Friday, January 23, 2015

The Le Pen Family Romance

The dissensions within the Le Pen family, which I touched on in the previous post, are fascinating to watch. Despite the title of this post, I will refrain from Freudian speculation. Political speculation is quite enough. The fundamental difference between Jean-Marie and Marine (née Marion but later manned up to "Marine") is that the latter actually seeks to wield power while the former was content to lambaste those who did. Slowly but surely, the seductions of power have turned Marine away from la politique de la provoc' that her father developed to a pitch of perfection. Instead, she has begun to make the compromises that people in power have to make: to consider sensibilities outside her immediate orbit, to muffle her speech, to resort to circumlocation and inuendo au lieu de dire les choses, to resort to double language, and to purge the party of members unable to adapt to these new and unfamiliar disciplines.

She cannot, however, purge her father, and she cannot purge her niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. The father is in his dotage, and in any case he can be written off as a relic of precisely those old ways that Marine is trying to move beyond. But Marion is another matter. She represents the future. She's young and popular with party militants, precisely because she preserves some of the father's blunt-spoken ways as well as his affection for the touchstones of the old extreme right, all wrapped up in a package much more presentable than that of the scowling ex-para and elderly street-brawler. She may not refer to gays as "sidaïques" fit to be confined in a "sidatorium," but she feels no need to defend Florian Philippot's "life style" either. If he's with us, fine, but leave the multi-culti appreciation of the gay contribution to French society to Tante Marine.

The lesson that Marion seems to have learned from Jean-Marie is that power cannot be held with impunity. What has made the success of the FN is that its outsider status affords it the luxury of speaking as its followers would at the Café du Commerce. There's no need to châtier sa langue, and the bluff grande gueule with the off-color wit and fearless iconoclasm is more amusing to listen to than the usual langue de bois from the tonier neighborhoods. It's also good business and easy work, whereas governing is a hard and thankless task. Marine is prodding the party toward power, which requires fundamental changes in style, but Jean-Marie and perhaps his young protégée know that this new strategy on the part of the héritière could well ruin the family business, and they're not about to let that happen.