Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Center.
The progressive global elite is breathing a sigh of relief after “centrist” newcomer to electoral politics, Emmanuel Macron, defeated Marine Le Pen to become the next president of France. After the shocks of last year’s Brexit and the election of populist Donald Trump as president, the rejection of populist, nationalist, and anti-EU parties in Austria, the Netherlands, and now the second most important EU country suggests the tide has turned. But the Eurocrats and Europhiles shouldn’t start popping champagne corks yet. Like all of Europe, France’s problems run deep.
Macron is the consummate establishment insider, with the youth, pleasing personality, and “hope and change” rhetoric of Barack Obama, who endorsed him because he represents, as Obama said, “the values that we care so much about.” He is the opposite of the fiery, true political outsider Le Pen, who is nearing 50 and focuses on the gloomy problems of immigration and terrorism, and has hard things to say about the EU and the Euro.
Macron also got lucky when his first-round opponent in the voting, center-conservative François Fillon, was weakened by a nepotism scandal. Macron’s other opponent, radical socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is too unhinged even for a basically socialist electorate. And the long demonization of Le Pen as an anti-Semitic Petainist throwback and an Islamophobic, racist fascist has made her a political pariah despite her basically socialist and redistributionist policies, and her promise to do something about the immigration and terrorism that so many French people find threatening.
Macron had another advantage: he put forth a seemingly reasonable program for curing France’s economic ills, which are critical: government spending at 57% of GDP, the highest in Europe; a retirement age of 62 and a 35-hour workweek; 3,500 pages of employment regulations; an unemployment rate of nearly 10% (double that for those under 25); a GDP growth rate barely over 1%; public debt at nearly 90% of GDP; an income tax rate topping out at 45%; nine million people living below the poverty line; and welfare spending at nearly 32% of GDP. Macron promises to tackle the job and growth-killing policies that have created these dismal numbers, but he’s unlikely to have a parliamentary coalition big enough to get such reforms through. Don’t forget, about a third of the French voters cast a “pox on both your houses” vote, either abstaining or casting a blank or spoiled “white ballot.” This suggests a fragile foundation for Macron’s future government.
And if he tries to follow through on his campaign promises, he will likely meet stiff resistance from critics of “neoliberalism,” the epithet in Europe for free-market capitalism. In March 2006, 2.7 million mostly young French people protested against a minor reform of employment law that would allow entry-level workers to be more easily let go. And that was when the president was Jacques Chirac, a socialist who decried “Anglo-Saxon ultraliberalism,” Euro-speak for laissez-faire capitalism. Ten years later, socialist prime minister Manuel Valls faced nationwide riots and protests, some broken up with tear gas, over other employment reforms, which he had to get passed by invoking special powers and bypassing parliament. President Macron and his “neoliberal” reforms are unlikely to be any more successful, given the strength of Mélanchon’s support, the disaffection with Macron of a third of French voters, and the French people’s enduring love for their short work-week and generous subsidies.
And one can question whether Macron’s heart will really be in getting France out of its dirigiste doldrums and fulfill his promise to cut government workers, lower the corporate tax rate, and reform employment laws to make it easier to hire and fire workers. A one-time investment banker and graduate of the two most elite universities in France, the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) and the École nationale d’administration (ENA), he spent two years as Socialist François Hollande’s economic advisor. In addition, he’s a big fan of the centralized, top-down rule of the EU and it chronic democracy deficit, demanding sanctions on Hungary and Poland for violating EU “values” on immigration when the two countries defended their borders from the hordes of mostly male economic migrants and jihadists invited in by Angela Merkel. In short, an elite member of the establishment unlikely to be a champion of the free-market, regulatory reforms France desperately needs.
Worse yet, Macron’s position on Muslim immigration and home-grown terrorism is delusional. There has been a string of lethal terrorist attacks in France in the last few years. Three Jewish children slaughtered in Toulouse (2012), 12 dead in the Charlie Hebdo attack, four Jews killed in a Kosher grocery store, 130 killed in the Bataclan theater (2015), 86 people run-down by a truck in Nice, followed by the beheading of a priest (2016), and on the eve of the election the murder of one police officer and the serious wounding of two others. These are just the most spectacular attacks. For years now gangs of Muslim immigrants, many segregated in Muslim “mini-states,” routinely burn thousands of cars, riot and destroy property, and take over public spaces as the police mostly watch. No wonder that almost half of French polled believe more refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism, and in another poll 61% support a ban on Muslim immigration.
Yet Macron’s comments on Muslim immigrants and terrorism reflect the globalist elite’s chronic refusal to talk honestly about Islam and terror. Dr. Guy Millière of the University of Paris, writing for the Gatestone Institute, has collected a catalogue of Macron’s myopic pronouncements: he claimed the French presence in Algeria was a “crime against humanity,” promised that France would be “open and welcoming” to immigration from the Arab world and North Africa, pledged to facilitate the construction of mosques in France, and said “French culture does not exist.” And during the debate with Le Pen, he spoke of “social issues” as the key to understanding home-grown jihadist terror. In short, the same EU suicidal, we-are-the-world multiculturalist dogma that has covered the streets of France in blood, and that is undermining the national identities and liberal political orders of countries across Europe.
Macron’s embrace of the EU elite’s same transnational stateless idealism, suicidal multiculturalism, and technocratic arrogance is likely to feed rather than defang the populist parties, and continue to undermine the civilizational foundations of Europe and the national identities of its countries. And they will worsen France’s problems. Demography is not on France’s side, as the number of immigrants is increasing faster than the native-born French. Immigrants are also on average younger. Like other governments across Europe, the French continue to nurse the fantasy that young immigrants will replace the lost workers necessary for paying the taxes that support old-age entitlements. Muslim immigrants, however, are overrepresented in prisons, unemployment statistics, and welfare rolls. They form a large recruiting pool for terrorist organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda, promising more attacks like those in Paris and Nice.
Finally, the French economy is on track for further dislocations caused by slow growth and high levels of unemployment. The expensive and extensive social welfare benefits will grow costlier, leading to more increases in the national debt and higher growth-killing taxes. Most important, the decline of faith and patriotism leaves many French without the will to defend their way of life against a jihadist foe that knows exactly what he believes is worth killing and dying for.
All these trends point to a coming social cataclysm that will either make the populist and nationalist parties more attractive, or lead to further Islamization that destroys French culture, as imagined in Michele Houellebecq’s dystopian novel Submission, a dark but plausible scenario outlining how France could end up a Muslim nation.
The transnational Western elites celebrating the defeat of the “fascist” and “racist” Marine Le Pen are whistling past the graveyard as they stroll to their rich, white enclaves where the costs of their idealism are never paid. Macron is unlikely to save the French economy, and certainly shows no evidence of understanding the threat of jihadist terror and creeping Islamization. A Wall Street Journal columnist called Le Pen’s welfare-state, anti-globalist economic proscriptions an “illusion,” and praised the “reformist” Macron and supporters because they “don’t peddle dangerous illusions.” But illusions about Islam and unassimilated Muslim immigrants of the sort Macron peddles are much more dangerous and deadly.
Macron is not “turning a new page” in French history, as he claimed in his victory speech. The failed statism and bankrupt internationalist idealism will remain unchanged and unreformed until events, the teacher of fools, forces a change.