Wow, Now France

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Shocking and shockingly good news out of France. A longtime TPM reader who I am in constant touch with is an immigrant from France. And through conversations with him over the last few weeks I was expecting — though by no means sure — that Le Pen’s National Rally party would come up short in the run off. But the actual results are even more dramatic. They appear to be coming in third. Not just behind the the parties of the left running as a consolidated new United Front, but actually behind President Macron’s centrist party too. A couple weeks ago I think the best anyone was hoping for was keeping National Rally short of an absolute majority. It was treated as a foregone conclusion they’d get a plurality of seats. But even the Republicans — the old center-right party of government which has been thoroughly marginalized — is over-performing relative to expectations. It’s really a stunning reversal.

There are lots of lessons to draw from this. And I don’t know enough to draw them. But one that is obvious even from across the Atlantic is what can happen when the non-far-right/fascist parties unite or at least act strategically. The first sine qua non that gets you to this moment is the parties of the left agreeing on a common front. The strongest party in each district runs (gist, there are more details). Then the Macronists, after running hard against the left in round one, turned around and agreed to a modified version of this kind of cooperation in round two.

It was never really in the cards that Le Pen’s party would get that much more than a third of the vote. But that could have created a majority in the parliament and essentially given them keys to the state. (Labour just got a third of the vote in the UK and now totally dominates parliament.) But in the second round most of the other parties — complicated, but big picture this is what happened — agreed to let the most viable candidate face the Le Pen candidate one-on-one in most districts. So Le Pen/RN candidates couldn’t win with a thin plurality in a divided field. That worked.

There’s also some real extent to which numerous Le Pen/RN candidates were revealed as racists, scoundrels, wife beaters (Frenchified Trumpers basically) and that hurt them some too. Not that this is terribly surprising. But Marine Le Pen has managed over the last decade a significant rebranding of the party her father founded. Kinder gentler racist nationalists basically, with less Vichy nostalgia and tchotchkes. But reporting over the last few weeks showed that lots of the candidates were totally the old team under a thin patina of gold paint.

And yes I’m going to other countries to find things fun to discuss.

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