a commenter above noted, I have to wonder where you found these pro-Trump Frenchmen? That alone gives me pause about their supposedly Catholic ways. I get that there can be cultural differences that make the grass look greener on the other hill. But they are seeing green where even their fellow countrymen see an orange-colored blight. Worry.

#5 Comment By Robert B Lewis On February 23, 2018 @ 2:24 pm

I think the difference between American Protestant “conservatives” and European Catholic conservatives is rather simple: the latter are steeped in the “Tory” benevolent paternalism of the social justice encyclicals of the modern papacy, which, though not overtly socialistic, are extraordinarily concerned with the social responsibilities of the “owners” and the rights and dignities of the “laborers.” Those encyclicals totally and completely reject unregulated free-market capitalism, albeit favoring entrepreneurship. The model of capitalism they seem to embrace is called “distributism.”

#6 Comment By Janek On February 23, 2018 @ 2:35 pm

Sorry RD, they are not for sale. You have them or you don’t ;).

#7 Comment By JonF On February 23, 2018 @ 2:51 pm

Re: Le Pen may be Catholic, but she is also divorced from her husband of two years, with whom she has a daughter.

Is she remarried? It isn’t divorce per se that is the issue, but rather remarriage afterward.

#8 Comment By Geoff On February 23, 2018 @ 2:58 pm

New ideas, good or bad, achieve escape velocity more easily where traditions are weak. Just as ideas can be good or bad, traditions can be stultifying or sustaining. Protestant culture developed in rebellion against an established culture and any time the dust begins to settle it can be stirred up again by rebels referring to founding principles (inner light, congregationalism, every man his own priest, etc.)

My preference is for protestantism as a personal mode of existence but I feel that a successful society will probably have a strong, stiffening admixture of catholicism.

I’m not really religious and I’m trying to abstract protestantism and catholicism a bit from their formal identities. I think that is okay if understood in the same spirit that Rod says that the United States is a protestant culture and that this influences even American Catholics. I use upper and lower case letters to differentiate confessing members of religions from general tendencies and mental dispositions.

Walter Bagheot once said that a reason the British political experience had been happier and more successful than the French was that the British were more stupid. From the essay:

“In fact, what we opprobriously call ‘stupidity,’ though not an enlivening quality in common society, is nature’s favorite resource for preserving steadiness of conduct and consistency of opinion; it enforces concentration: people who learn slowly, learn only what they must. The best security for people’s doing their duty is, that they should not know anything else to do; the best security for fixedness of opinion is, that people should be incapable of comprehending what is to be said on the other side.”

Bagheot doesn’t just mention the French and the English, he also compares Greece to Rome. And in Bagheot’s formulation the inquisitive and experimental virtues are given to the Catholic French and steadiness assigned to Protestant Great Britain… Possibly a reason to look for a deeper more accurate division than protestant and catholic.

#9 Comment By Logical Meme On February 23, 2018 @ 3:21 pm

Within the same TAC site, it’s interesting how [7] had a polar opposite reaction to La Pen’s CPAC speech. Wirtz’s obsession with Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Holocaust quote (which must be [8]) notwithstanding, there is a profound struggle for the soul of the conservative movement taking place, both here in the States and across Europe.

#10 Comment By James C. On February 23, 2018 @ 5:26 pm

DRK, Marine LePen is the divorced-and-cohabiting one. (as for her religious beliefs, she claims to be a believer, but doesn’t go into detail and doesn’t appear to be a regular churchgoer. She did have all her kids baptised).

Marion Marechal Le Pen is the practicing Catholic one.

#11 Comment By James C. On February 23, 2018 @ 5:30 pm

Yes, Marion was civilly divorced last year. She lives with her mother now.

#12 Comment By Mark VA On February 23, 2018 @ 7:56 pm

Why is the “Benedict Option” easier to discuss with the French and Italian Catholics, even though it was written mainly for the American readership? This is what I, a Traditionalist Catholic, think:

(a) Protestantism covers a wide spectrum of beliefs, so a less “cohesive” and more “grainy” response is to be expected (Fragmentation);

(b) Benedict Option may sound like “salvation by works” – if we only work hard and form these communities ourselves, we’ll survive and be “saved” in the end. And anyway, weren’t those monasteries dens of vice? (Anathema);

(c) A belief that God blesses the faithful us, but others bring evil upon themselves because they have abandoned God, or follow idolatrous religions (Exceptionalism);

(d) Benedict Option, if it’s to be done right, requires a comprehensive and rigorous study of the past. However, such studies often bring on uncomfortable questions which can challenge “settled facts” (Amnesia);

To be fair, many Catholics share in some of the above. Part (c) can be heard among a few of my fellow Catholic Traditionalists, and (d) can be found within the Vatican II faction. I think part (c) is particularly tricky – the Book of Job comes to mind.

