WASHINGTON -- American liberals anxiously watch Sunday's French presidential election. They fear that a victory of the far-right Marine LePen will undermine the West’s newly empowered defense of democracy against both internal ethnonationalism and external Russian militarism.
Macron, an ex-investment banker and centrist, is not a hero for progressives either side of the Atlantic. However, they claim the alternative is much worse so the choice is clear.
"This is a real threat to progressives’ vision of a pluralistic and multiethnic democracy," stated Matt Duss (foreign policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders), I-Vt. "Everyone must be clear that a Le Pen win would be a huge boost for the Trump movement."
After finishing within 5 percentage points from President Emmanuel Macron in this month's first round, Le Pen, an anti-immigrant party leader, is the far-right’s best chance of gaining control of a major European country.
According to polls, Macron is leading in the second round. Most expect him to win Sunday's runoff. Analysts say that voters who narrowly missed the runoff by a left-wing candidate may vote against Macron or stay home to protest.
"The most important thing is to remember that no French president has won the re-election of his office since 2002," stated G. Elliott Morris, an analyst polling for the Economist.
While there are differences in the politics of the two countries and their leaders', Macron, just like President Joe Biden is now facing rising prices because of inflation and disillusionment following the initial excitement at his victory. He has also been accused of being out-of-touch with everyday struggles of the common people.
In polling averages, Macron and Biden have almost identical approval ratings. The share of those who disapprove is about 10 percentage point higher than those who approve.
Le Pen, along with former President Donald Trump, has been critical of "le wokisme," which is a Francification or "wokeism" and has stirred resentment towards Macron and his ilk, the cosmopolitan elites, for allegedly selling out French culture, workers, and drawing strong support from rural areas outside of major metropolitan areas.
Morris stated that "the overarching theme here seems to have been a reorientation of the class-based political system of the 20th Century towards the identity-based politics and the 21st Century."
Some left-leaning Americans believe that the Democratic Party's deficit hawks should take note of Le Pen's success in championing right-wing cultural views. She has called for the ban on Muslim women wearing head scarves out in public and outflanked Macron on economic issues.
Le Pen attacked Macron from the Left over his plans for cutting social welfare programs in order to make the country more attractive to businesses, including raising the retirement age to 65 from 62.
Ethan Winter, lead analyst at Data for Progress, said that Trump has been known to flirt with similar formulas, including when he defied conservative orthodoxy in order to defend Medicare and other social safety net programs during his 2016 campaign.
Le Pen's ties with Putin are a potential threat to NATO and the Western Front against Moscow at a time when Europe is rallying like never before to face Russia after its invasion in Ukraine.
Le Pen has tried to moderate her message and soften her image and dropped plans to withdraw from Europe. However, she is still calling to reconcile with Putin. Her party is still repaying a loan of almost 10,000,000 euros (about $12 Million) from a Russian bank.
"When you talk to Russia, you are speaking to your banker. This is the problem, Mrs. "Le Pen," Macron stated during Wednesday's televised debate.
Le Pen countered that she was "a completely free woman" and that her support for sanctions against Russia and France is a reason why she supports Ukraine's support.
She said that she opposed cutting off Russian oil and natural gas imports as it would harm French citizens who already suffer from high energy prices. This she attributes to an ideological and punitive push for a rapid transition to a green economy.
Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and anticorruption activist, imprisoned, urged French citizens on Wednesday to vote for Macron. He stated on Twitter that Le Pen was compromised by Moscow.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, also supported Macron.
He said that while he does not believe that I have the right or ability to affect what happens in your country's affairs, he wanted to clarify that he has a relationship with Emmanuel Macron that he would not mind losing. "If Le Pen realizes she made a mistake, we could have a different relationship."
Simon Rosenberg, founder of Washington-based New Democrat Network and a former adviser to the U.K. Labour Party, stated that American liberals must realize that populist-nationalist movement like Trump's or LePen's have replaced traditional center-right parties across many Western countries.
"I don’t think people realize the crisis the European center-right is going through." He said that there is currently no center-right government in any major European country.
It is very different from Le Pen’s 2017 campaign, which was immediately after the unexpected victories in Trump and Brexit. At the time it seemed like the far-right would not be stopped.
Right-wing parties and politicians, from Trump to Le Pen and Viktor Orban in Hungary, have some common traits that make them attractive to Putin. These include mistrust of NATO and support for fossil fuels.
Rosenberg stated that "virtually all these parties have ties with Putin," and added that weak Macron or Biden would be good for Putin in advance of a potential Trump presidency run in 2024. "No doubt Putin and his allies will use high gas prices and inflation to weaken the West's political resolve."Updated Date: 23 April 2022, 10:33