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Excerpt: "After a year of high-stakes electoral surprises, France may bring us the most important, disturbing, and dangerous one yet."

Macron warned of 'a barbarism' in Europe 'that is ready to come back.' (photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters)
Macron warned of 'a barbarism' in Europe 'that is ready to come back.' (photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters)

The Insane French Elections That Could F*ck Us All

By Christopher Dickey and Erin Zaleski, The Daily Beast

19 April 17


After a year of high-stakes electoral surprises, France may bring us the most important, disturbing, and dangerous one yet.

he United States appears at last to be waking up, at least a little bit, to the frightening risks that are fast approaching with the French presidential elections. We’re seeing some thoughtful editorials, and even comedian John Oliver has chimed in. His message to France, after Brexit and President Trump: “Don’t fuck up, too.”

Let’s be just that blunt. These elections could fuck us all. They have turned into an insane gamble—Russian roulette (and we use the term advisedly) with at least two of the chambers loaded—and the implications for the United States are huge.

The biggest winner in the forthcoming French presidential elections may well be Russian President Vladimir Putin, in fact. And while he might have played a few of his usual dirty tricks—indeed, in 2014 a Russian bank funded the party of Marine Le Pen, the current first-round leader in the polls—Putin can now sit back and watch the French themselves try to destroy the European Union and the NATO alliance he hates so much.

Less than three weeks from now, in the final round of the presidential elections, the only choice left to the voters of France could well be between Le Pen, a crypto-fascist, or Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a charismatic communist, both of whom are strongly anti-EU and anti-NATO.

Victory for either one would mean an end to the political, diplomatic, and economic order that has protected the United States as well as Europe for the last 70 years, preventing the kinds of cataclysms—World Wars I and II—that cost millions of lives in the first half of the 20th century while containing first Soviet and now Russian adventurism.

There are other possibilities, but as the French prepare to go to the polls (or flee them) this Sunday, April 23, the possible outcomes are a total crapshoot. The four top candidates in a field of 11 are in a virtual dead heat; the differences between their scores is within the acknowledged margins of error by the pollsters. The top two finishers will vie against each other in a run-off on May 7. And the reason something like panic has set in among many French, from the heights of the political establishment to conversation over espressos at the counters in working-class cafés, is that the candidate with the most solid base is Le Pen, while the one with the most momentum is the far-left Mélenchon.

Analogies often are misleading, but in the United States, the closest parallel to Le Pen would be Candidate Trump as groomed and coached by Steve Bannon, while the appeal of Mélenchon, especially among young voters, is much like that of Bernie Sanders. Mélenchon has the best presence on the web, which gives him the veneer of modernity, while his program to “share the wealth” of those who’ve made even small fortunes fits nicely with the traditional French jealousy of financial success and youthful idealism about egalitarianism.

Everyone knows how unreliable polling was in the Brexit vote and before the Trump victory, but here in France, with some 30 percent of the electorate saying they have not yet decided who to vote for less than a week before they go to the polls, and many others saying they might change their mind at the last minute, nobody even pretends to be sure how things will play out. Just to add to the confuson: abstention rates in the first round are expected to be at an all-time high of about 35 percent.

At the beginning of the year, the obvious front-runner was François Fillon, the very conservative former prime minister in the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012. In a primary race last November, Fillon beat his former boss for the nomination of their party, now called Les Républicains. His core principles: Thatcherite economics paring back the role of the state, cutting public sector jobs dramatically, and asserting the values of the Catholic Church in family matters, while denouncing Islamism as a totalitarian ideology. He also has famously friendly ties to Putin.

Fillon, 63, has cultivated an image of maturity and experience bolstered at first by probity and morality. But those latter virtues took a hit when he was placed under formal investigation earlier this year for putting his wife on a government payroll, to the tune of almost $1 million, for work she may never have performed. This, as he was calling for the elimination of 500,000 public sector jobs.

