A question often posed in discussions of French culture is “Qu’est-ce qu’un français?” (What is a French person). The answer for many in France—even if it’s often denied by the liberal elites—is someone who speaks French, whose heritage is Anglo-Saxon, and whose religion (even if just nominally) is Catholic. One can see this expressed in Le Pen’s surge in popularity. While America is often thought of as a country of immigrants, the French state is equivalent to French patrimony.
There’s only so much they’ll let their culture be watered down, whether from North African immigrants or the American cheeseburger—and there’s only so long they’ll allow themselves to be governed by non-French entities like the EU. French nationalists in particular certainly won’t put up with the migrant crisis much longer if it continues to be linked to terrorism and sexual assaults.
All European countries have this kind of nationalism in them. But France’s unique history of trying to force conformity makes it likely that a populist uprising will happen there first. It makes a populist revolt more possible and the chances of rancorous division in the country more immediate.
Is there going to be a civil war? Probably not. But after the horrifying scene in Nice, France could lurch so far to the right that it tears at the fabric of the country, triggers mass riots, and leads to a messy exit from the EU. If that happens, other European countries will not be far behind.