#13 Comment By Les Govment On February 23, 2018 @ 8:08 pm

I’ve formerly posted at TAC as “A Libertarian Guy”

I watched Marion Maréchal-Le Pen’s speech at CPAC last night. It was like a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky when she got to the part where she spoke against surrogate mothering and the nonsensical fluid-gender stuff. I had no idea there were any political people in Europe with that kind of common sense and morals.

I too, liked the quote, : ‘Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”

— Les Govment [9]

#14 Comment By Dain On February 23, 2018 @ 8:45 pm

“There also tends to be much more skepticism of the free market and individualism…”

Alt conservatism tends to have poor responses to business conservatism because it’s not their strong suit. They think alot about culture but not so much the stuff that constitutes our material existence, i.e. resources, supply, demand etc. There’s an overlap between neoliberalism, empiricism, and analytical philosophy. It’s so very Anglo-Amerivsn. The style of European conservatives, like European philosophy generally, is driven by an almost poetic focus on feeling and narrative.

There’s also a more labor approach to economic questions in Europe, as opposed to a consumer approach.

“Even American Catholics are alot more Protestant…”

Yea. The Acton Institute comes to mind.

#15 Comment By Matjaž Horvat On February 23, 2018 @ 9:06 pm

“Wow, every single Brit I know thinks Trump is a complete douche, but again that could just be the crowd I hang out with. Still, the polling I’ve seen on Trump overseas doesn’t show much support at all outside of Russia and Israel. I have to think that your Trump admiring French friends were a distinct minority.”

I’ve just downloaded the newest Gallup report on views of US leadership around the world.

In Europe, Kosovo (75% approve) and Albania (72%) still firmly leading. Special reasons (see 90s Yugoslav Wars).

Then you’ve got Poland with 56%, Italy 45%…

For France, it’s 25%. UK 33%, so perhaps not as few as you think.

#16 Comment By blackhorse On February 23, 2018 @ 9:17 pm

the difference between American Protestant “conservatives” and European Catholic conservatives: the latter are steeped in the “Tory” benevolent paternalism” American protestant conservatives believe in the little atoms: every man an island, hands off my taxes, let local authoritarians decide who gets to do what with whom. And they set the tone for what passes for conservatism here.

#17 Comment By RockMeAmadeus On February 24, 2018 @ 12:31 am

Let’s not forget that “socialism” was initially proposed by Christians- Catholics and Protestants- in the early and mid 19th century before it became “scientific” in the works of Prudhomme, Marx and Engels.

This “Christian socialism” is one of the foundations of most contemporary conservative movements in Europe.

#18 Comment By Adam On February 24, 2018 @ 1:33 am

Rod, you have really gone of the deep end with your fawning endorsement of Le Pen. First, common good is a product of deliberative democratic inquiry where every person has a chance to contribute to the political process; more importantly, the individual’s highest good, can only be advanced through the same participatory process. Second, Natural Law is incompatible with the use of coercive force that limits, or otherwise restricts, the opportunity for participating in that same process on the basis of an existing prejudice. Nevertheless, the views attributed to Le Pen violates both of these conditions. So how is it possible for Le Pen to speak of the common good and Natural Law?

#19 Comment By cka2nd On February 24, 2018 @ 3:01 am

John Lane says: “So, the family is the fundamental unit of society, the smallest unit that actually exists, and everything in politics and social policy follows naturally from that fact.”

I could accept this argument, at least as a matter of history level, if “the family” is understood as an extended family or clan, and that said extended families or clans may adopt non-blood relations.

#20 Comment By Kirt Higdon On February 24, 2018 @ 7:21 am

Marion Le Pen is certainly a striking French beauty and the French accent is always sexy. Content-wise, however, her speech was pretty standard for this type of event, which is intended as a pep rally and opportunity for net-working rather than for any serious examination of ideas.

#21 Comment By Hound of Ulster On February 24, 2018 @ 1:23 pm

@Les Govment

I would add ‘Tradition, not Traditionalism, and Nation, not Race’

Interestingly, in much of the more diverse ‘Western countries’ many ‘visible minorities’ (think South Asians in Britain and some sub-Saharan Africans in France) do vote for mainstream conservatives, and even some more national conservative parties (two of the founders of the more radical English Defence League were of Afro-Caribbean descent)…but only if those parties keep the racists and ethnic-nationalists our on the fringes where they belong. The Republican Party in the US doesn’t get that kind of support from ‘visible minorities’ because of the ethnic-nationalist radicalism that has frequently bubbled to the surface on the American right since Nixon. Trump is just the latest example of it, but it goes way back. Why did all the old Segregation Democrats suddenly become right-wing Republicans, at least functionally, if not registerion. Hint: it wasn’t because of ‘small government’.

