Time and again, we are somberly warned of the grave threat to democracy posed by Marine Le Pen as the leader of a quasi-fascistic party, the National Rally (Rassemblement National or RN). Yet, what the French politico-media class seems to fear most is a bit of genuine democracy, unmediated by slippery politicians and smarmy journalists.
My first decision will be the organization of a referendum on immigration. Because it’s now been decades that the various governments have been taking decisions on immigration without the French people ever being heard or questioned on this topic. According to opinion polls the French people has disagreed for decades with the policy that is being conducted on immigration.
Le Pen was somewhat vague on the content of the referendum, mentioning “several questions” that would be posed, including presumably one on the FN/RN’s years-old signature promise: a reduction of net immigration to a quasi-negligible 10,000 per year.
She also presented two other main planks. One is the partial suspension of the Schengen Agreement, which ensures check-free circulation between EU countries, to longer apply to non-EU nationals. Somehow French borders would have to be tightly monitored for non-EU nationals while letting European citizens through. How this would be done is unclear, but in any case it’s very common for national governments to temporarily/semi-permanently reinstitute border checks despite their Schengen commitments.
The last plank would be a tax break for the “middle classes.” Le Pen’s economic policy, once defined by a protectionist and anti-EU social nationalism, now seems decidedly fluctuous.
In other news, the liberal-globalist establishment paper Le Monde is really fretting about a potential Le Pen win.
According to several polls, around half of left-wing voters (defined as those voting for the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the center-left Anne Hidalgo, or the Green Yannick Jadot) would abstain from voting in the event of a Le Pen-Macron second round presidential election. The paper claims that voters are less likely to see in Le Pen a fascist menace and many are tired/disgusted of voting for Macron, “president of the rich,” as a lesser evil.
What’s more, the French left is extraordinarily divided with currently around a dozen candidates. Le Monde laments these “kamikaze” candidates make a Le Pen-Macron runoff more likely and, naturally, urges in an editorial for a revival of the “republican front” to disenfranchise and exclude nationalist voters through a cartel of all the other parties.
Finally, we are witnessing a racialization of French politics as increasingly colorful and woke youths reject the old generation’s quaint commitment to colorblind secularism as the bedrock of national identity.
Controversy is now focused on France’s main student union, the National Union of Students of France (UNEF), has been openly organizing coloreds-only meetings so participants can talk about their feelings without the oppressive glare of white people. There is talk of defunding or even abolishing the union, but it is being backed by various left-wing leaders like Mélenchon and the Socialist Benoît Hamon, who are increasingly giving up on the principles of the secular colorblind left.
Ethnic and religious polarization provides fertile ground for Le Pen. If she wins, appeal to direct democracy seems like a worthy gambit. Referenda are a regular feature of democratic life in neighboring Switzerland and have ensured that the Swiss people actually have some say over their national destiny. The British referendum on leaving the European Union – whatever one thinks of that – has ultimately been acted upon despite the kicking and screaming tantrums of vast swathes of the establishment and traditionally-dominant “educated” strata of the population.
While there are natural risks of misfire, the referendum is a powerful means for Le Pen to appeal to yellow-vest voters and sanctify policies with the blessing of the Popular Will. There is no surer way of blowing through the inevitable and systemic attempts at sabotage by the legacy politico-media class. En avant !