So who is left? The wunderkind banker turned presidential adviser turned economy minister and then leader of an independent centrist “movement”: Emmanuel Macron. In March, he was the flavor of the month. Polls showed he would make it to the second round of the elections, maybe even edging past Le Pen, then defeat her decisively.

But two televised debates took much of the wind out of Macron’s sails. Compared to Le Pen and Mélenchon, he was both wonkish and vague—a deadly combination. That may be because, Obama-like, he really wanted to try to explain the issues. But that’s not great TV, and Mélenchon, Le Pen, Fillon, and even fringe party candidates made much more of an impression. Macron started fading from the headlines, and he began to lose his grip on the top position in the polls.

Because Macron's centrist movement, En Marche!, has attracted support from some of the moderate leaders of the Socialist Party, with whom he served as economy minister, he's being branded as a front for the very unpopular outgoing government of President François Hollande.

So now we’re in the home stretch of the first heat of this race, with the candidates hoping big rallies will push them across the April 23 threshhold to the final one-on-one showdown May 7.

The most imaginative is Mélenchon, who launched his campaign in February using a hologram projection of himself in Paris while he spoke live to a crowd in Lyon, 500 kilometers away. This week he plans to use the same technique to project a 3-D image of himself to meetings in eight cities at once.

Le Pen’s big rally was in Paris on Monday, attended by voters whose fervor, once again, was reminiscent of Trump supporters during the campaign in the United States last year. They are true believers even if they have trouble squaring those beliefs with objective truth. They simply ignore the scandals that have accrued to Le Pen around her alleged misuse of European Parliament funds and, most recently, her attempt to whitewash the role of French officials exterminating Jews during the Holocaust.

At its very core, Le Pen’s support is built around hostility toward immigrants, especially if they have dark skin and Muslim-sounding names. And the roots of the party, try as Le Pen might to disavow them, run deep among people with nostalgia for the Nazi collaborators of the Vichy government (as Fillon pointed out), and even the die-hard colonialists who waged a terrorist war against the government of Charles De Gaulle when he decided to withdraw from Algeria in the early 1960s.

“I’ve been a supporter for 30 years,” said a man at the Le Pen rally who would identify himself only as Samuel. “It’s a question of national identity. I grew up in the banlieues,” he said, referring to the suburbs where many housing projects were built in years past to accommodate foreign workers. “I have seen the effects of immigration firsthand.”

Others think Le Pen represents law and order in a country that has suffered horrific terror attacks since early 2015. “Marine is the only one who will restore security in France,” said Théodora, originally from Romania. “Macron doesn’t love his country. I love France more than he does. He is shameful.”

Joël, a man in his 60s from the Jura region wearing a Paris-St. Germain soccer club T-shirt and a Le Pen, button said, “I am voting for Marine because I am a patriot, and I appreciate patriotism.”

“Macron is like a giant water balloon that will pop. He is a banker and part of the system. He is ephemeral… I hope so, anyway.”

That wasn’t the sentiment in the market streets of Paris on Easter Sunday, where Macron supporters were out in force.

Ali Chabani, a 53-year-old photographer handing out Macron leaflets, easily rattled off six reasons he’ll vote for him: He’s “dynamic”; he hasn’t been “stealing public funds” (a jibe at Fillon and Le Pen); he is “unbelievably intelligent”; he understands that we are in a global economic war and to win it you need alliances (like the EU); he will create jobs (all the candidates say they will create jobs); and he understands the digital economy. (That’s not always a plus with French voters. Mélenchon warns against the “uberization” of the work force.)

Isabelle Nore Vidal, a pharmacist, said she had started by supporting a centrist candidate who lost to Fillon in the primary of Les Républicains. Since then, she said, Fillon has proved too divisive for French society. “You have people who suffer enormously,” she said. “If Fillon’s program is implemented, they will suffer more.”

She said she is asked often if Macron isn’t too young to be president. “I tell them a society that says a man of 40 is too young is a society that’s in trouble.” Macron is mature, but with energy and a sense of the future that older candidates don’t have, she said.

