France: Has Sarkozy inflicted a fatal blow to Jean-Marie Le Pen?
The second French exception that suffered a fatal blow Sunday is Jean-Marie Le Pen, a clever, oafish demagogue. By defying the politically correct denial that there was any problem at all with Muslim immigrants, with their wayward, violent, and inassimilable children, or with the ghetto-like “banlieues” — breeding grounds for drugs, criminality, and Islamic recruitment — Le Pen proved a powerful attraction for the popular electorate and dragged it away from the mainstream, which in turn strengthened the Left. Mitterrand and the Socialists underhandedly supported Le Pen so as to weaken the Right, which gave Le Pen an otherwise unattainable lease on life. The fact is that Le Pen’s strength was a mainstay of Socialist power. Deprived by Le Pen of more than 15 percent of the electorate, the Right was politically weakened; with Le Pen unwilling to engage in coalition politics except on his own terms, the conservative camp was in poor shape. The farce of the 2002 presidential election, where all the Left voted for Chirac — “the crook,” as they called him — in order to stop “the Fascist” Le Pen was the crowning tomfoolery of the French exception.
The portion of the popular electorate that supported Le Pen, at least 15 percent of the whole, had shifted over decades from de Gaulle to the Communists and then from the Communists to Le Pen. Sarkozy’s strategy, tested and steadfastly practiced over many years, much resembles Richard Nixon’s recapture of George Wallace’s electorate. Nixon did not deny, as the respectable elites did, that there were serious reasons for disaffection among blue-collar workers and disenfranchised whites. Sarkozy likewise stated the obvious, which the Chiraquist, as well as Socialist, elites were discounting — giving Le Pen, as a result, a monopoly on proclaiming that uncontrolled North African and West African Muslim immigration had created a massive problem; that the withdrawal of police and justice from the high-density clusters of immigrant and second-generation Muslims and the abandonment by the authorities of the poorer, lower-middle-class French had worsened the problem; and that some major policy-shift was urgent.
On the abhorrent basis of ideological racism and hatred for “foreigners” (he even badgered Sarkozy for his Hungarian roots), Le Pen recognized the Muslim problem and spoke up strongly about it. In so doing, he strongly contributed to the disintegration of the Communist party, which was once one of the most vigorous in Western Europe, with a quarter of the vote and a powerful grip on labor: Le Pen stole the Communists’ popular base. In the present election, Le Pen lost about half his electorate and the Communist candidate polled 2 percent of the vote.
West Africans Worry About Impact of French Presidential Vote
French Election Attracts Interest in Senegal