The Corner


Le Pen at CPAC

Marion Le Pen speaks at CPAC 2018, February 22, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Marion Le Pen gave her speech at CPAC today. My French is merely . . .  aspirational, so I won’t opine on how representative it was of her as a political figure. And I have a warning for those who would warm to it uncritically. As my career grants me friendships with other conservatives across Europe, I notice the tendency in them and in myself to idealize or project hopes onto the conservatives in other nations. My Irish and English friends tend to be far more positive about Trump than I am. And I have been far more positive about some of their would-be champions than they can be. Unfamiliarity breeds fantasy.

If you want a native opinion on Marion, there is my Parisian friend, and occasional National Review contributor, Pascal Emmanuel Gobry who has argued in the past that she was a figure in French politics for the way she contrasted with her aunt, Marine. Roughly, Marine represents French secularism and statism, whereas Marion represents French Catholicism and domestic economic liberalism.

Jay Nordlinger expected Marion to avoid all the nasty parts of her party’s legacy, its anti-Semitism, its encouragement of racism, its softness on collaborators, and its anti-Americanism. And he was proved right. Marion’s speech stood out to me because it contrasted so strongly with the normal speeches you hear on the main stage of CPAC. It inadvertently revealed the highly Protestant character of American conservatism, especially when it steps forward onto the stage.

You noticed it in the choice of topics and in her rhetoric. Some examples of her rhetoric italicized below, with my comments.

Without nation, and without family the limits of the common good, natural law, and collective morality disappears, as the reign of egoism continues.

It’s a thought with which many conservatives in America can agree, but most of us wouldn’t put it that way, fearing to offend our libertarian friends or those who think of ourselves as “individualists.”

We cannot accept a model that creates slaves in developing nations and unemployed in Western countries . . .

This is just not how Protestant nations think of free trade or economic development. It also differs from Trump’s contention that foreign countries are getting the better deal out of free trade. This little flourish shows how populist movements have to clear a higher rhetorical bar in Europe.

France is in process of passing from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam, the terrorism is only the tip of the iceberg . . .

When Americans talk about Islam or Islamism as a threat, they talk about it in terms of ideas or worldview. Le Pen speaks about Islam as a rival civilization, in competition with Christendom for the soul of nations, allegiance of their peoples,  and power over their resources.

Today even children have now become merchandise . . . we hear now in the public debate: “We have the right to order children in a catalogue,  we have the right to rent a woman’s womb, we have the right to deprive a child of a mother or father.”  No you don’t. A child is not a right. Is this the freedom we want? No, we don’t want an atomized wold, without gender, without father, without mother, and without nation.

The only places where reproductive technology, and the legal novelties that enable it are considered as mortal threats to our civilization’s self-understanding is among other Catholics.

Perhaps Le Pen’s heart is with her grandfather, who founded the National Front as a vehicle for just about every mid-century French villainy. But her speech today was the speech of a modern right-wing French Catholic.

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