Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right French National Front, was seen in the lobby of Trump Tower this morning. The visit was unannounced and not on her schedule, nor, as far as it’s been reported, was it on the schedule of anyone on the Trump team. Le Pen’s aide wouldn’t say why the right-wing French presidential forerunner made a secret visit to Trump Tower, and Le Pen rebuffed reporters. The mystery will sleep with the ages.
Le Pen, who is, if I may, viewed in general around the world as a far-right nut, was at the top of the latest round of presidential opinion polls in France. France holds two rounds of presidential elections, in April and May. Political analysts around the world are in a general consensus that Le Pen is so far on the fringe that she doesn’t have much of a chance of winning, but wait…that certainly sounds familiar, doesn’t it?. She’s being taken seriously where she hasn’t been taken seriously before — enough that it can be said political analysts around the world are in general consensus.
An anonymous Trump aide said the POETUS hadn’t planned to meet with Le Pen. Neither had Steve Bannon.
Le Pen, a self-proclaimed champion of the everyman who grew up in high luxury as the daughter of a racist businessman, said she’d fund her campaign by borrowing €6M from a company owned by her father. (Marine’s own party ex-communicated her father, who once led it, because he was too racist.) Ring bells yet? How about adding this to it, from an op-ed in the Independent that, weirdly, came out this morning: “This is not solely because she cannot get a loan from French banks, but because a Russian financial institution that offered [her party] millions in 2014 was subsequently declared insolvent.”
Indeed, Le Pen has often expressed her support of Trump and just this month called him “a sign of hope” for batshit crazy right-wing parties in Europe. “I feel less isolated today because of the multi-polar world defended by Donald Trump but also by Theresa May and Vladimir Putin.”
In fact, Le Pen has said many of the same things Trump did his campaign, albeit in French, which could spin poetry out of the cloth of the Confederate flag. Here she is at her most mellifluous:
“Would you accept 12 illegal immigrants moving into your flat? You would not. On top of that, they start to remove the wallpaper. Some of them would steal your wallet and brutalise your wife. You would not accept that. Consequently, we are welcoming, but we decide with whom we are welcoming.”
Then, “I do not have the slightest bit of racism in me. I do not judge people with regards to the color of their skin, their origin, or their religion. I defend them all, because I defend French people.”
“It is essential that France gets back control of its national borders once and for all. Without borders, neither defence nor security is possible.”
On Putin: “I admire his cool head because there’s a Cold War being waged against him by the E.U. at the behest of the United States, which is defending its own interests. I admire that he’s managed to restore pride and contentment to a great nation that’s been humiliated and persecuted for 70 years.”
On climate change: “I am not sure that human activity is the principal origin of this phenomenon.”
On world affairs: “One [primary] problem is Islamic fundamentalism, which is a kind of totalitarianism in the 21st Century. The second is globalisation, which is another kind of totalitarianism, the ideology of free business with no boundaries.”
This is no longer the stuff of the “fringe.” Racist, anti-establishment far-right political movements across Europe are gaining more and more momentum, including in Germany, Belgium, Poland, and even Sweden. They’re feeding off each other. Europeans everywhere are now sitting down to the banquet of Brexit and Trump, and they’re tossing the hummus.
This year France and Germany will both have national elections. Right-wing leaders in both countries want to leave the E.U. If either country tips to the right, there’s a pretty good chance the European Union will fall apart. Germany holds elections next month. If voters there rebuke Merkel and vote right-wing, France, where Le Pen leads in the polls, will likely follow suit.
Even if Germany doesn’t fall for the sleight of the right, France’s “center-right” candidate and Le Pen’s biggest challenger, Francois Fillon — who crushed with 67% of his party’s vote — is barely center-right, promising among other things a crackdown on immigration and Islam.
When Fillon comes up against Le Pen, his far-right supporters, given the option, will move out further. We saw this in the Republican primaries, and we will see it again in France. The center cannot hold, guys. It’s high time we look at this “center-right” stuff and fight it for what it is. The fringe isn’t the center, but it’s central.
That op-ed in the Independent this morning said Le Pen had no shot at the presidency. The whole argument was that Le Pen would lose not because of her policies, but because of her character. And there it is, the final parallel: Winner, winner, chicken cordon bleu.