As we discussed here yesterday, the French elections wound up going pretty much as the polls had predicted and the results were a very unpleasant surprise for Marine Le Pen and the National Front party. The margin of defeat was one of the largest seen in generations and there is pretty much no question that Emmanuel Macron is heading into office with a clear mandate. But it’s worth remembering that Le Pen increased her level of support from the first round of voting by at least fifteen percent and she registered the highest numbers that the National Front has ever achieved. Pulling in more than one third of the vote represents a sizable wave of public sentiment expressing discontent with the status quo.
Still, it was a bad enough beating that real control of power still remains entirely out of reach for the party. With that in mind, before the dust had even settled from the election, Le Pen and the other leaders of her party were talking about revamping their image, including a new name which has not yet been determined. (Politico)
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Sunday that her National Front party would undergo a “profound transformation” and a top aide said its name would change after a decisive defeat in the presidential election.
“The National Front must also renew itself,” Le Pen told supporters near Paris after projections of the election result showed her losing by 34.5 percent to Emmanuel Macron’s 65.5 percent. “I will therefore start the process of a deep transformation of our movement … I call upon all patriots to join us.”
National Front Vice President Florian Philippot said the party’s name was bound to change as part of the transformation — a possibility that was under discussion during the campaign but never acted upon.
Last night Taylor Millard wrote about how the French were essentially in “a no win situation” when looked at from any conservative or libertarian point of view. In support of that idea he provided a number of platform points from both candidates. I have to agree with Taylor because even though Le Pen is always described as the “right wing nationalist” candidate there’s very little on her agenda which American politicos would recognize as “right wing” in any sense of the word. She wants a carbon tax, more taxes on the wealthy, state control (or at least massive subsidization and regulation) of industry and an expanded welfare state with increased benefits. Macron’s agenda was essentially the same. They’re both socialists when it comes to economic matters. The only places they differ are on immigration, globalization and national security.
The fact is that even the ongoing terror attacks and various problems caused by waves of immigrants weren’t enough to shake a majority of the French people out of their well worn areas of comfort. They’ve been voting for socialists for so long over there that they really don’t know or relate to anything else. So I’m left wondering precisely how the National Front plans on rebranding themselves. Ditching their love for big government, big taxes and a big welfare state obviously isn’t going to gain them any ground. And if they abandon the “France First” mantra of protecting their national identity and guarding their borders, what do they have left to offer which is substantially different from the rest of the socialist pack?
They’ve got a couple of years to rebuild and try again before the next elections, but it’s difficult to see where they go from here. It would require some sort of generational shift in public attitudes in France for them to succeed against those types of headwinds. Luckily for them, Le Pen and her core followers don’t seem to be going anywhere so they may have time to do just that. But don’t expect to see it happen in the next election cycle.