The weaknesses in the French bulwark

The weaknesses in the French bulwark

Shortly before the second round of the presidential elections in his country, French philosopher Etienne Balibar wrote that “it is not enough for Marine Le Pen to lose the vote, she has to suffer a heavy defeat.”

Le Pen was defeated but she was not crushed. She did not suffer the kind of heavy defeat that would suggest that democratic forces have smashed the “serpent’s egg.”

And when this happens in a country that has a high symbolic value for Europe, too much enthusiasm can be misleading and damaging.

Emmanuel Macron garnered almost double the proportion of votes that his far-right rival managed, gaining 66.1 percent against 33.9 percent. This helped him – albeit for the time being – secure the tacit approval of the majority of democratic voters who elected him president based on a defensive mentality.

Nevertheless, Le Pen’s percentage is worryingly high. In an effort to cover up her party’s neo-Nazi roots, she even discovered feminism shortly before the ballot, even though she had never voted in favor of strengthening women’s rights. 

In 2002, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen failed to add in the second round of voting even 1 percentage point to his share of the vote from the first round. He remained stuck on 17.8 percent. On Sunday’s second round, his daughter gained an extra 4 million votes, doubling the Front National’s backing in comparison to the 2012 presidential elections.

That means she was rewarded for her bluntness, her blatant lies, her fake anti-systemic stance and her even falser anti-elitism. She was also rewarded for her hateful rhetoric that she preaches with such zeal and for her doctrine that France is a country of white Christians and should remain that way.

This is a doctrine the kind of which we come across in an increasing number of countries where isolationists and those with grand visions try to take control of history, as if nostalgic for a mythical purity.

A bulwark that is set up more shoddily each time will not last for ever. If French democracy continues to confront Le Pen and what she stands for spasmodically, rallying people for a week every five years and gambling its survival on questions of zeitgeist, some Sunday Le Pen or someone like her will end up in its highest post.

Growing gradually accustomed to this possibility is mithridatism at its most catastrophic, not protective.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.