French Presidential Election: Lessons To Be Learned

Macron won the presidential election with 66.1% of the popular vote.

As the dust settles on what has proved to be a fascinating presidential election cycle, already the proverbial post-mortem will be underway in the Front National camp. Once again their candidate has come up short, this time against formidable opposition in the shape of stylish centrist Emmanuel Macron. It was always going to be an uphill task for Marine Le Pen, even had she faced weaker opposition such as Francois Fillon in the second round, but Macron’s name was on the presidency as soon it became apparent he had won the first round a fortnight ago.

In the end, Emmanuel Macron won a decisive victory, with 66.1% of the popular vote (20,753,797 votes, 99% of ballots counted).

There are many reasons for this; he’s youthful, energised, he presents a message of hope and optimism – all good qualities that western electorates find difficult to resist (think Tony Blair, 1997). However, blaming the electorate for being taken in by a good candidate is the mark of intellectual idleness. Instead, we must take a look at our candidate and our methods to see where we went wrong, and how we can ensure that next time is our time. We can only change what falls under our control, so this is where we must look first and foremost in our search for the winning formula.

Here, I want to explore further they key reasons why Marine Le Pen failed to win the presidency (and will always fail), focusing on a few specific issues that I believe can be found in many “populist movements” across Europe that ensures they are destined to remain in the political wilderness.

Appeasement doesn’t work!

We are often led to believe that nationalist movements are destined to fail because they’re “too extreme”. The Front National used to be in this category prior to the ousting of Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, as party leader. Under the elder Le Pen, the Front National, as Nigel Farage awkwardly wrote in the Telegraph recently, had its roots “deep in Vichy”, with “antisemitism embedded in its DNA”.

Under Marine’s leadership, the Front National underwent a makeover which saw them drop any notion of ethno-nationalism from their party programme, along with the sycophantic pandering to Jews and homosexuals in an effort to win over the more liberal minded of their compatriots. Both UKIP from their inception and the Dutch PVV under Geert Wilders have adopted a similar approach, yet none of these so-called populist parties have achieved anything like the electoral success that many had hoped for.

Of course one may argue that the Front National has only become a serious contender for power in recent years due to Marine’s makeover, but in actual fact their share of the vote in presidential and European parliament elections has been rising steadily since 1971. This appeasement and adoption of establishment rhetoric has not brought the Front National – or any other European “populist” party – any serious electoral success.

The issue, I believe, is that by bowing to moderation, these so-called populists become neither one thing nor another. They are neither nationalist or globalist, racialist or inclusive, liberal or conservative – they attempt to be all things to all people and in the end, become not quite enough for anybody.

The “system” is too heavily stacked against you…

What we have seen in France and to a certain extent in other European nations, is that the existing structures through which politics is conducted are so heavily stacked against radical politicians that it is almost impossible to use them as a means of achieving power.

For instance, the media machine is – and this is no exaggeration – a fully paid-up member of the establishment in both France and the rest of Western Europe. Both the print media and the television news channels are calibrated to the centre or centre-left of political thought, and their presentation of the “facts” is always biased in that direction, regardless of any historic notion of media impartiality. This is a predicament for nationalist politicians, as their party programmes will never be given a fair hearing by those who have made it their responsibility to bring this information to the wider public.

It is also important not to underestimate the power of sitting governments, both within and outside the nation in question, to have a big influence on election proceedings. In France, the government of soon-to-be-ex President Francois Hollande threw their weight, the kitchen sink, and much more behind the endeavours of Emmanuel Macron. Even foreign governments, including that of Chancellor Merkel, are willing to risk accusations of interference in order to influence the French people by way of passive-aggressive warnings and half threats, so that they vote “the right way” in presidential elections.

Furthermore, even if a “populist” manages to appease enough people to get elected, the institutions currently in play will thwart said populist at every opportunity. Over in America, President Trump is finding this to be a particular challenge. Despite climbing down from many of his seemingly radical campaign positions, the judiciary are simply blocking any move he makes regarding Muslim immigration, sanctuary cities and the border wall. This would undoubtedly be a challenge that any European nationalist would face upon gaining power.

Patience is a virtue.

Much of the rhetoric coming from the radical camps of European politics is very apocalyptic; “this is the last chance to save France!”, or “if we don’t win this time the globalists are in for good” – no, this rush to capitalise on current events is often detrimental to the nationalist cause. It is as if we are saying that it’s ‘now or never’ for our movements, when in actual fact we would do well to better analyse the bigger picture.

Firstly, we must acknowledge that there is no way that existing establishment politicians have the answers to the problems European nations are facing. The problems are difficult and deep rooted, therefore they require radical solutions, solutions that the current consensus cannot even comprehend, let alone execute.

Also, politics seems to give everybody a second chance. As long as there are still like-minded people, it is never too late and there will always be another chance. The desperation to capitalise on every problem that occurs in society can become somewhat predictable to the general public, so that your party or movement appears to be exploiting hardship for political gain. This is something Marine Le Pen found out, as the media was able to play on her reactions to terrorist incidents currently prevalent in France.

Solutions!

I would be a very poor commentator indeed if I simply laid out the problems without offering at least some vague idea of the solutions. Of course, many people will believe that the answer is more moderation, more movement toward the establishment and yet more urgency to become “electable” in the minds of the public. However, there are some alternate suggestions for those who believe the current course of action should be aborted:

  1. Stay radical! If you’re an ethno-nationalist party or movement, stop being ashamed or frightened to present your message to the people. They say that the French Front National “had its roots in Vichy” – good! Keep them there! There is no use pandering to foreigners, Jews and homosexuals if thus far it has failed to translate into electoral success. In any case, you will always be found out if you attempt to be something that you’re not. Sticking with radical ideas is what will motivate your core base – the people who are the driving force behind winning power – as opposed to the alienation we have seen in recent times.
  2. Don’t panic if your candidate(s) fail to get elected. As the saying goes, “there is more than one way to skin a cat” – apologies to the animal lovers for that reference, but it is a surprisingly accurate sentiment. Being elected by popular vote is not necessarily a prerequisite for achieving power in a nation. Throughout history, momentous changes have been affected on a society or a nation without first visiting the ballot box, and just because we currently live in a “liberal democracy”, that is not to say it will remain that way forever.
  3. Be patient. In the words of the late, great Enoch Powell; “it’s never too late to save your country”. As I alluded to earlier, provided there remains a core group of like-minded people, you will always have the power to achieve great things so long as the enthusiasm and radicalism remains in tact. Often, political movements become disheartened by repeated failure and therefore fade away into the political abyss, but if a group can stand firm and be patient, they will always live to fight another day.

Of course, this is by no means a conclusive or comprehensive presentation of the problems face by Marine Le Pen, the Front National and nationalism as a whole. Rather, I have set out what I believe to big the biggest challenges or obstacles to be overcome in the hope that we can address the issues and become stronger and better for the next opportunity.

We lost the battle this time around, but we remain more competitive than ever in the ongoing war for the hearts and minds of our nations.

 

 

William is a journalist based in the United Kingdom.