Monday, May 01, 2017

Macron Might Not Be Any Good-- But There Is NO Excuse To Allow Putin To Enthrone Le Pen


Papa threatened a Jewish opponent with a gas chamber, but Marine isn't as bad as THAT

Once or twice a year I get a craving for matzoh brei and I go down to Canter's on Fairfax and get one. And when I visit some off-the-beaten-path foreign place-- like Yangon or Cochin or even St. Petersburg, for example, I go visit a synagogue. That's about as Jewish as I've been since the 1960s. That said, anti-semitism infuriates me, the same way any kind of racism does. And that brings us to Ross Douthat's clueless OpEd in yesterday's NY Times, Is There A Case For Le Pen? Being a right-wing provocateur, Douthat appears to think so.

But her neo-Nazi, proto-fascist party, the National Front, openly promises to ban kosher butchers as well as yarmulkes being worn publicly. I don't eat kosher food or wear a yarmulke but that promise is anti-Semitic and Douthat should know better. And he does. He admits that "Parties matter, their histories and undercurrents matter, and the Front’s Vichy taint is a good reason to prefer a world where a Le Pen never occupies the Élysée Palace."

The two polls released Friday-- one from BVA and one from Ifop-Fiducial both show Macron crushing Le Pen-- 59-41% in the first and 60-40% in the second. Pretty steady since the first round. The only region where it's even close is Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, where there's a kind of see-sawing tie. But Douthat still wants to make a case for Le Pen. "[I]ndividual personalities and their policies also matter," he wrote, "and there the case for #NeverLePen seems weaker in important ways than the case for #NeverTrump." His excuses for her are almost entirely right-wing bullshit.
To begin with, nobody seriously doubts Le Pen’s competence, her command of policy, her ability to serve as president without turning the office into a reality-TV thunderdome. Trump’s inability to master his own turbulent emotions is not an issue with his Gallic counterpart.

Nor is there much evidence that Le Pen herself draws any personal inspiration from the Vichy right. However incomplete the project, she is the reason that her party has ejected Vichyites and disavowed anti-Semitism and moved toward the French mainstream on many issues.

This has been done, of course, in the hopes of gaining power. But that is how the purging of poisons always happens, and being disowned by one’s father is a quite costly and dramatic act of political purgation.

Some argue that Le Pen has simply replaced anti-Semitism with Islamophobia. But her attacks on Islamic fundamentalism and her defense of a strict public secularism have been echoed by many mainstream French politicians. An argument for quarantining her perspective would apply to Nicolas Sarkozy or François Fillon, not just her.

Over all, the politician that Le Pen has obviously strained to imitate is not her father or Marshal Pétain, but Charles de Gaulle-- the de Gaulle who fiercely opposed European political integration, who granted Algeria its independence in part because he doubted France could absorb millions of Muslim immigrants, whose “France First” worldview consistently gave other Western leaders fits.

Even the most controversial utterance of Le Pen’s campaign, a denial of widespread French complicity in the deportation of French Jews, was deeply Gaullist: An insistence that the true France existed with de Gaulle’s government-in-exile, not Pétain’s regime.

This is comforting myth, of course, and perhaps de Gaulle’s style of nationalism is too chauvinist and mystical for our era.

But on the other hand, our era’s “enlightened” governance has produced an out-of-touch eurozone elite lashed to a destructive common currency, and an experiment in mass immigration that has changed French society faster than integration can do its necessary work.

These are the same sort of issues that helped Trump win the presidency, but in the European context the challenges are more severe and the populist critique more compelling.

There is no American equivalent to the epic disaster of the euro, a form of German imperialism with the struggling parts of Europe as its subjects. There is no American equivalent to the challenge of immigrant-assimilation now facing France-- no equivalent of the domestic terror threat, the rise of Islamist anti-Semitism, the immigrant enclaves as worlds unto themselves.

Which means that while much of Trump’s notional agenda was an overreaction to the country’s problems, some of Le Pen’s controversial positions are straightforwardly correct.

She is right that France as a whole, recent immigrants as well as natives, would benefit from a sustained mass-immigration halt.

She is right that the European Union has given too much unaccountable power to Brussels and Berlin and favored financial interests over ordinary citizens.

And while many of her economic prescriptions are half-baked, her overarching critique of the euro is correct: Her country and her continent would be better off without it.
Macron isn't the kind of candidate I would want to vote for, anymore than Hillary Clinton was. But those who refused to vote for Clinton in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida... they're responsible for Trump (and Bannon... and Putin) being in the White House. The French can-- and apparently will-- do better, regardless of what some crackpot goldbug like Ross Douthat gets to write on the editorial pages of the NY Times. Humanity can't afford Marine Le Pen. Trump is bad enough. There is no excuse for electing Nazis, no matter how awful another establishment careerist like Macron may be. None.

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