National Front leader Marine Le Pen reached a new milestone Sunday after qualifying for France’s presidential run-off against liberal heartthrob Emmanuel Macron.
That development made a lot of supporters of Donald Trump happy that a similar candidate was finding success in Europe. However, several American conservatives were horrified by those on the Right showing support for Le Pen.
The retort: She’s not a conservative!
American conservatives who see Marie Le Pen as remotely acceptable need to thoroughly examine their consciences. Something’s wrong.
— Patrick Chovanec (@prchovanec) April 23, 2017
If you’re an American conservative supporting Le Pen, you aren’t a conservative. She wants to nationalize the banks, for Pete’s sake!
— Ellen L. Carmichael (@ellencarmichael) April 23, 2017
In American terms, Le Pen is not a candidate of the right, but the alt-right, which has almost no ideological connection to US conservatism
— Jamie Weinstein (@Jamie_Weinstein) April 23, 2017
Marine Le Pen is not center-right. She’s a nationalist populist socialist.
No where near “conservative” in our US definition.
— Colonel Potter (@laurakfillault) April 23, 2017
Bad news for some of my American friends: If you claim to be a conservative, and you back Le Pen, you’re not actually a conservative.
— Stuart G Spooner (@StuartSpooner) April 23, 2017
Marine Le Pen is no friend of conservatism https://t.co/TbEW6D6yOr
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) April 23, 2017
This feeling was shared in some part by the defeated conservative French candidate Francois Fillon. In accepting defeat Sunday night, Fillon urged his supporters to vote for Macron in the second-round in order to stop the dangerous “extreme right.”
“The National Front, the party created by Jean-Marie Le Pen, has a history known for its violence, its intolerance. Its economic and social program would lead France to bankruptcy and, to that chaos, you would have to add the European chaos of exiting from the euro,” Fillon said. “I assure you: Extremism can bring only misery and division to France. So, there is no option but to vote against the extreme right.”
It’s worth remembering the same argument was made by the same people against President Trump during the 2016 election that he wasn’t a conservative. That argument hardly any impact on Republican voters.
The match-up between Le Pen and Macron is not a traditional contest between center-right and center-left parties disputing matters relating to fiscal matters and government spending. It is a fight pitting nationalism versus globalism.
“There’s no more Left or Right. There are nationalists and globalists. That’s the big demarcation line that determines the fate of the world today,” Le Pen once remarked in an interview.
Conservatives in the states would rather not accept that reality, and instead wish the fundamental concern of our time was debating tax reform.
It is true that Le Pen is not really conservative in the American mold — especially if you think American conservatism is primarily interested in free markets and limited government. Le Pen is a trade protectionist who advocates for aggressive government intervention into the economy.
That’s a huge red flag for movement conservatives stateside. Additionally, her stances on immigration and Islam are also too much for comfort to the conservative establishment.
But this is the new, nationalist reality for the West. The old standards for what constitutes the Left and Right no longer make sense, as Madame Le Pen pointed out herself.
The primary issue for the National Front is immigration. The reason most voters are casting ballots for the party have something to do with that issue and the future of France’s national identity. With riots and terror attacks now regular events in the country, immigration now seems a far more important issue than bank policy.
But apparently to Fillon and Le Pen’s American conservative critics, economic policy matters far more than stemming the tide of domestic jihad. Big government is apparently a bigger threat than migrant communities refusing to assimilate and embracing radical Islam.
National Review columnist Tom Rogan even made the case for supporting Macron on the grounds of “economic opportunity” — of course while completely ignoring the immigration question.
Rogan hopes that Macron can help turn France into a proposition state and that free market boosterism will magically turn hardened Salafists into cheerful entrepreneurs.
Of course, movement conservatives like to see the entire world through the lens of the American political spectrum circa 2005 and left and right are defined nearly entirely by economics. But the world is changing, America included.
No longer are the big fights of our time economic. They are about national identity. The choice between Macron and Le Pen is not one about who’s going to tax the banks more. It is about whether France wants to remain France, or embrace an open borders future.
Everything else comes second.