Given Le Pen’s admiration for Vladimir Putin and suspicion of NATO, this was worrying news around Ukraine! Still, after the first round of the election, the incumbent Macron came in first and exceeded his poll average. The candidates who did not advance discouraged followers from casting their second vote at Le Pen. The polls before the election turned out to be quite accurate, and the immediate polls after the first round indicated that Macron had a large single-digit lead over Le Pen.
Nevertheless, the take industry seemed confused by the possibility of a Macron loss or a weak Macron victory. I listened to Michael Barbaro’s “The Daily” podcast on the French re-election on Thursday and suffered some cognitive dissonance while doing so. The whole tenor of the podcast was why Macron fought and why Le Pen surpassed his 2017 campaign. New York Times Paris bureau chief Roger Cohen described all the ways in which Macron had alienated French voters. He said Le Pen touched on wallet issues and that her support for Putin would not hurt her that much.
At the same time, Cohen also confirmed the vote after the first round, which showed Macron was in the lead. Barbaro also closed the podcast by noting recent polls indicating that Macron had extended his lead to double digits.
The Atlantic’s Thomas Chatterton Williams also wrote about the French election last Saturday, and I experienced the same cognitive dissonance as I read. He acknowledged the polls, which showed an extension of Macron’s lead, but nonetheless concluded: “Whatever happens tomorrow, the story of this election cycle is the extremes’ appeal to Macron, which just a few years ago burst onto the political scene. as an Obama- as a golden boy. It is, of course, worrying for Macron and dangerous for the health of transatlantic liberalism more broadly. “
On Sunday, the second round of the French presidential election was held, and based on tweets, Macron could hardly win:
France’s Macron expects to win the presidency and address the right-wing extremist threat to elevate Europe and relations with Russia https://t.co/V9g3d3hYla
– The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 24, 2022
“To persevere,” “spell out,” – sounds like an almost runaway thing! Except that Macron defeated Le Pen 58.8 percent to 41.2 percent, a margin of more than 17 points. It’s not a victory.
That is certainly true Le Pen improved his performance in 2017. Yet Macron was the first French ruler to win re-election in a generation. He did so despite many mistakes in his first term, including his conviction that he could get Putin from invading Ukraine. Meanwhile, Le Pen barely escaped advancing past the first round when left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon almost beat her.
I would like to be aware of what I am saying here. It is quite reasonable to point out that France’s extreme political wing has gained strength in recent years. Figuring out what a Le Pen presidency would have looked like when she advanced to the second round is a proper journalistic exercise. That said, the frame does matter. The tenor of the American press coverage downplayed the vote and played up the possibility of the most disturbing result; I am not the only observer to notice this. In the end, Macron exceeded expectations. But the framework for the past month has been that Le Pen is the real winner. And it seems off.
One of the effects of 2016 has been that news media overcompensate for their surprise at Brexit and Donald Trump and cover elections as if the populists want to outperform their polls. Sometimes, however, they underperform. And the only thing I ask for is that the media remember it when they write their headlines and make their editorial choices.