Opinion | Marine Le Pen is now part of France’s mainstream. That should scare us all.

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French President Emmanuel Macron should not be proud to once again defeat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Since her first candidacy for the presidency in 2012, she has gained a significant degree of influence – enough that the far right is now an inevitable force in French politics. Instead of celebrating his victory, Macron and his supporters should take a closer look at how Le Pen and her hateful attitudes have become part of the French political mainstream.

Make no mistake: Despite her loss, Le Pen managed to both raise her profile and cultivate an image that laundered her dangerous agenda.

Over the years, campaign posters shifted from mentioning her last name – associated with her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, former leader of her party and a notorious racist – to focus on her first name, all the while portraying her with a wide and innocent smile. During this campaign, she used her Instagram account to show her love for cats and performed publicly and sang obsolete popular songs, thus presenting herself as an ordinary person who does not share the cultural tastes of the elite. She described herself as a single woman, as “a number of Frenchmen”, but failed to acknowledge that she was born and raised in the upper class. Former Miss France Delphine Wespiser even praised Le Pen as “a mother to the French.”

At the same time, several media outlets held debates about whether Le Pen was from the far right. The shocking question captures how many people in France no longer perceive her as a threat. She has definitely won the “de-demonization” game.

Yet there is no doubt about what she stands for. As the leader of the National Rally, a party founded by former Nazi collaborators and fascists, she is supported by the most radical and violent fringes of the far right, including fascists and anti-Semites. Her views and previous statements clearly show that she comes from the most extreme side of the political landscape.

As a Member of Parliament, last year she introduced a bill on “Citizenship, Identity and Immigration”, which proposed a referendum on prioritizing French citizens over foreigners (no matter how long they may have been in France) in areas from housing to jobs to social services. The proposal would remove birthright citizenship (a core principle of French citizenship), facilitate deportation and end family reunification, which would violate international human rights laws that protect the right to family life. In addition, French people with dual citizenship would be prevented from gaining access to public jobs.

EJ Dionne

counterpointMacron wins one for democracy, but the far right still threatens

Such policies are a threat to the principle of equality outlined in the Declaration of Human and Citizens’ Rights, adopted during the French Revolution in 1789 and now part of the preamble to our Constitution. Le Pen also planned to partially withdraw France from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Le Pen is also not an ally of feminism. The word “woman” is not mentioned in any of her 22 key actions or her presidential manifesto, with the exception of a general line about all men and women. Her platform contains no policies to stop gender-based violence or promote equal rights in the workplace. She has previously spoken disparagingly of “comforting” abortions, suggesting that reproductive justice was a luxury, and this year she has said the Muslim “veil” marked “an ideology… as dangerous as Nazism.”

Her party’s platform is also pushing for a police state where police officers will be awarded the “presumption of self-defense” if they committed a violent act. They could also lodge complaints against any citizen they accuse of attacking them, without having to reveal their own identity, making it virtually impossible to defend the accused.

Unfortunately, Macron was slow to label the National Rally’s platform as “racist,” and he did so only after opinion polls predicted her growing threat. Such a condemnation would have been useful to hear from him last year, when his interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, criticized Le Pen for being “too soft” on Islam.

In fact, Macron’s government contributed to the mainstreaming of Le Pen by spending more energy on fighting “wokeism” and “Islamo-leftism” than on addressing the emergence of the far right. His harsh stance on immigration, Islam and security policies helped Le Pen’s xenophobic and racist rhetoric appear acceptable. Human rights organizations have raised concerns about laws passed over the past five years that threatened freedoms; the fierce repression of social movements that left thousands of protesters wounded; and the unprecedented harassment of Muslim people that culminated in the closure of 718 Muslim institutions.

The Islamophobic rhetoric used by several members of government as well as the president – who said the Muslim veil made people “insecure” because “it is not in line with the courtesy of our country” – is now firmly rooted in France’s political landscape. .

Winning an election after inciting public opinion with hate speech and changing laws to restrict civil liberties is not a victory. The far right has succeeded in normalizing its ideology – and that should worry us all.

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