Standing between the complete break down of the international framework that has kept world peace for the past 70 years is one man — Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist who made it to the second round of the French presidential election this past weekend. Macron will be facing a Marine Le Pen a far right, anti-Europe candidate with much in common with Donald Trump in the final round of the election.
The final candidates surged past the traditional leftist and conservative contenders Jean-Luc Mélenchon and François Fillon, proving the French public is in a mood for serious change. After almost five years of tepid leadership from socialist François Hollande, France’s economy remains stagnant, unemployment is high, and terrorism a huge problem. Marine Le Pen has expertly capitalized on French disillusion with the ruling elites and ran a campaign based on fear of Muslims, distrust of Europe, and a promise of returning France to her former glory (whatever that means). Le Pen wants to strengthen France’s borders, clamp down on immigration, get rid of the Euro and foster closer relations with fellow fascist-nationalist Vladimir Putin.
Macron, who is only 39, ran on a centrist, pro Europe, pro business platform, promising to revitalize France’s economy, keep her borders open, and remain deeply integrated with Europe. Macron has also promised to be a “President of patriots against the threat of nationalists,” in a direct attack on his opponent’s far right extremism.
It looks very likely that Macron will win on May 7th given the support from the other political parties in France in unified effort to beat back fascism, but it isn’t a certainty. Le Pen is a crafty politician who can capitalize on voter apathy and divisions on the left. If she can attract enough conservative voters to back her, there is a small but real chance of an upset.
Macron’s success in France should be seen as a monumentous victory for internationalism and global center left politics. After Brexit and Trump’s shock victory in America, organizations like NATO and the European Union are facing unprecedented existential crises. Without forceful advocates these international organizations that have maintained an extraordinary level of peace and security after two catastrophic world wars, we are in grave danger of slipping back into the same isolationist, nationalist mindset that created the conflicts in the first place.
This is not to say that NATO and the EU are perfect — they are far from it — but there is nothing else preventing the dissolution of European countries into islands of fear and distrust, and very little preventing the spread of Russian influence in Eastern Europe. For those concerned about a replay of the early and mid 20th century, having frameworks that foster economic collaboration between European countries and provide a bulwark against a growing super power with an expansionist agenda is of the utmost importance. If France falls to the hard right, the EU will fall apart at the seams as it cannot sustain another high profile country leaving. Coupled with France’s closer relationship with Russia, the world will enter into unchartered territories with highly unstable political alliances replacing carefully negotiated ones that have matured for many decades. In an increasingly unstable global economy, this is a recipe for disaster.
With a rapidly expanding population and huge increase in pressure on resources, the future of humanity (if it is to survive) is going to be based on extreme forms of cooperation and integration. Le Pen, like her political bedfellows Trump and Putin, reflect the aspects of the human psyche that have led to violence, war and ecological devastation. Should she win in France, the disease of nationalism will likely spread at the expense of those with darker skins and differing religious beliefs. While you might not agree with Macron’s economic policies, it is his internationalist mindset that makes him the only viable candidate for France’s future. Electing Le Pen, the inheritor of the xenophobic, racist party her father founded, is a risk the French people cannot take, not just for them, but for the rest of the civilized world.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.