The French Connection

Two traditional parties conspire to exclude a newcomer who actually represents voters' views.

It's not often we look to France to foresee our political future.  Their political history, form of government, and national priorities are quite different from ours, though somewhat based on our common Western heritage of respect for individuals and personal liberty.

There's one other thing France has very much in common with the United States, though, and apparently with most Western countries: an utterly corrupt and incompetent political elite which has no hesitation at doing whatever it takes to keep themselves in power.

As in the United States, this Conspiracy of the Mandarins has nothing to do with the nominal party affiliation.  Republicans and Democrats may throw rocks at each other all through the campaign, but once the votes are tallied it seems that most of them would rather backslap their erstwhile opponents than actually fight for the platform goals they presented to their voters.

This week, France's politicians stooped lower even than our own.  For all that Republicans seem to always end up going along with Democrat proposals for new taxes, regulations, and so on, it's almost unheard of for a Republican to actually endorse a Democrat in a political campaign.  The opposite does happen, but it's extremely rare.

France just had this unnatural political act take place in at least four of their 13 regions, the rough equivalent of our states.

Who's Your Enemy?

Considering that the bodies from the Bataclan jihadist massacre are barely cold in the ground, it's no surprise that a great many French people are skittish about what is happening to their nation.  In spite of all the evidence of danger, however, only the National Front has come out publicly calling for an end to Muslim immigration.

France's two traditional parties, the Socialists who hold the presidency and The Republicans (formerly the UMP), are roughly the equivalent of our Democrats and Republicans.  Their systems and traditions are set up on the assumption that two parties are all there will ever be.

To their unified horror, the National Front has been slowly rising in the polls over the last several decades.  At one time they were quite unsavory, with anti-Semitic policies, and even today are generally condemned as fascists in the mainstream media.

The voters of France seem to be realizing that times have changed, however.  For one thing, the new young leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, has gone to great lengths to expunge anti-Semites from the party, even going so far as to expel her own father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded it.  In addition, ISIS keeps conducting vivid demonstrations why the people of France might not want to be as enthusiastic about multiculturalism as their elites are.

Finally, and most painfully, the complete unwillingness of the traditional parties to seriously defend their own citizens from armed attack is becoming blatantly apparent, just as it is here in the United States.  Providing for the common defense is a high-priority item in most places, and French voters are making their feelings known about that - flinging a few bombs at some camels in Syria isn't going to appease them.

Elections in France are a little different from most of ours.  They hold two rounds: the first round open to all comers, and the second round decides between the top two winners of the first round.  This is similar to the "jungle primary" system which a few American states use.

When the National Front won top position in 6 regions after the first round, the other parties panicked.  Despite what their leaders claim to be vast differences between them, they decided it was better to gang up on the newcomer than to fight fair and square.

In the American political context, it would be a bit like George H.W. Bush dropping out of the 1988 race after winning the Republican nomination and endorsing Bill Clinton to make sure Ross Perot couldn't get elected.

If that happened here, there'd be a revolt, and whichever party committed this betrayal would probably be defunct in short order.  Not so in France!  The Socialists called on their voters to vote for The Republicans, their long-term bosom enemies, to keep out the National Front, and it worked.

Today, the National Front is left with nothing in spite having led in the actual voting in the first round.

Revenge Best Served Cold

Or is it?  A large number of French voters, somewhere around a third, can rightfully feel that their views were steamrollered by a conspiracy of the mandarins who presume to run their nation no matter what.  There are also a lot of Socialists who held their nose once to vote for a usual enemy; they may not be so willing to make a habit of it.

This matters, because the presidential election is in 2017, and it works the same way, with two rounds.  In 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen was the runner-up in the first round and was defeated in the second round by the other parties ganging up in much the same way that his daughter was defeated now.

Should the National Front win the first round in the presidential election, there is no doubt that, as before, the other parties will try to combine to defeat them.  This most recent election looks like a win for The Republicans, since they "won" 7 regions, many of which they didn't expect, so you'd think it would be a good foundation for the presidential contest.

It's not, not really:

Mr Sarkozy’s party, meanwhile, had little cause for celebration; despite clinching seven regions, an almost miraculous outcome given their first round score, The Republicans came out weakened from the election, in which the historic dam between the mainstream and far-Right looked decidedly porous.

What's the takeaway here?  If you can only win by cheating or by making deals with other parties whose policies you claim to abhor, you may be the victor today, but tomorrow you'll be the target.  As long as Muslim terrorism doesn't go away, and it won't with the Socialists in the Elysee Palace, neither will the National Front.

Let's hope our own mandarins are paying attention; it doesn't sound like they are, though.  Hardly a day goes by without more news of how Republican elites are conspiring to somehow eliminate the outsiders they don't like.

Do they really want to see a third party run, when two thirds of Trump's voters would vote for him as an independent?  Political chicanery won't work forever in France, and it won't work forever here.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

In the post-debate interviews last night, Trump utterly ruled out a third party run. He stomped it into the ground and jumped up and down on it. The GOP convention conspiracy has also been debunked by a number of prominent insiders who say that it was created by internet rumor-mill and has no credible origin from within the establishment. Carson confirmed this himself after talking with the GOP chair. Trump will be the nominee and Hillary the president.

December 16, 2015 6:15 AM
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