Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Psephology Rocks: You're All Wrong About The French Election

So, it's President Macron. By a more than comfortable margin- as expected, the other parties closed ranks against the National Front and Marine Le Pen just couldn't expand her base enough to get the votes she needed to make it close or even to win. But here's the deal: all the takes I've seen so far on the French election- they're all wrong and here's why.

First: Stop projecting this country's political neuroses onto other countries- France is not like America. So, this piece of satire, while excellent misses the point. All the Tweets I've seen like this miss the point as well:

Points like this, while I'm sure of great comfort to liberals and Progressives on this side of the Atlantic miss the point about both the 2016 election as well as what happened in France. The National Front is seen as an existential threat to the Republic itself which is why the two times that they've made it to the Second Round of a Presidential Election the other parties have closed ranks against them. They're viewed as a threat, the Republican mistake in the 2016 cycle was not taking Trump seriously as a candidate until it was far too late for them to do anything about it. Ignoring a problem and hoping like hell it will go away isn't capitulation, it's an admittedly gross miscalculation about the depth of anger in the country as well as the level of support that President Trump ended up getting. I realize that it might be comforting to a lot of Trump opponents out there to think of him as an existential threat to our Republic, but despite the best efforts of the media to portray him as such, he just isn't.

Second: likewise, the takes on the Right that want to blame the media and it's unending attacks on the Nationalist Le Pen- also wrong. You can't blame the media for everything and I would cast a serious side-eye on anyone that wants to imply that there's a large, undercurrent of angry pissed of voters similar to the average Trump voter here in America. The comparison is too easy once again- and while it's easy to breathe a sigh of relief at the results, this thing isn't done yet.

Which brings me to point number three and where I land in the spectrum of Hot Takes [insert fire emoji here]. The results of this election are reason to cheer- but a mild cheer. The Far Right won more votes than it ever has before and although it's not being talked about both candidates that made it through to the Second Round came from outside the mainstream of French politics. This might have been a setback for the populism of the right, but it's not necessarily a setback for populism itself. And President Macron's task only gets potentially harder from here. He's got Parliamentary Elections in June and a political movement/party that's been around for about as long as his candidacy has. While there's apparently an alliance of sorts with En Marche! and the MoDem centrist party, they've got work to do- even if early indications are good. And with the peculiarities of the French system being what they are, without an En Marche! majority to work with, President Macron will have to pick a Prime Minister that can win support of the National Assembly and getting into a Co-Habitation again could put a crimp in his ambitious agenda.

This election was a rejection of mainstream French politics across the board. While Macron turned out to be the more palatable of the options on the ballot, if he cannot deliver the goods, then the Far Right could exceed it's 35% and then some in 2022. Le Pen's voters aren't going anywhere and if they're not taken seriously, then their numbers will only grow.

Happy? Relieved? Don't be. This was a warning shot. President Macron has to deliver the goods otherwise I'm not sure how many more elections the Republican Front will hold.

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