Liberté, égalité, and fraternité win out over malignité

On May 7, the rising wave of populism was halted in its tracks by a crushing loss for the far-right nationalist candidate, Marine Le Pen. Ms. Le Pen, whose ideology, rhetoric, and style parallel that of Dutch politician Geert Wilders and U.S. President Donald Trump, worried many around the world. She had an impressive showing in the April 23rd first round, in which she only trailed Emmanuel Macron, the now President-elect of France, by three percentage points. In the runoff, conventional parties were cast to the wayside in a shunning of the establishment. Ms. Le Pen used hate, fear, and inflammatory speech to stir up voters. She is overtly anti-Islam, comparing Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation of France in World War II. She politicized terror and preys on people’s fears in order to further her own agenda of racism and bigotry. In a word, she was a demagogue.

It was shameful that the people of France even let Le Pen into a runoff. At least they had the sense to halt her there. Ms. Le Pen was soundly defeated by Mr. Macron, a Socialist former investment banker who is pro-EU, by over twenty-five points. The conservatives, liberals, far-left, and more banded together against the xenophobic Le Pen in a successful attempt to reject racism and the far-right. This coalition against hate politics is exactly what should have happened in the November election here in the US. Trump should have been flat-out rejected by a large margin. Unfortunately, the United States voters were not as accepting and informed as the French were, and the American Le Pen was elected.

Pundits and politicos around the world were uneasy as they waited for the results of the French election. Because of Brexit and Trump nobody was certain that far-right populism based on anti-migrant and anti-EU sentiment would be defeated. Although the polls had Macron up by an average of twenty-points, a Le Pen victory did not seem impossible. Thankfully the good people of France came together and beat Marine Le Pen.

However, although the tide of outright racism and xenophobia sweeping through the Western world was stopped in its tracks, the result of the French election is far from ideal. Emmanuel Macron is a far better alternative to Le Pen, but he is not what France needs. He is a former investment banker who has pushed through business-friendly economic policies as Minister of Economy, Industry, and Digital Affairs. He advocates an increase in intelligence spending and he desires a balance of economic and environmental policy as opposed to putting the environment first. He does have many good policy positions as well, such as acceptance of more migrants and opposition to the head covering ban. Mr. Macron is certainly a wonderful alternative to Marine Le Pen, but only time will tell if he has what it takes to lead the country of France in the right direction. For now, the world must just be content with the fact that Marine Le Pen was stopped.