Friday, January 14, 2011


A CSA-Marianne poll has Marine Le Pen scoring 17-18% in the first round of the presidential election. Sarkozy may have thought he had destroyed the FN by co-opting its positions, but instead he seems to have enabled it. The FN is now in the position the Communist Party used to be in: unelectable, but potent enough to inflect the positions of others, especially on the Right. MLP has played her cards shrewdly. Sarkozy was able to outflank her father by dog-whistling to his racist, xenophobic constituency. But MLP has learned this trick and has a dog whistle of her own, which is music in the ears to populist elements in the UMP. Instead of xenophobia, she offers protectionism, anti-globalization, and anti-EU rhetoric. Instead of racism, she offers the clash of civilizations, capitalizing on Europe-wide Islamophobia. Of course when she needs to, she is every bit as capable as her father of plucking the old strings with a carefully chosen word or two: witness her characterization of Muslim prayer in the streets as an "occupation" of France by a foreign force.

By attempting to co-opt the FN, Sarkozy has helped Marine Le Pen to de-demonize the party. He must now persuade his disillusioned and withering base that they must not go this route. But how?

As for the Left, the poll shows Besancenot, who seemed to be fading, with surprising strength, and Melenchon doing well in his first foray, presenting the Socialist candidate with the usual conundrum of how to rally the left of the Left. But the real story here is the FN--and the not unexpected signal of extreme discontent that its substantial support represents.


Anonymous said...

Worse: 39% UMP voters are okay with an UMP-FN government in 2012 and 46% FRENCH PEOPLE (polled) say they "sometimes agree" with Marine Le Pen.
If the left chooses DSK, with his patrician style, the populist left (Mélenchon in particular) will win a lot of votes.... hence enabling a possible Sarkozy/Le Pen "deuxieme tour" or could it be a Le Pen/PS election if enough people on the right switch to Marine Le Pen?
After all, when you've got a high ranking official who's been found guilty of racism - twice - it doesn't take much to push make racism acceptable, hence the FN, and on the other hand it becomes virtually impossible to distinguish between the Republican rhetorics that minister speaks and the mostly respectful speeches by Marine Le Pen ("occupation" notwithstanding, but then perhaps so was "les moutons égorgés dans les baignoires"..?)
I'm quite sure that on the right discontent with Sarkozy can make people choose Marine Le Pen, who at least pretends to "protect them against globalization and MNCs".
Even I, asked point-blank, couldn't tell you from watching the news why Marine Le Pen is beyond the pale in ways Sarkozy isn't.
(I need to use information learned about the FN - in A vous de juger, she sounded perfectly "regular", nice, articulate, honest, convincing... A woman in a random street poll said MLP represented the left, didn't she? ... Not everyone's taken a course on French civ, even French people. :) Many seem to have a 2-year political memory, except for very big events like presidential election results.)
"But how" - excellent question, I really wonder how Sarkozy can get himself out of that trap.

Anonymous said...

I'm skeptical of the term "base" and who that represents. Its as if the base is identified with the true heart of a party from which it arises and obscures the notion that a party is made of composite parts.
Perhaps this is applicable to smaller, interest-based or regional-centered parties. But for bigger parties which win on coalescing different groups, I doubt this is the case.

Plus, what would be the effect on a party traditionally aligned with Vichy & fascism/racism if it eventually wins over voters who do not identify themselves with the ideas of this branch of the French right. Are we witnessing a merging of different branches on the Right who have been divided ever since the 1920s when Catholic democrats split with traditionalist/monarchist Catholics?


Anonymous said...

@CP: as far as I can tell, the FN has already changed. Already in 2007 it was the pro-Vichy, antisemitic party no longer.
The UMP has a variety of factions - liberal economists, pro-governement economists, social conservatives, Christian conservatives, etc. Madelin, Boutin, Fillon, Morin, Borloo, Hortefeux, Juppé all belong to the same party.
The FN is something else.
But what's troubling is that based on what I've seen on TV for the past couple years, in fact since 2007, it's difficult for me to draw clear lines differentiating UMP and FN in such a way that the lines are walls.
It used to be that the RPR and UDF and their satellites were the Republican-Right and the FN was the anti-Republican Right.
Now, it's difficult to say. With a twice-condemned high official, with the "National Identity Debate", the level of what's acceptable (racist jokes? okay; racist speeches? okay; blame game? okay. Striking, bloody images? okay...) has changed: it's hard to see in concrete ways what makes many among UMP representatives more "righteous" or "Republican" or "non-dangerous" than FN representatives (since there aren't any in power, their discourse is easy to mistake for being roughly the same as what UMP says.) Marine Le Pen has been an expert at confusing people, and her campaign in Hénin Beaumont showed how good she was at wooing working-class people. The woman who thought she represented the left especially struck me.

BTW, in Hénin-Beaumont, Martine Aubry is being sued for doing nothing about her PS-supporter-mayor who was embezzling funds from his minimum-wage constituents.