Jean-François Copé, leader of the UMP, is an ambitious man who wants to be president someday. He knows that, as a hardcore rightist, he will need the votes of the xenophobic right to realize his ambitions. And he thinks he knows how to get them. He has taken the lead in pushing the debate over laïcité, which, whatever it may have meant historically, has become the code word for resistance to the Muslim presence in France. He invited Eric Zemmour to speak to the UMP, a gesture intended not as a defense of free speech but as a provocation to those offended by Zemmour's exercise of his fundamental rights. And now he is refusing to call for a "republican front" to block the progress of the Front National in the numerous cantons where it could be elected.
This is all the more remarkable because of Copé's own background. Although he describes himself as a "non-practicing Jew," that certainly wouldn't have mattered back in the days when the leader of the FN was making anti-Semitic puns on the name of Michel Durafour. Copé's ambitions have amputated his memory, apparently. Perhaps, if France is lucky, voters in the presidential election of 2017 won't forget Copé's behavior in 2012.