Saturday, March 29, 2014

Even the Moderate Right Is Divided

It's interesting to find a relatively moderate UMP politician like Bruno Le Maire defending the ni-ni line pushed by Copé--refuse to back the Socialist candidate anywhere even if it means allowing the FN to win an election it would otherwise lose--while former MEDEF head Laurence Parisot is adamantly opposed. There are respectable arguments on both sides (as well as disreputable ones not voiced by either). Le Maire contends that le front républicain is tantamount to substituting morality for politics. As long as the FN plays by the rules of democracy, and no one (he implies) denies that it does, the party needs to be defeated not by moral anathema but by refuting its ideas and demonstrating the impracticality of its policies, even if the latter means allowing its policies to fail after being implemented, as they have in the past. Parisot, by contrast, maintains that treating the FN as a normal party means that it will be "normalized," an evident tautological truth. Meanwhile, she insists, necessary debate within the right is sidetracked: there are real differences over many issues, which need to be confronted squarely, but these issues are obscured by the attention devoted to the attitude to be taken toward the FN.

Indeed, the same split can be seen on the Left, although it is posed rather differently. A politician like Harlem Désire believes that the best course for the Socialists is to demonize the FN, to declare it morally suspect and thus, by implication, to shame anyone who votes for it. A political scientist like Laurent Bouvet believes that such an approach is suicidal for the Left, because it means abandoning forever many people who formerly voted left but have drifted toward the FN. Bouvet:
Mais le problème n’est pas là. Le problème est qu’une telle stratégie pose infiniment plus de difficultés qu’elle est supposée en résoudre.
D’abord parce qu’elle fait écran à toute analyse de la réalité complexe de ce qu’est le Front national, notamment depuis quelques années, et conduit donc à un réductionnisme toujours mal venu en politique. Mal comprendre ce que l’on dit vouloir combattre est l’assurance d’un échec.
Ensuite parce qu’elle assimile toute attitude, réflexion, proposition… qui ne s’inscrit pas immédiatement voire bruyamment dans cette unique perspective à une trahison ou à une complaisance en faveur du FN.
Enfin parce qu’elle finit par mobiliser contre elle-même non seulement les citoyens qu’elle prétend mettre au ban de la société mais encore les démocrates de bonne foi pour qui la politique consiste en un combat d’idées plutôt qu’en des postures morales répétées en boucle sur un ton d’inquisiteur.
The symmetry of these two debates is interesting. It reveals clearly that the reorientation of the FN under Marine Le Pen has laid bare a deep cleavage in French society. I do not see this wound being closed any time soon.

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