Showdown For The Right—The View From France
November 29, 2016, 06:07 AM
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The greatest danger to the presidency of Donald J. Trump comes from his own party. It's clear Paul Ryan and the rest of the GOP leadership wants to pretend that Trump won the election by running as a typical Republican and that there is a "mandate" for deeply unpopular actions like screwing around with Medicare and pursuing upper class tax cuts instead of a populist trade policy.

Because of the nature of the two party system, these tensions are going to have to be handled within the GOP itself. (After all, it's not like the Democrats aren't going to have some fierce intraparty battles to deal with.) However, in countries with a different system, we can see how these tensions will play out as a struggle between parties.

After the victory in the Great Meme War of 2016, many patriots, Alt Right types and nationalists are looking to France as the next great battleground, where Marine Le Pen is poised to do well in the upcoming presidential race. But there was a political earthquake this past week, as an unexpected candidate won the nomination for the Gaullist, center-right party in the Republic. Francois Fillion, won a decisive victory in the primary for the Republicans [France election: Fillon floors rival in conservative primariesBBC, November 28, 2016]. Fillon has taken a conciliatory stance towards Russia, is a socially conservative Roman Catholic, and has campaigned against immigration. He sounds a lot like Marine Le Pen.

As quoted in The New York Times: 

“We’ve got to reduce immigration to its strict minimum,” he said. “Our country is not a sum of communities, it is an identity!”

[A Candidate Rises on Vows to Control Islam and Immigration. This Time in Franceby Adam Nossiter, November 25, 2016]

However, Fillon, unlike Le Pen, is campaigning more as an American style conservative in that he also wants to slash the public sector and cut government. He calls himself a "Thatcherite," which is a remarkable thing in France. Thus, we have a showdown between Le Pen style nationalists who want to preserve social programs for the French people and conservatives who want "limited government" and traditional social values.

Vox's Zack Beauchamp  [Email him] whose entire life is dedicated to making sure Western nations are destroyed so he feels better about himself, mourns:

[T]he most likely result of 2017’s first round of voting is a runoff vote between the two rightists, with the Gaullist battling it out against the upstart xenophobe.

Current polling shows a massive Fillon lead over Le Pen in a head-to-head contest, roughly on par with the amount by which he beat Juppé. The most likely outcome is that he maintains a lead, owing to the FN’s toxic reputation with mainstream voters.

But his win is by no means inevitable.

“Whether Fillon wins [in a head to head] becomes an even-money proposition, regardless of the poll that came out today that shows him winning two to one against Le Pen,” Goldhammer says. “I don’t think that’s going to last.”

Economics are the key dividing issue. Le Pen embraces an approach that scholars call “welfare chauvinism,” a defense of the French welfare state as something only French people should enjoy. This means dramatically slashing immigration but also preserving the key institutions of the French welfare state (like high levels of state employment).

Right now, the anti–Le Pen sentiment depends on the perception that she’s an anti-immigrant extremist and borderline racist. This, Goldhammer suggests, can only last so long as centrist and left-wing voters avoid taking a hard look at Fillon’s platform.

Once people fully understand that there isn’t much difference between him and Le Pen on immigration and multiculturalism, they may well choose to vote for her to save the welfare state.

“He’s going to need votes from the left and the center,” Goldhammer says. “If he sticks with his hard-right platform ... I don’t see what the attraction is there.”

François Fillon, the right-wing hard-liner who just won a major French election, explained, Vox, November 28, 2016,
Assuming both Fillon and Le Pen make it to the final round, which is likely if the French Left continues its implosion, the outcome of this contest may tell us something about how the showdown between Paul Ryan conservatives and Trump style nationalists will play out here.