Today’s chapter: France, where Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front party is poised for an almighty upset that could rock the globe.
The French far-left, which claims to despise her, could stop this. But they seem content to let Le Pen slip the left flank and upend a 72-year norm that has held Europe at peace.
Following Donald Trump’s shock victory in the US Presidential election, political resistance became something of a norm for the American left, as frustration, angst, and energy shifted rapidly to the liberal opposition. Since President Trump’s inauguration, the impotent thrusts of his trainwreck of a presidency have galvanized a global resistance movement, culminating in defeats for the resurgent far-right movements in the Netherlands and Austria, a collapse in their polling support in Germany, and a plea for normalcy in France. When polls came in at the end of March, suggesting an easy advance on April 23rd and probable win for Emmanuel Macron, leader of a new, center-left movement En Marche, it seemed France was right on pace for the ongoing extinguishment of the far-right populist firestorm that has swept the western world, with the final douse coming this Sunday, May 7th, round two of the presidential election.
Enter Jean-Luc Mélenchon, stage far-left.
The communist-backed former Trotskyite wowed crowds across France throughout April with calls to rewrite the nation’s constitution and radically reform trade deals. Mélenchon used innovative campaign methods and appealed to deep-rooted voter anger to make his meteoric rise. Along the way he has called for lowering the retirement age to 60, the workweek to 32 hours, and taxing all income over 400,000 euro at one hundred percent making Bernie Sanders look like Nelson Rockefeller.
Markets quaked. France’s unique electoral system invokes a runoff – no matter how many presidential candidates run, the top two vote-getters in the first round advance to a run-off in the second round. French voters typically vote with their heart in round one, and with their head in round two – as it always was, voting for the ‘lesser of two evils.’ Mélenchon’s rise destabilized the race, creating the possibility of two candidates opposed to European Union’s free trade and supportive of Vladmir Putin’s aggression advancing to the runoff. Polls of the French electorate showed that, if Macron or center-right Republican Party candidate François Fillon could squeeze through to the second round, they’d be a shoo-in to defeat Le Pen.
But logic be damned.
Before the first round was over, the far-left, as it loves to do, was threatening – give us victory, or we all die.
“If in the second round Mélenchon is not there, so be it, I will not vote. We’ll have the far-right. I don’t care. I can promise you that there are many, many people in my situation. We are just completely fed up” a woman named Mathilde told Politico on April 12th.
Lucas, an 18-year-old voting in his first presidential election, echoed this sentiment at the same rally. “If it’s Macron against Le Pen in the second round, I am not voting.” Why, Lucas?
“What I will do is take two pieces of paper with Mélenchon’s name on them and slip them in the ballot box at both rounds,” said Lydie, a retired postal worker.
The elders being retirees with little to lose, and the youth ignorant of the consequences, these folks opted to blackmail the “Republican Front,” France’s once reliable mechanism for keeping the far-right National Front out of power. Or perhaps, to make sure their anger and dissatisfaction was registered by powers they perceived not to be listening. Because attention matters more than survival. Give us Mélenchon, or face the greater evil – screamed some of them.
Reassuring markets, the majority of Mélenchon’s voters initially rejected this line of “reasoning.” Polling data indicated a majority would support any candidate against Le Pen, whose party many in France perceive as a threat to democracy. When Macron and Le Pen advanced to the second round of the French Presidential election, markets rallied. It seemed France was delivered. And it seemed Lucas, Mathilde, Lydie, and millions more like them were prepared to dole out their punishments, ineffective or not.
Unfortunately, if blackmail wasn’t tempting enough, it seems the temptation of punishment is winning over a majority of Mélenchon’s former supporters.
One can imagine that support for Le Pen may actually be increasing as opposed to remaining stagnant, but the exclusion of supporting Le Pen by Mélenchon’s post-round-one survey of his voters may be encouraging some of them to conceal their support for her. Either way, many are balking at their prior declarations to oppose Le Pen at all costs.
If this bears resemblance to something you’ve seen before, we compliment your sixth grade reading teacher. The 2016 US presidential election featured a right-wing candidate many perceived to be a threat to democracy versus a liberal with too many fanboys in the financial district. The liberal had triumphed over someone more liberal, more populist, more angry, and better at whipping up crowds. And a lack of support for Hillary Clinton from Bernie Sanders’ former supporters almost certainly doomed her bid for the presidency, as many abstained, cast third party ballots, or even defected to the right-wing candidate. And no amount of pleading, reasoning, or even the full-throated endorsement of Clinton by Bernie Sanders could change many of their minds.
