Yesterday provided a big shocker in France as neither of the major parties’ presidential candidates garnered enough votes to move on the May 7 run-off. That honor has passed to Macron, a moderate (whatever that means in French politics) and Le Pen, France’s Hitler. Commentators are in shock at the outcome, but seriously was it so surprising?
It’s the economy, stupid. The French economy has been moribund for years. It makes Japan’s appear practically delightful. Issues regarding employer flexibility, lack of competitive quality, unemployment, and the rising costs of social programs has rendered the field stagnant. Attempts, few as they have been, to make any reforms have been stymied by riots, political scandal, or crippling compromise. Job creation has devolved to cannibalism as already existing positions are split to create new ones. Social costs have risen with an aging population with few willing to trim even a tad bit of fat from that sacred cow (increase the retirement age from 62 to 65? Madness!). Let’s not even mention the lingering effects from 2009 or the issues of the EU (Spain and Greece struggling, Brexit, etc). No, every government has resorted to the mantra, “Increase taxes.” It doesn’t matter people have less to give or that you’re taking from the very people you claim to be helping. This is compounded by an increasing percentage of the young being unable to find employment. Of course being virtually unable to fire someone, the social costs attached, and the decreasing quality of graduates doesn’t help. The major parties’ have simply muddled through, each acting pretty much as the last on these issues until they’ve blurred together. These men seriously expect something crippled to run, literally screaming at the economy as it struggles to crawl along, the bats and crowbars that damaged it still bloody in their hands. You wonder why the electorate turned away?
Nepotism and the establishment. It is generally accepted that future politicians attends the same elite schools as businessmen and the rich. It creates this incestuous relationship where politicians aid the rich and connected with the promise of lucrative employment in the corporations they aid. And increasingly the same names keep appearing in government. It is both cyclical and static! This has reinforced the desire by those in power to protect the status quo and the people have grown tired of it as the economy created by this increasingly inbred union has faltered. Attacking the major parties allowed the people to shake up the system as well as to attack the elites that have escaped the worst of what is currently happening in France.
The threat to French culture. The EU has been a positive choice for France: stabilized relations with Germany, the opening of markets, and a guaranteed place of prestige in Europe. It has also left her borders wide open to the throngs of Eastern Europeans, refugees, and illegal aliens from Africa. Cosmopolitan and liberal in their views of other people’s, the French are struggling with the increasing masses during their economic downturn. To make matters worse, they refuse to assimilate! The French, as is quit well known, embrace everyone as long as you embrace their culture but in this globalized society few so readily surrender who they are to conform. With the threat of increasing numbers of illegal Africans who don’t speak the language rampaging through the major cities coupled with terrorist attacks by Islamo-fascists, not to mention the demographic changes brought by increasing numbers of Eastern Europeans, the French feel their country is slipping away. And what are they told? Not to worry, they are safe…Despite an attack not but a week ago. That the refugees mean no harm as they rape and vandalize. The people are afraid and the government can offer no solution.
So, surprising that two candidates outside of the mainstream won? The mainstream is bankrupt. I am surprised the status quo lasted as long as it did. And as democracy struggles to answer the problems facing the state, the people have turned to two candidates who offer radically different options. The one seeks reform while retaining an outward vision. The other is a xenophobe who wants to secure an insular state built on reactionary principles that will destroy the EU and likely bring back the factionalism of the early Twentieth. Le Pen, the latter, seeks an alliance with Russia, which turned out so well before.
France has been radicalized by desperation and inaction. The fear isn’t the uncertainty of today but what the vote in May will bring.