Can populism take Paris?

If Macron rather than Fillon or the left-wingers makes the second round, Le Pen’s already-difficult path gets even harder — at least based on what we see in the polling data now. But Macron is politically inexperienced, and his centrism is a tightrope walk: Recently he was in hot water with the right for calling French rule in Algeria a “crime against humanity” and with the left for doing outreach to skeptics of same-sex marriage. And his support for Angela Merkel’s open door to immigration — he recently said that it saved Europe’s “collective dignity” — is the kind of thing that could become a major liability should unrest surge or terrorism strike.

It’s also mistaken on the merits, since Merkel’s policy was reckless, Europe’s immigration-and-integration problem is severe and likely to get worse, and Le Pen’s dire warnings on this count are wiser than the blithe optimism of the establishment. Which points to an interesting difference between the National Front’s candidate and the populism that triumphed in America’s presidential race: Hers is better thought out, more disciplined, and more often correct.

Le Pen’s pessimism about mass migration may be too dark, but it’s a needed corrective to Merkelism, and much more reasonable in the European context than Trump’s overhyped warnings about refugees. Her brief against the follies of the euro is almost inarguably true (for reasons that you can about read about on Vox, not Breitbart). Her party platform overall suggests what Trumpism would look like if it were more coherent — and, for that matter, more responsible, since she’s actively tried to distance her movement from the sort of toxic bigotry that Trump’s campaign saw advantages in winking at.

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