In France we see a big name joining the blackmail and punishment. It is none other than Jean-Luc Mélenchon himself – who has refused to endorse Emmanuel Macron
Even Fillon, the conservative candidate, urged his supporters to back Macron. But instead, Mélenchon put up a public poll on his website, seeking his supporters’ feedback on what to do for the May 7th runoff. He pointedly did not include the option to vote for Le Pen – but anybody who thinks none of the 64% of participants who selected to either stay home or cast a blank ballot will take matters into their own hands and embrace the far-right disaster they know could come is deliberately fooling themselves. Fifteen percent are polling that they will, and it is probably more than that.
But that’s just it – they are fooling themselves. Far-left activists will find a way to sabotage their own camp. The so-called #BernieOrBust campaign began well before the (false) allegations of “cheating” were leveled against the Clinton Campaign. It was never about Clinton’s perceived foul play against Sanders – it was blackmailing the establishment and mainstream society itself, and then carrying through with the punishment (with Jill Stein providing moral cover). Give us Bernie, or you get Trump.
Really, think about it. No Democratic candidate since 1980 has lost this much of the youth and self-described independent vote, with 2000 coming close. Hillary Clinton had no more ties to Wall Street and other big companies than President Obama. She had virtually the same record on war, trade, and even sat to the left of him on issues like healthcare, student loans, and climate change. Why did the American far-left flank wait until 2016 to finally jump ship? Why did they do it in 2000? Some may say it was a track record of (phony) scandals and “corruption.” More likely, it was a more powerful tool with which to blackmail.
Just as George W. Bush’s frightening incapability for the office of president galvanized the center-left against him and the far-left to use him to torment their moderate friends, so now did Donald J. Trump mortify the political establishment and launch a left-wing tangent of destruction.
Far from accepting this threat and answering the call to fight it, the inspired college students and self-righteous celebrities of Bernie’s Army saw him as their secret weapon; the punisher, and punish he did. By defecting, staying home, or even joining the Trump Train, the spiteful left won “justice” for Bernie, delivered a nasty reward to their own primary voters, and burned Rome to the ground for spurning them. So too, now, do supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon intend to punish the French electorate and Emmanuel Macron, and subsequently the European Union and the fragile world order that still holds post-World War II.
Not even Bernie Sanders begging his supporters to vote for Clinton could bring them out. What chance does France have, when Mélenchon himself feigns amiguity? Nothing can derail these people. Nothing will convince them to act. They would rather watch Christmas burn, because there wasn’t a pony under the tree.
At the hour of need, when the far-right is on the verge of triumph, the far-left eggs them on with a snicker.
But they could not be more mistaken.
Ignorant of economics, most of Mélenchon’s supporters don’t understand the potential ramifications of a collapse of the European Union. Skeptical of warmongering at home and naïve of those who take their side, they ignore point-blank the aggression of Russia, which invaded the Ukraine three years ago, Georgia nine years ago, Syria two years ago, is condoning a genocide of LGBT citizens in Chechnya, and now employs social media and propaganda campaigns to distort elections in democratic countries, and which openly and financially supports the National Front and Marine Le Pen, via their French propaganda outlet Sputnik. Spite being their motivation of choice, they seek the destruction of not only the political establishment, but mainstream societal institutions. If it can’t be theirs, it must be destroyed.
Supporters of this far-left self-shooting always proclaim that the two candidates are “the same,” portraying these fundamental ignorances – even in an election system designed to allow voters to choose both the lesser of two evils and their heart’s desire if they can rally enough support. They have their cake and eat it too, but they choose to live as Marie Antionette. There is no excuse from those with the time and money to see how obviously false this narrative is. And ultimately, the majority of the left-wing holdouts will crumble with the society they condemn, whether they see it coming or not.
Above: Green Party candidate Jill Stein showing either profound ignorance or deliberate muddying of Russian aggression.
There is hope. Russian propaganda efforts had an easier time discrediting America’s flawed presidential election structure and do not have the same advantage in France. The American alt-right movement has flopped in its effort to assist Le Pen. Polls indicate Emmanuel Macron is still headed for a victory.
But polls are not perfect. They do not record spite. They do not measure bitterness, deception, and selfishness.
While some go to rallies to rage and storm, others – the silent majority – are quiet observers. They go to work, not rallies. They pick up their kids, not voting pamphlets. They will not tell somebody on the phone that they are voting for Le Pen purely out of spite, or staying home out of disinterest. Furthermore, many of Mélenchon’s voters are poor, do not have phones, or do not have time to answer poll questions. Many more have to work, even on election day, for every day has a rest stop at a café in France.
It is understandable that pollsters and experts know this, anticipate it and incorporate it into their studies. But what they do not understand is the self-focused, narrative-driven flow of a left-wing idealist. They want history to vindicate them, and only them. They want to win. And the only way extremism wins is after generating chaos.
Let us hope the middle prevails, and Europe may remain at peace.
Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Susan Rice, N M Rothschild & Sons, and the Benghazi Destruction Initiative contributed to this report. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org