In fact, Le Pen is only 48. But Nore Vidal just shook her head when she heard the name. Like many other voters, she couldn’t even imagine a Le Pen victory, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

On Monday, Macron drew some 17,000 supporters to a rally in one of the biggest indoor sports arenas of Paris. They filled it to the rafters, waving not only French flags but European Union flags. And Macron himself looked buoyed by the crowd that surrounded him.

“We are going to give back to France its optimism and its faith in the future,” he said. He denounced what he called “fraudulent nostalgia.” Of 11 candidates, he said, he was the only one who didn’t want to drag the country back to the past and close the borders, sealing the country inside itself.

Laughing easily, almost conspiratorially, with his audience, Macron shot little barbs at his opponents, even when he didn’t name them. Some, he suggested, would turn France into “Cuba without the sun and Venezuela without oil.” (So much for Mélenchon.) Contrasting Fillon and Mélenchon, Macron said the French might be left with a choice between “Thatcher or Trotsky.”

As for Le Pen, Macron warned of “a barbarism” in Europe “that is ready to come back.”

“We will not let that happen,” he said, to rapturous applause.

Perhaps. But at this juncture, if Macron falters or fails next Sunday, the barbarians truly will be at the gates. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

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+45 # librarian1984 2017-04-19 09:03
The representation of the 'centrist' (read 'neoliberal') Macron as the last great hope of European civilization and the characterizatio n of 'youthful idealism about egalitarianism' as bereft of sense or sensibility shows that this is an article by a media complicit with the establishment and not interested in disrupting the status quo.

Because everything's just peachy. Right?
+13 # Anonymot 2017-04-19 13:25
In its usual, tireless way, the Beast takes its Clintonism to Paris. "They" are going to f*ck "us"! Sound familiar? "We" are faultless.

As someone who's spent half a life based in various parts of France, there's little comparison between American and French politics or people, especially those of voting age.

Hollande's problem in part is that he thought Obama was the man to follow on international matters. Nothing worked for either of them and both set the stage for a chaos on the political level in two very, very different populations. The 800 lb can of worms in the French room is the mass of refugees Obama sent to the EU, Hillary's idiotic tack against Russia, and the CIA world view. None of these pretendants know how to squiggle loose from the results of our Deep State vise.

WE, WE did it.
+9 # Radscal 2017-04-19 15:32
Thank you for your informed perspective, # Anonymot.

I know I've been writing this for years now, but please bear with me.

That our Global War OF Terror would create millions of desperate refugees was easily foreseeable. Wars ALWAYS create refugees.

When the US and France were bombing Libya, Gaddafi warned them that the Libyan government was all that prevented a "flood" of economic refugees from Africa from crossing the Mediterranean, but they chose to destroy Libya anyway.

When Erdogan chose to open NATO member Turkey's borders to the EU, it was obvious that large numbers of war refugees would enter the EU.

And when a Europe still reeling from the worldwide economic crash of 2008, and European people struggling with brutal "austerity" measures enforced by the IMF, it was easily foreseeable that the already rising nationalist, right-wing movements would grow exponentially as masses of desperate foreigners arrived to compete for jobs and aid with the native populations.

It has looked to me like the goal was to destroy Europe from the start. And once the turmoil has risen sufficiently, then the Global Fascist World Order will be welcomed by the suffering masses.
+3 # librarian1984 2017-04-19 19:37
Very interesting, A. Thank you.
+41 # Buddha 2017-04-19 09:37
The embrace of fascists across the globe really paints a bleak picture for the future. Ironic that after the millions of deaths in WWII to defeat fascism, the western democracies simply vote it into power 70 years later...
+1 # Cassandra2012 2017-04-19 12:53
Quoting Buddha:
The embrace of fascists across the globe really paints a bleak picture for the future. Ironic that after the millions of deaths in WWII to defeat fascism, the western democracies simply vote it into power 70 years later...

