The larger significance of the final round of the French election is that democracy and decency is NOT yet dead in France and perhaps is regaining ground in Europe also. There may also be now more hope to regain a sense of European and even Western unity and cooperative spirit with the win of former Socialist Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron.
The victory was by any account a win that was, in French election terms, overwhelmingly clear. Macron won by 66% to just 34% for the Fascist Marine Le Pen of the National Front Party which had Nazi antecedents. In his victory speech in Paris he pledged to act to redress the concerns of the French people. He said, wisely, that Le Pen backers had “expressed an anger, a dismay, and I respect that. I will do everything possible in the five years to come so that they have no reason to vote for the extremes.’
It is important that he supported the EU and France’s place in keeping Europe united and “open” when it would have been “cheep grace” to pander to the xenophobia of the moment. He acknowledged the reality of diversity in French’s society and said in the campaign: “There is culture in France, and it is diverse.” Like the American Bernie Sanders of another age and place, he gained support of the engaged youth of France that had move beyond the narrow definitions and prejudices of the extreme right and racist nationalism.
In Macron’s defeat of the French Euro-skeptics, such as Marine Le Pen, he overcame what may viewed with much fear the strong recent surge of authoritarian and racist parties. With the recent defeat, albeit narrow, in Holland and Austria of Alt-Right parties the populist tide was for the moment halted. Yet the win for these forces of reaction and hate of “the other” in Britain in the June 2016 vote, by a very narrow margin, shows still the strength of an appeal to nativism and narrow nationalists. The Brexit action is like a deadly strike against a united and cooperative Europe. It is a vote for Putin’s dismemberment of Western democracy, no matter what line the British right-wing isolationist Tories or UKIP’s Nigel Forage, or for that matter the Brussels EU leaders have all been feeding to their constituents about its impact. Europe without Britain is a Europe still diminished, and so is Britain without the EU.
The National Assembly elections in June will also be key to Macron’s chances of truly moving France beyond a hopeless battle between the forces of reaction and anti-EU feelings, with the support of the growing dynamic diverse engaged citizens, and addressing the still alienated elements in society.
He must find a strong working coalition of existing parties who will support his program of moving beyond the old shibboleths of traditional party warfare and ideology and concentrate on uplifting the left-behind citizens of all types who have been too long ignore by all parties. They constitute a core of unrest and corrosive elements of French society and are at the mercy of the people who hate and exploit them especially from the far right.
The same goes for the EU which is not the indifferent bureaucracy with no caring for citizens often depicted by the Euro-skeptics on the right. Indeed its rules, which are so hated by the massive corporations and their lobbyists, have been overall protective of the environment, health, trade, and well being of Europeans. All this contrary to the right wing papers and media, especially those in Britain controlled by Rupert Murdoch who backed leaving with false promises of prosperity for the poor. The Leave Debate” argued an outdated narrow nationalism, played to racism. Now those dispossessed by these forces are going to be worse off than ever by all accounts.
What Marcron wants to accomplish for France is also what is needed in Europe itself, namely a sense of common purpose and care for all its people. Above all, everywhere the old party fights need to be put aside or indeed the far right authoritarian parties will come roaring back and dissolve fairness, justice, and democracy in Europe. With it their security and hopes will be destroyed.
But there is little room for complacency. The forces of the far right are backed by Russia’s authoritarian and brutal Putin via financial support and false news elements. This provides underhanded support and efforts including hacking which is now attributed to Russian intelligence aimed at undemanding of democratic elections and politics. They are having an impact which should not be dismissed. Nor can the grievances of those that feel neglected and left behind who are angry as they are open to the ententes of the European Fascists as we in the U.S. have seen by a leader like Donald Trump.
For America the results would be catastrophic with the demise of open and democratic states which are our key allies. They support a law based humane and cooperative international system. Russia and other authoritarian regimes would gain by Europe’s disarray. This is a time of crisis since the leadership of our own nation has helped to ravage the unity and long held values of Western democracies.
Trump’s support of harmful far right parties and brutal leaders has been a force of chaos. His bent towards destruction and his blind support of the most brutal regimes around the world have demoralized our best friends and undermined American constructive leadership. Perhaps Europe under Macron and whoever emerges as the leader of Germany this Fall will be able to re-balance the idiocies of Trump and our new myopic nationalism and bent towards dark malignant actions.
There is nothing more discouraging than to visit Europe and see it struggle bitterly over how best to divide itself, leave its poor behind, and move rightward towards racism, xenophobia, and irrelevance. With courageous leadership, all this could be much different. If they don’t watch out they may emulate some of the dysfunctional politics we face on this side of the pond. For both of us, our dysfunction means a less stable and peaceful world. Continue reading →