Sunday, April 21, 2002
I'm generally averse to "things must get worse before they get better" logic, but I must admit I think the Le Pen upset in France is good news. Why?
(1) As I've argued before, the primary purpose for the EU is to end democracy in continental Europe. The Eurocrats believe on the one hand that democracy ultimately led to fascism and on the other that in the new, multi-cultural Europe democracy will mean balkanization of Europe into Christian and Muslim factions. Therefore, power must be taken out of the hands of elected representatives and put in the hands of an unaccountable elite selected "meritocratically" by that self-same elite. Le Pen's victory (second place is clearly a victory in this context) should put paid to that notion. What happens, after all, if he should win the runoff? Would the EU wall off France the way they did Austria? It's inconceivable; France is the heart of the EU. And the sanctions on Austria were themselves pretty toothless. The EU has no legitimate basis for ignoring the will of the people the way they do routinely, and the major parties have just gotten a wake-up call: if they listen more to Brussels than to Marseilles, they will be turned out of office in favor of their worst nightmare. If this forces the states within the EU - and, ideally, the EU itself - to be more democratic, that is all to the good, for them and for the U.S.
(2) Europe has a major crime problem, a major underclass problem, a major assimilation problem, and a major cultural atrophy problem. But none of these problems may be discussed honestly among the elite class. I think a good comparison is New York in the late 1980s, the age of the "wilding" in Central Park. People who were appalled by what was happening to the city were also convinced that doom was inevitable, and the people who could actually do something to turn things around convinced themselves that the problems weren't really problems, because to attack them would be to challenge their fundamental liberal beliefs. Giuliani's first election was a very close one (so was his prior loss) because many liberal New Yorkers thought he was no better than a Le Pen and, more important, because few people thought he could make a difference. But he made an enormous difference, and politics in New York will be different for another twenty years because of his achievement. I would never compare Le Pen to Giuliani - Le Pen is execrable. But if he compels the French to raise up their own Giuliani to blunt his appeal, he will have done his country an enormous service. I bet there are plenty of French people who voted for Chirac who think there is no way to assimilate the North African immigrants, no way to reduce unemployment significantly, no way to dramatically reduce crime, no way to restore an honorable and virtuous national culture to their country, and that their mission is to manage decline without letting everything go to pieces. Le Pen should be a wake-up call to these people most of all: if they don't start tackling these problems with a view to solving them, not managing them, they will have a fascist takeover or a civil war on their hands.
All that said, Le Pen really is horrible. If he wins the runoff - which I think is most unlikely, though I think he will poll over 30% - you can turn in your Euros for Deutschemarks; the EU is dead. That is, assuming that a Le Pen victory doesn't spark violence and, ultimately, a military coup in France. You think it couldn't happen? France's history of stability is shallow and recent. France came within a whisker of going Communist in the 1950s, and wasn't far from a right-wing military coup at the height of the Algerian war. On the eve of World War II, France was on the brink of civil war, and the prior century saw a regular procession of revolutions, restorations, etc. I do think that Le Pen will scare the French enough that he will lose the runoff decisively. But if the establishments thinks it has dealt with him with one defeat, or that they can end his threat by becoming even less democratic, they will face a worse earthquake in the next election.