By Madeline Merrill
To those anti-Trump, anti-right-wing American voters who lament our country’s phobia of immigrants and mourn the uprising of right-leaning voters who ardently champion economic protectionism - our country is not alone in its political polarization.
The upcoming French presidential election, scheduled for April and May 2017, presents many parallels to our own national dialogue. Britain’s recent exit from the European Union has only exacerbated the internal tension within France regarding economic, social, and international policies.
The “National Front” - France’s socially conservative, nationalist party - has opposed the European Union since the international organization’s inception in 1993. Much like America’s conservative opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, French nationalists argue that France’s economy is best left to its own devices, without the intervention or regulation of the EU.
Marine Le Pen holds the presidency of the National Front, and follows in the political footsteps of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was president of the National Front for more than forty years. There is significant ill-will directed towards the older Le Pen from the international community--he once commented that the Holocaust was just a “detail in the history of World War II.” Marine, however, seeks to re-establish the National Front’s identity as a human-centric party, and she publicly stated that the Holocaust was the “height of barbarism.”
Currently, Marine Le Pen is the leading opposition to incumbent French President Francois Hollande. During his time in office, Hollande championed LGBT rights, socialist education policies, and an earlier retirement age of sixty.
Le Pen harnesses the unease of many French people at the rise of mass unemployment, Islamist terrorist attacks, and immigration to her political advantage. Since January 2015, more than 230 French citizens have been killed by terrorists. Le Pen publicly backs Trump, praises “Brexit,” and calls for the return of the French nation-state.
It appears the United States is not alone. Other developed nations are also struggling to define their place in the global community and have not yet decided to what extent “globalization” is harming domestic economies.
We will see where French priorities fall, come April 2017.