Saturday, April 22, 2017

French Presidential Election's a Battle of Left-Right Extremes

Actually, I don't think right-wing nationalist populism is extreme.

But the French National Front harks back to some darker ideological currents in French postwar politics, especially with its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

He's long gone now, though, and everything I've seen about Marine indicates she wants a modern party completely divorced of the stains from Europe's Nazi past (and her father's legacy). It's leftist who cling to such ideas, as a way to hang onto power. Notice how the left-wing extreme, hardcore communism, never comes under the same microscopic scrutiny as the right. You just have to hate leftists for such bastardization of decency, fairness, and common sense.

At Der Spiegel, "A Complete Breakdown: Extremists on Left and Right Push France to the Brink":

With only a few days to go before the first round of voting, a systemic crisis is dominating the campaign in France. It is no longer inconceivable that a Euroskeptic radical leftist or a far-right populist could become the country's next president. This bodes poorly for the French, but also their neighbors in Europe.

It sounds like a political parody -- or like a badly overwritten European take on "West Wing." A right-wing populist party has spent months at the top of the polls, neck-and-neck with the former rising star of an entrenched party who decided to bolt and found his own political movement. Right on their heels is the far-left candidate who is experiencing a late surge and outpolling the centrist establishment. Meanwhile, the incumbent, having governed his way to historically low public opinion ratings, has decided not to run for re-election and his party is dead in the water. And the center-right candidate, who looked strong out of the gate, has become embroiled in multiple embarrassing affairs involving greed, his wife and more greed. But he has remained in the race anyway and still has a shot.

It is, of course, a completely unrealistic scenario, but it is the thrilling truth in France in April 2017. The main players are Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, François Hollande and François Fillon -- and together, they are illustrating a complete breakdown of established politics in France.

Like elsewhere in Europe, France has seen the erosion in stature in recent years of its two main political parties, which once set the course in the country but have diminished considerably compared to the prominence they enjoyed for decades. Populists on the far-right and far-left are gaining in popularity, offering voters the illusion of collective withdrawal: from Europe, from NATO, from globalization, from "the system" and, if they had their way, from the foreigners in our midst.

General Incompetence

If you add together the poll numbers of the French candidates who are calling for such forms of withdrawal in various combinations and manifestations, you would end up with a majority, sufficient for a coalition government united in its aversion to the status quo.

The presidential election in France is becoming yet another end game over Europe's political future. And the poll numbers are currently bouncing back and forth, much as they did in Britain before the Brexit vote and in the United States before Donald Trump's election as president. For weeks, the likely outcome of the first round of voting on April 23 had seemed relatively clear. But now that the election, with 11 candidates in the running, is getting closer, poll numbers are beginning to shift. There is no longer a clear forecast, neither for the first round nor for the second round on May 7, in which the two top candidates from the first round enter a runoff election.

According to pollsters, 40 percent of eligible voters are still undecided, meaning that all possible combinations are possible at the moment, and even nightmares cannot be ruled out. Will the runoff be a duel between radical leftist Mélenchon and right-winger Le Pen, two politicians who believe European unification is a plague, who both see Germany as a threat and whose platforms sound like Christmas wish lists?

And how is it even possible that such questions are seriously being raised? How did extremists become front-runners? How did outsiders become candidates? Where are the forces of compromise? Where is the political center? Those looking for answers are well advised to step off the dizzying election-campaign carousel...
This is written from the establishment perspective, the same perspective that dissed the British majority that voted for Brexit, and the same establishment stateside that dissed the MAGA coalition of voters that put President Trump in the White House. These people are the hardest hit. And frankly, if one of these so-called "extreme" candidates doesn't win the French presidency, things are only going to get worse. We'll have more of the same "consensus" politics over there that's resulted in a permanent state of siege across the continent, not to mention the complete discrediting of Europe's supranational integration program.

In any case, still more.