BC poor education ( inadequately funded by the rightists) and absolutely NO sense or knowledge of history... A young folk-singer /dramatist in Northern Wisconsin actually wrote a play in which she characterized the German prisoners of war as 'just like us' – poor things drafted but not really willing to fight for the Führer!! and had scenes with them sitting around in train cattle cars!, with a sign nearby emblazoned with Arbeit Macht Frei! nonchalantly munching of apples they had picked for local farmers. With not a word of, or knowledge of what our own men =prisoners of war had it like in Germany and Austria!
A shameful lack of education in rural areas.
+19 # heartofnests 2017-04-19 11:08
The saving grace for Americans is that they are consumers before they are patriots—Trump supporters remain passive in their activism, preferring blogging and trolling liberals on the web while they munch on Chick-Fil-A and Diet Pepsi. They are too spoiled and materialistic to sacrifice part of their life to activism.

Here at least, Trump and his dystopian reign of poppy-pants terrorism isn't going to get very far. He likes Mar-A-Lago and his gold-tipped golf clubs more than pretending to be a dictator. He's not really committed to anything—he loves to talk tough and then order in Macdonald's. He loves badasses because he thinks he is one, but he is a namby-pamby Little Lord Fauntleroy beneath his bluster.
+9 # economagic 2017-04-19 12:37
No doubts about Le Pen, but what's the real story on Melenchon? I can't keep tabs on all the phony "progressives" in this country, much less the rest of the world. I saw a fairly coherent article promoting him a couple of days ago, and the Beast gives us nothing to support its claim that he is the Le Pen of the left. Should we believe the Beast or not?
+6 # California Neal 2017-04-19 14:04
Where was the article on Mélenchon? First I read he is the French Bernie Sanders, then that he is a communist, & now that he's both. Both would make more sense if they said socialist, not communist.
+6 # economagic 2017-04-19 15:01
"Both would make more sense if they said socialist, not communist."

My guess as well. I'm not convinced that the people writing for The Daily Beast know the difference, as few USians do. (A current thread on another news aggregator site eventually gets around to the distinction between private capitalism and state capitalism, known to its adherents as socialism and its detractors as communism.)

I don't know where the earlier article was posted. A web search might turn it up.
0 # ericlipps 2017-04-20 05:05
I suppose it couldn't possibly be that Melanchon is actually backed by the French communist Party.

Oh, wait a minute. He is.

That isn't the automatic disqualifier in France that it would be here, but even so it worries a lot of voters who don't like candidates backed by extremists.

Of course, here in America we have Donald trump, whose victory in last's presidential race was openly celebrated by neo-Nazis as a victory for their cause. But at least he's not Hillary Clinton, right?
+2 # Time Traveller 2017-04-20 10:48
I think some of last year's election cluster fuck here was caused by innate sexism. Men are expected to be assholes, so Dump got a pass. Women are held to a higher moral standard, so Shillary, and our nation, got fucked.

I was an am a Bernie man, but when he lost... Well, we all know what happened. But have we learned anything from it, Eric?
0 # Radscal 2017-04-20 14:12
Sexism? Sure, it's everywhere to some degree or another, and is still a genuine problem.

But I think it was blondism that prevented the most mistrusted candidate in Democratic Party history from winning. We as a society need to come to grips with our horrible bigotry against blondes. Blonde jokes should not be tolerated any longer.

Or shortism. That's the ticket. The shorter candidate almost always loses elections over the taller one. We need a law that requires a all companies with more than 50 employees to ensure that 1/2 of all employees be shorter than the other 1/2.

We must confront all these conspiracy theories that voters rejected her 40-year record of horrible and disastrous decisions like supporting the Crime Bill and gutting Welfare, the Iraq War and destroying Libya - leading to little girls behind sold into slavery in open markets, her rejecting LGBT rights until 2015 and backing the military coup on Honduras that has led to the murder of hundreds - mostly women who fought for environmental issues and worker rights.