People don’t vote for politicians who don’t want them in the country.

#22 Comment By Joker On February 24, 2018 @ 10:31 pm

“Which principles define conservative politics in Britain and America as more Protestant than conservative politics on the continent?”

Against the backdrop of the 2016 election, I have been trying to articulate what a conservative is, and for some friends, I have attempted to distinguish between “conservative” and “Republican”– which are not the same. I have always known that there are different stripes of Republican–social conservatives and free traders to name two– and have begun to appreciate the different stripes of conservative as well.

Conservatives in Europe are often of the Church and Monarchy variety. No such exist in America. They cannot here, because we are/were predominately Protestant, and our founding act was to throw off a monarchy.

In America, conservatives are actually classical liberals who hearken back to the liberal values expressed in our founding documents. The progress we have made since our founding is to truly extend these values– such as, all men are created equal– to all men and substantially to women as well.

America, the liberal project, is a likely one for Anglo Protestants because English political tradition dating at least as far back as the Magna Carta has limited the authority of monarchs in the Anglo imagination, and because Protestants have asserted the doctrine that all individuals are responsible to God for the state of their own souls and require no intervention from the institutional Church. Catholics and other nationalities would have had more difficulty.

Of course, the first steps of the “radical” individualism that allow men to deny they need the Church as intercessor have ultimately led to an individualism that insists that a person can design zir own gender. IMO, a good thing (I’m Protestant) has gone way too far.

Classical liberal conservatives and Church and Monarchy conservatives have things in common– they agree that tradition should have weight (one tradition is longer than the other), and they agree there is a natural moral order, which in the West is founded in Christian theology, Greek philosophy, and Roman law. I’m sure there are other commonalities…

American conservatives can learn things from European conservatives, namely, that the 240 year old American project is heir to a rich tradition that is much older that will still inform us as to who we are. It may be that the ability of multiculturalism– a direct attack upon Western culture– to infect the minds of our youth and the intellectually lazy is due to the relatively shallow (only 240 years!) roots of the American project.

#23 Comment By Beowulf On February 25, 2018 @ 3:01 pm

I enjoyed the speech but I do worry we in America are becoming too comfortable with Far Right ideology (and not because of Trump per se). I cannot say quite where Le Pen is, but it makes me nervous. The rise of Alt-Right in America is going to do nothing to help Christians. The Alt-Right doesn’t get it, trust me. But the Alt-Right message is easy for alienated young men to understand and accept. I am not sure if I can discern a clear message that Christians are offering in distinction to University-Leftism and the Alt-Right.

#24 Comment By Thrice A Viking On February 25, 2018 @ 4:08 pm

Wow, Janek, you’re really good at recognizing sarcasm, aren’t you?

#25 Comment By redfish On February 25, 2018 @ 6:12 pm

You’re framing it as Catholic vs Protestant, but its also just paleocon vs neocon, and yes, in some ways those align in sectarian ways, but a relevant point would still be that if we were to travel back in time to America 125+ years ago, Le Pen’s rhetoric might not seem so strange to an American audience as it does today, even if distinctively Catholic. The founders frequently referred to the public welfare and common good and this language is the the Declaration of Independence, and that type of language has become an anathema to modern conservatives in the US. The germ of this was still there in the 19th century in debates over Social Purity.

Something I have noticed, studying history… It were those in Protestant countries that became zealots behind ideas like Prohibition, while Catholic countries resisted it. On the other hand, Catholic countries also resisted women’s suffrage. In France, literate women secured the right to vote in 1944 and all women in 1965.

So I see some of this religious and cultural influence shaping the debates; though to some extent there is a body of cross discussion and both the Catholic and Protestant sides seem to catch up with eachother over time.

#26 Comment By redfish On February 25, 2018 @ 6:17 pm

<– After reading some of the other comments here, I'd like to write an addendum to my last comment :

Few really understand that in the US, progressivism was originally an outgrowth of religious (Protestant) conservativism, not liberalism. Temperance, muckraking, social purity, labor reform, anti-trust, federal regulationism; all came out of reformist conservatives after the Civil War who wanted to spread the spirit of abolitionism into a broader plate of social reforms.

#27 Comment By Elijah On February 25, 2018 @ 8:30 pm

I am open to correction, but isn’t Ms. Le Pen the person who ‘stands for [her] grandfather’ who was a racist, anti-Semite, and Nazi sympathizer?

What on earth was she doing at CPAC?

#28 Comment By John Quiggin On February 26, 2018 @ 5:22 pm

You’re possibly unaware, but Marine Le Pen defeated a traditionalist Catholic François Fillon to get to the second round of the election. Similarly with Trump. The special sauce in both cases was a preference for overt racism in place of dog whistles