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:
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” — Gustav Mahler. #BenedictOption
— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) September 23, 2017
Michael Brendan Dougherty picked out the most unusual thing about her speech: 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 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!).