No, I’m not writing about the excellent movie, a few decades ago, that dealt with drug dealers and won numerous awards. Instead, this piece is about the recently concluded presidential election in France, and its remarkable similarity to the U.S. balloting concluded last November. The only thing different about these two elections is the role reversal of the major candidates. In France the female candidate is the white supremacist, xenophobic candidate while her male challenger is the voice of reason, moderation, and sanity. The irony of these 2 electoral predicaments couldn’t be more stark.
France has a slightly different method of voting than the U.S. In their first round of balloting held this past Sunday, 11 candidates ran for the office of the presidency. With so many choices it was predictable that no one would receive the 50% threshold level needed to avoid a run-off. So on May 7, a second round of voting will take place pitting the 2 highest vote-getters, Marine Le Pen of the National Front far right wing party against Emmanuel Macron, an independent moderate. One could rightly view Le Pen as a female version of Donald Trump, as she is running on a platform of anti-immigration, white supremacy, withdrawal from the European Union, demonizing minorities, and cozying up to Russia while abandoning relations with other Western countries. She wants to withdraw from the euro as France’s currency and reinstate the franc. Macron, conversely could be considered a male version of Hillary Clinton as he seeks to strengthen ties to the EU, as well as strengthening France’s famous safety net for the poor and disadvantaged. He would keep the euro in French circulation. Right now, political pundits in Europe are claiming that all French citizens that are not neo-fascist will coalesce behind behind Macron and give him an easy victory in the May 7 round of balloting. Trouble is, these are the same pundits who predicted that Clinton would coast to a sure victory over Trump. London bookies were giving 5 to 2 odds on Clinton being the next president.
Marine Le Pen, aged 47 and twice divorced mother of 3, inherited the mantle of the National Front party from her well known father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who got the ball rolling on the far right of the political spectrum in France in the early 1970s. At first considered a fringe lunatic, Le Pen and his party has slowly gathered steam over the ensuing decades to the point that his daughter is now on the threshold of becoming the next French president. What held Jean Marie himself back from achieving that goal, was his openly virulent brand of anti-semitism. He would often pooh-pooh the fact that the Holocaust ever occurred in the first place, or that 6 million Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps. He stated that a 500 page book on WWII would hardly devote 2 pages to the gas chambers, so inconsequential was their existence. It appears that there was still enough decency in France to not allow that type of rhetoric to occupy its presidential palace.
Marine Le Pen, learning from her father’s mistakes, has down-played the National Front’s overt Jew-hating. Instead she focused her bigotry on the surge of Muslim immigrants trying to flee to Europe from the nightmare wars and acts of terror on-going in the Mid-East, especially Syria. As Trump attempts to slam the door shut in the U.S. to any further Muslim immigration, Le Pen campaigns on enacting the same Muslim prohibitions in France. As Trump’s demagoguery against Muslims (and Mexicans) gained big-time traction in the U.S. among white voters, Le Pen’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has found favor among a large chunk of the French voting populace. (At least she hasn’t expressed any anti- Mexican sentiments thus far.) While it’s true that France and Germany as well as other European countries are being swamped with immigrants from the Mid-East, it must be remembered that these people are fleeing for their and their family’s very lives; and to deny them safe refuge exhibits a special type of heartless disregard.
Some years ago, a movie called “Ship of Fools” was produced based on a real life occurrence that took place shortly before the out break of WWII. It told the story of a group of German Jews attempting to escape Nazi persecution, and hiring a cruise ship to transport them to a safe harbor in some foreign country where their lives would not be in jeopardy. They literally sailed around the world looking for a safe port of debarkation but every country refused them entry. Including the U.S., which then had Franklin Roosevelt as president, supposedly a great friend of the Jews. In the end, they were forced to return to Germany where they were then slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust. Such was the mindset of their fellow human beings around the world.
So, it will be interesting to see if Marine Le Pen, like her fellow demagogue, Donald Trump, can parlay French fears of being overrun by Moslem foreigners, into the presidency of her country. If she does, it will have huge adverse consequences not only for Europe, and the EU, but for the U.S. as well. But perhaps this time around, the French will exercise better common sense and sanity than Americans did last November, and elect the candidate of decency and humanity to their highest office.