“The result is very disappointing [Le Pen], ”Said Vincent Martigny, a political scientist at the University of Nice. “She ended up very far from power.”
Especially while a war is raging in Ukraine, which has united European leaders to an unusual degree, a Le Pen victory would have sent a shock wave through NATO and threatened the flow of French weapons that have quietly flowed to Kiev. . . .
On the streets of Paris on Sunday night, many were relieved that a far-right victory had been averted.
Macron was able to consolidate voters who elected other candidates in the first round of voting, demonstrating that a center-left-center-right coalition could be more than enough to stop an extreme right-wing candidate whose appeal is limited to several rural and religious voters. (especially those who reacted to Le Pen’s anti-Muslim rhetoric).
It is easy for skeptics to proclaim Le Pen “won” simply by increasing her share of the vote. They can certainly also point out that a deeply dissatisfied faction of the country is apparently not so desperate over Le Pen’s past devotion to the Russian dictator and war criminal Vladimir Putin. But it does not understand the challenge that all Western democratic leaders – including Macron – must overcome to govern.
A center-left leader can be a champion of tolerance, a force to fight climate change and an advocate of an agenda that a majority of voters support. But they must do so while facing deep divisions between urban and rural populations, between religious and secular voters, and between well-educated and less educated. This makes it virtually impossible for competent, well-meaning leaders to ward off constant criticism from a 24/7 media or to resist fierce opposing factions and cynical voters.
A U.S. president who won with 59 percent of the vote, which few believe is possible given our own toxic policies, would be a political colossus. That result in France contains several lessons for American media and politicians.
First, a politician who considers it their job to solve problems, as opposed to channeling anger and evoking cultural resentment, will rarely get the credit for achieving half or even three-quarters of the bread. No matter how well the president helps the country recover from the recession, how many jobs are created on their watch, or how effective an international leader they become, anything less than perfect will be met with relentless criticism. The temptation to paint a president as a loser is overwhelming for allies who are disappointed with the results. This is exacerbated in a media environment that thrives on conflict and a political environment where the opposition party is not willing to give the credit for any achievement. Therefore, one can expect to get, if at all, constructive problem solvers on the left wing in the middle enjoying high approval rates.
Nevertheless, center-left leaders can still succeed. A politician who casts opinion polls in the low 40s, as Macron and President Biden do, might rally a commanding victory if the alternative is a right-wing, independent, complaint-raging opponent. The French are not particularly fond of Macron, but given the binary choice between him and Le Pen, it was an easy call for most French voters.
In the end, while hard-line left-wing party leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon did not support Macron directly, Macron easily lined up for center-right, green and socialist parties immediately after the first round. If democratic governments are to deter the attack from authoritarian, nationalist challengers, they must recruit the broadest possible coalition.
This means that these factions must curb their disappointment and form a national front against the far right. In the United States, a left-leaning figure like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Is doing the democracy a disservice by proposing that he run for president if Biden, who has said he will seek re-election, bows. Self-promotion is not in line with the kind of cross-ideological and cross-party alliance democracy needed to survive.
In short, the key to winning for center-left problem-solvers is to make choices about a choice between democracy and authoritarianism; between free markets and peer capitalism (or revenge capitalism); and between freedom and Christian nationalism. If Biden – like Macron – wants to keep the right-wing, reactionary and delusions at bay, he must do a much better job of explaining what voters’ options are. They must understand what they are about to lose by handing over power to right-wing nationalists, who deplore pluralism and remain intolerant of dissent.