Sure, all those things are true, but she lost because she's she, or blonde, or short or RUSSIA!!!
+2 # Radscal 2017-04-20 13:02
Even the neo-nazis have largely figured out they were played by the Trump campaign. Go check out former Grand Wizard, David Duke's website to see him ranting on how the Drumpf has proven to be a Wall Street, Zionist shill.
+1 # Time Traveller 2017-04-20 13:57
Rad, I believe we discussed the Rhodes - Milner Roundtable in link below before, and the differences between Anglo and French Freemasonry, with the former being Malthusian and the latter more democratic.

If the French Revolution wasn't so randomly bloody, our Freemasons and theirs could have remained best buds. After all, Ben Franklin was a founding Grand Master of the powerful Neuf Souers Lodge in Paris, getting wild naked and crazy in worshippung the Great Goddess with our French allies...
0 # Radscal 2017-04-20 22:48
Perhaps, but that particular group doesn't ring a bell. I'll check out the link, though.
0 # Radscal 2017-04-20 23:19
Coincidentally, I just saw this video on a Secret Society I'd never heard of.
+6 # Radscal 2017-04-19 15:36
Isn't Chelsea Clinton still on the board of The Beast? She had a powerful influence on them in the 2016 Primaries. Maybe she can tell you whether or not to believe them this time.
+4 # economagic 2017-04-19 19:24
As a matter of fact, she is. That explains a lot.
+2 # Radscal 2017-04-20 14:17
+10 # Saberoff 2017-04-19 12:38
With those darn polls just too close to call, allow me to "(pretent) to be sure how things will work out."

And the winner is... The Financial and Corporate Interests! by a squeaker...
+15 # Eric Jackson 2017-04-19 13:52
I can go by the general reputation of The Daily Beast, sort of. I don't know the authors, and even if I did my instincts about trust are not so good. So back to the old standby, looking at the structures of things that are proposed or asserted.

And aren't we hearing Hillary Argument Two-point-Infin ity here? About how awful the right is, about how indistinctly horrible the left alternative to unbridled oligarchic power is, so we gotta go with the centrists who have really nothing different to offer at a point in history when things are terribly wrong for all to see?

I read much more in the Spanish-languag e press on Melenchon than I see in English. The man seems to be FOR European unity, but won't recognize Angela Merkel or the German banks as the leaders of Europe. The broad brush of "anti-EU" is very unfair, unless you say that the EU is and inevitably must be the folks who blackmailed Greece.
+1 # economagic 2017-04-19 15:03
That was my impression from the earlier article, wherever it was. I would try to track it down but I'm trying to prepare to leave for DC at 3:00 AM Saturday morning.
+9 # Salus Populi 2017-04-20 09:19
One should also note the bilge about the NATO alliance which Putin "hates so much," characterized by the military cheerleaders and laptop bombardiers of the Daily Bleat as:

"... the political, diplomatic, and economic order that has protected the United States as well as Europe for the last 70 years, ... containing first Soviet and now Russian adventurism."

To anyone with more than a passing or propagandist's knowledge of history, this is a blatant distortion of reality. NATO *preceded* the formation of the Warsaw Pact, and was formed precisely in order to promote the overthrow of the USSR and its satellites. It included plans to destabilize western governments that were 'too democratic' and replace them with quasi-fascist redoubts [see Operation Gladio].

When the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, and Gorbachev suggested that it was time for NATO to do likewise, the U.S. insisted on the continuing utility of the military alliance in the face of the dissolution of the supposed bogeyman it was ostensibly set up to protect against.

James Baker then promised that NATO would not expand "one inch" to the East; since then, around 11 or 12 eastern countries, including former Soviet Republics in the Baltic, have been added, right up to Russia's borders.

Far from containing dubious Soviet and Russian "adventurism," it has, as was originally intended, served as a vehicle for imperial expansion and hemispheric domination by the poster child of rogue nations, namely the U.S.
+1 # Time Traveller 2017-04-20 14:04
Great post, Salus! Where do you teach?

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