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The French built a dam, held their noses, and escaped the unusual appeal of populism9 min read

May 17, 2022 6 min read

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The French built a dam, held their noses, and escaped the unusual appeal of populism9 min read

Reading Time: 6 minutes

What went down in France?

Wait! Are we talking about a smelly beaver running for President, or is this another one of Owliver’s clickbaity titles that’ll have you contemplating the world’s geopolitics? Well, I hate to say it– but guilty as charged. We’re talking about France’s recent election and why it was pretty crucial for the whole world–well–at least all of Europe and America. So, let’s quickly get the facts out of the way so that we can get our hands dirty with some good old analysis.

Left vs Right

Left-wing politicians believe that the government should take more money from rich people through taxes and redistribute it to poorer and less-fortunate people. On the other hand, right-wing politicians believe that the government should butt out. They believe in lower taxes that will allow people to grow businesses, make a lot of money, and then share that money with all the people that they employ.

While left-wing and right-wing politicians have several different ideas on how to govern, the crucial or fundamental difference between the two is how money should be distributed in society.

Of course, right-wing and left-wing politics also involve different levels of personal freedom and a whole lot of overlap on several issues. Some people believe that this entire divide is pretty useless since everyone has unique stands on various issues.

Are the terms 'left wing' and 'right wing' out dated terms to describe  political parties? - Quora

Left and Right-wing politics originated in France. It all began when the French parliament took a vote on the number of people who supported the king. People who supported the monarchy sat to the right of the hall, and those that wanted it out of politics sat on the left. Yup, it’s that random. So next time you hear someone angrily harp on about left or right-wing politics, ask them what they really mean. You’ll probably find that they’ve got their eyebrows all bunched up in anger over no real reason but a bit of confusion.

Both Left and Right

Even though Marine Le Pen has is known as an extreme right-wing politician, many of her policies are characteristic of left-wing views. She would like to decrease people’s working hours, take money from the rich and distribute it to the poor, and promote local French businesses at the cost of investments coming in from other countries. The only problem is that she has chosen immigrants as the group from whom she plans to take the money to do all of this.

France's desperate endeavors to design a 'French Islam' | | SETA

Islam is the second most popular religion in the nation of France.

Why should any of this matter to you?

France’s election was watched extremely closely by politicians and scholars across the globe. Here are a few reasons why France’s election wasn’t just any old–run of the mill election.

France’s new President is a war-time President(Holding off World War Three)

Don’t Panic! France isn’t really in the midst of a war, but the President of France takes a leading role in the European Union and NATO. This means that the French President will play a crucial role in any decisions regarding the war in Ukraine. Moreover, if Vladimir Putin decides to take the war beyond Ukraine’s borders and into NATO’s territory, France’s President will have to help lead the alliance as it defends itself.

Populism

Marine Le Pen is what is known as a populist leader. She likes to lead by rallying crowds and large masses against the government and its structures. Her ideas are rather similar to USA’s Donald Trump or Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. She is part of a growing movement of leaders who have used this tactic to win elections at the cost of creating massive divides and hatred among the people of the country.

Although populism is neither left nor right-wing, it is a style of politics that invokes extreme feelings of anger and hatred of others among its supporters. To top it all off, Marine Le Pen has paired her populism with extremely dangerous views on immigration and Islam. Her victory could lead to violence against minorities, and civil war in France. It could also promote other such movements across the globe. In the unstable climate in which we live, more division and hatred are definitely not the right way to go.

Why Le Pen?

Marine Le Pen sounds like quite an extreme individual. She wants to isolate France, doesn’t want to spend too much on climate change or climate goals, and wants to get rid of foreign businesses that are giving French people jobs. Moreover, she wants to take away the rights and freedoms of a lot of French people who belong to minority communities or are immigrants. Undoubtedly, all of these policies will lead to hatred and fighting and cost the French people in the long run. So why did she do so well? Aren’t most people reasonable enough to see that her policies could cause them pain in the future?

Experts argue that if Le Pen follows through on her promises, France may have some more equality but the country will end up at least 100 billion dollars in debt!!!

Marine Le Pen supporters’ rally.

Well, the answer is that people are tired and looking for something or someone to blame. And of course that something and someone is the government and politicians. Loads of French people hate Macron. France is a democracy and that is fair enough. But what is it that the people are tired of? Well, first off it is the same stuff that we’re all plagued with: Covid-19, threats of war, heatwaves, climate change, rising prices etc. But a second look creates a slightly more complicated picture.

A successful loser

Over the past five years, Emmanuel Macron has left France a far richer country than he received. His decisions have led to low unemployment, made France a leading policymaker in the world, kept France relatively safe from the horrible impact of the pandemic, and led to a boom in new business. Studies show that most people are doing better than they were before his arrival.

Yet, Macron is hated. And no, people haven’t gone raging mad. The problem is that Macron has made rich people richer while increasing inequality. So, even though people are better off, they’re far worse off in comparison to everyone else. Moreover, President Macron has been accused of being unable to connect with poorer and rural people. He has been quoted making insensitive comments and has been described as someone who doesn’t care about normal people.

Emmanuel Macron has also been accused of being too harsh on people belonging to France’s Muslim minority.

But there’s something else lurking in the shadows. And that is the awful divide between left and right-wing politics. Every decision that President Macron took was used by opposing politicians on either side to claim that he didn’t represent the views of that side. So, even though Macron’s hope was to unite the people of France, he ended up pushing people to the extremes of their beliefs and slowly allowed the rise of a politician like Marine Le Pen.

Macron Slap GIF - Macron Slap Slap - Discover & Share GIFs
WARNING: DO NOT SLAP A POLITICIAN. YOU WILL GO TO JAIL.

In 2019, Macron sparked France’s biggest protests when he decided to raise the price of fuel to encourage people to buy electric cars. The protests against this move soon became a protest against the government known as the yellow vest movement.

President Macron was possibly one of the most hated politicians in the history of France. He was often heckled or yelled at when he went to mingle with the people and was faced with France’s worst protest in decades. In fact, he was once even slapped in the face by a protestor.

Back to the beavers

Emmanuel Macron has the edge against Marine Le Pen in French elections -  The Week

So, Macron is hated. Then, how did he win? Well, he built a dam. Rather than focusing on his own merits, Macron positioned himself as the only tool to block the rise of Marine Le Pen. A move that the French like to call creating a dam. So while some of Macron’s success can be attributed to his fruitful economic and international policies, a lot of it relied on people’s fear of Le Pen.

Sounds quite disappointing, I know. But this strange tactic did make Macron the French President to be re-elected in over twenty years.