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Monday, March 25, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

When historians recount the downward spiral of Trumpian populism, they may very well start in France. As in the U.S., voters were crying for radical change. The French had a Trumpish option in nativist right-winger Marine Le Pen and, over at the far left, an old-school Trotskyist.

But French voters gave victory instead to a man of the radical middle, Emmanuel Macron. Not everyone loves Macon’s pro-business, pro-globalist program, but he is a mold breaker and definitely not crazy. And boy, do they love the young French president’s jabs at Donald Trump. Macron easily wields the weapon of mockery and delights in turning it on Trump.

Some will recall their first encounter in Brussels, when Macron gripped Trump’s hand in a prolonged and aggressive manner. After Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris accord on global warming, Macron cheerfully invited American climate researchers to come to France and work on publicly funded projects.

During the French campaign, Russia backed Macron’s chief opponent, Le Pen. The leader of the far-right National Front promised to take France out of the EU. (Breaking up Western unity is high on Vladimir Putin’s wish list.) Trump showered Le Pen with praise.

When the Kremlin reportedly hacked the Macron campaign in an obvious attempt to hurt the pro-Europe candidate, French voters rose up in defiance. In a later news conference with Putin, Macron dispensed with any Trump-style servility toward the Russian leader. Rather, he accused Russia of spreading “lying propaganda” — and he did it to Putin’s face.

Perhaps French voters are tougher or better-informed than many of their American counterparts. Or they’ve had ample time to witness the lunacy emanating from the White House and decided to pass.

And to hammer home the point that France’s electorate is ready for something that’s different but sane, it is evidently giving Macron’s party, En Marche! (In Motion!), a commanding victory in the parliamentary elections. (The runoff vote Sunday will determine the size.)

Macron is a true original. At age 39, he is the youngest French president in history. His campaigners went door to door looking for votes, something common in the U.S. but not in France. He founded En Marche! barely a year ago, and it’s already trouncing the established parties. He’s married to a woman almost 25 years his senior.

More importantly, Macron may very well have saved the European Union from breaking up. Britain’s move to leave the 28-nation union shook it to the core. So has the growth of nationalist movements complaining of lost sovereignty under the EU yoke.

Few have illusions of the task ahead. The EU is undoubtedly burdened by a lumbering bureaucracy. France is littered with shuttered factories and has been jolted by mass immigration. And if any country has a justified fear of Islam-inspired terrorism, it is France.

Macron vows to change labor laws that make firing someone a prohibitive expense — and backs other reforms designed to help business. But he has no intention to dismantle France’s superb health care system, rated best in the world, and he’s a staunch backer of the Paris agreement.

The far-left candidate refused to endorse him, even against Le Pen. But the voters did, and enthusiastically.

There’s a message here for Trump opponents, Republicans as well as Democrats and independents. The public may be hungry to coalesce around an unapologetic centrist with a fresh approach. In our two-party system, third parties have a problematic history of playing the spoiler. But a major party could cut its fringes loose and lunge for the middle.

If there’s ever been a time for a radical center to take hold in this country, it’s now. France has shown the possibilities.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

 

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6 responses to “France Leads The Anti-Trump ‘Resistance’”

  1. FireBaron says:

    And then the UK showed Teresa May that she did not have as secure of a grip on Parliament as she thought. Considering that she approached the UK’s most right-wing political party (one that makes her Tories look like revolutionary Trotskyites) in order to form a coalition shows how much the Brits are fed up with their Conservatives’ empty promises.

  2. Thank you, France, for having the wisdom not to fall for some lunatic extremist like many in America fell prey to. America sure could use leadership and verve like Angela Merkel and Macron, both of whom know how to deal with a blowhard, narcissist like Trump.
    Macron’ approach, if he holds steady to the ideal of an inclusive outlook rather than exclusivity, will help defuse the simmering contempt many youth in Muslim and other immigrant communities harbor, as a result of being marginalized by so many other French citizens.

    After all, France’s colonizing efforts in North and West Africa, weren’t the best way to make a connection with those nations. The Algerian Revolution in the mid 19th Century left long-term scars, and much of the tensions in France today are echoes of the numerous lives lost by Algerians in trying to gain their independence from France.

    A person like Macron, and many others in France, will be needed to counter the reactionary forces clamoring for further conflict in France.

  3. Conservative backwards forces in American government should take notes of France’s history as far as it’s colonization efforts in North Africa are concerned. France’s intrusion into Muslim affairs in North Africa, and in West Africa as well, led to policies and a mentality that made many Muslims in those countries dependent on France once each of those nations gained their independence. Because of the disparities in wealth distribution and cultural arrogance, many Muslims remember those years and their offspring have absorbed those feelings of humiliation and being made 2nd class citizens in their own countries. Now that many have had to immigrate to France for better working conditions, they’ve been herded into certain sections of large cities in France, treated as though they are a contagion, and made to feel as though they’re unwanted. What else would result from this than a deep-seated resentment.

    Many Conservatives in America, and elsewhere in Europe, are wholly ignorant of human behavior, know nothing of resentment felt by colonized people made to endure humiliation over generations by European nations, and of the explosive results that may occur as a result.

    Hopefully, Macron will show a way to cool down this resentment.

  4. dtgraham says:

    The thing that I take a little umbrage with is this thinly veiled analogy to the American election of last year. Implied is that Lepen was Trump, Macron was Hillary and the “old-school Trotskyist” was Sanders. To be expected from a Froma Harrop.

    I’m not that intimately familiar with French politics and, for all I know, this old-school Trotskyist may have truly been an old-school Trotskyist. That didn’t describe Bernie though. Where you are on the political scale is entirely dependent on where in the world you are, and in what country. Most, if not all, of the other leaders in the advanced democracies would look at Bernie’s platform from last year and say, “of course.”

    Bernie only talked about universal healthcare, a higher minimum wage, and paid maternity leave. That’s hardly revolutionary. Free college was his most revolutionary proposal but that’s not uncommon in western Europe, and subsidized lower tuition fees are even more common.

    France has a range of social benefits programs far beyond the U.S. Macron may loosen some employer/employee rules and may make some state social benefits slightly stingier, but no radical changes I’m sure. In Canada, Justin Trudeau redirected some of the tax free monthly child-care benefit payments from the more affluent down to the middle and lower incomes, and expanded the benefits overall. That’s free money just for having a child. He brought in a new top marginal tax rate to help pay for it. He also expanded paid maternity/paternity leave from 52 weeks to 78 weeks. Keep in mind that there is a major party in Canada to the left of Justin’s. If Bernie Sanders had proposed anything like that, he would have been laughed at.

    That all being said, good for Emmanuel Macron and I hope he keeps up the anti-Trump attitude. Not anti-American; just anti-Trump.

  5. Dominick Vila says:

    The French, and most Europeans, are demonstrating the difference between blind ideology and racism; and a sophisticated, well informed and pragmatic electorate. For them, the preservation of their safety net and way of life is much more important than the personal goals of elected officials, more interested in advancing an agenda designed to support their personal interests than the well being of the nation. Kudos to Macron, Merkel, and all the brave leaders determined to confront Russian expansionism, while the former leader of the free world focuses on Tweets and wresting matches with the “liberal” media.

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