The Corner

Politics & Policy

The French Election and the Normalization of Extremes

In response to Brian On Behemoths

Andrew’s post about the French election is spot on. While I thought François Fillon was impressive in his stated commitment to reforming the country and I am pretty disappointed by the poor support he gathered, I can’t help being relieved that the next round will not be Le Pen vs. Mélenchon. Andrew is also correct about Emmanuel Macron. He isn’t a socialist and he is more free-market than he has led on during his campaign but he may not be able or willing to do anything with his presidency to improve the country.

But I would like to spend a little time on the most striking thing in my opinion. With Fillon only getting 19.5 percent of the votes and Macron only getting 23.5 percent, 55 percent of the French vote went to extreme-something candidates. Fifty-five percent!

Enough has been said about Marine Le Pen, who although she is described as “far-right” actually has a very left-wing agenda. But it is worth noting that in spite of her awful rhetoric and bad policies, Le Pen has managed to make being a statist-protectionist with some strong fascist tendencies relatively more acceptable in France.

But what blows my mind even more is the French people’s continued embrace of a Communist (Mélenchon) and their impermeability to the fact that the ideology has been used to kill millions around the world. I know French Communists were quite remarkable and even heroic during the Second World War in opposing and trying to derail the Nazi regime. But that was over 70 years ago, and since then Communist regimes have been synonymous with executions, famines, and repressions much more than the welfare of the working man.

Yet, Jean-Luc Mélenchon got close to 20 percent of the vote. That’s as many votes as Fillon got. As if this alone isn’t bad enough, I suspect that if he — and not Le Pen — had been the one running against Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 runoff, many fewer people would have crossed party lines to avoid externalism and the calls to cross these lines would have been limited to Fillion and a few others.

It’s crazy. Obviously, Mélenchon’s supporters like his crazy, backward, and oppressive positions (such as introducing a 100 percent tax on income above $425,000, a four-day work week, more vacation days for workers, no new free-trade agreements, etc.) and they are obviously as ignorant as he is about the already dramatic consequences of France’s punishing tax system, inflexible labor markets, and overly generous government policies even in the face of high unemployment numbers, slow growth, and large waves of millionaires moving out of the country (10,000 in 2015).

But what’s even crazier is Mélenchon’s unchallenged support for Hugo Chávez and other Communist dictators. And the worst is that in France he isn’t alone — as we saw when Fidel Castro finally died. What are people thinking? As long as I live, I will never understand how there is so little stigma attached to Communism in France (and elsewhere) and how in 2017 the ideology is on the rise. Poor France.

Nothing expresses my feelings better than this Reason video from 2008 called “Killer Chic” about the sick love affair of Hollywood with Che Guevara and the world with Communist leaders like Mao.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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