Thanks to the French people, the world now has a new, powerful ally in the fight against rising nationalism. With the election of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, the far right in France was effectively neutered and sent back to the wilderness of French politics. Yes, Marine Le Pen won more votes for her party, the Front National, than ever before, but she was beaten comprehensively by Macron’s ‘En Marche’ 66% to 34%. It was a landslide, and Le Pen — an ally of Donald Trump — has a monumental task if she wants to make her party electable in the future.
Macron is staunchly pro-Europe, and his presence in the fracturing political union is a welcome one. Alongside Angela Merkel, he will make the union stronger and better able to counter Russian aggression, and will be a forceful power bloc against Trump’s America. Macron has pledged to put sanctions on Russia, boost NATO spending and create an EU defense fund to promote joint military projects. A stronger Europe headed by progressives is a much needed bulwark against the hyper nationalistic governments in Russia and America, and will provide a more evenly distributed balance of global power. Under normal circumstances, military spending would not be a good use of the union’s resources, but the threat of fascism should never, ever be underestimated.
Macron has already confronted Trump on issues like global warming and the Paris Climate Accord, and has pledged to turn France into a leading producer of green technologies. This type of progressive leadership is desperately needed as the world enters into unchartered environmental territory, and anyone concerned with global warming can breathe a (small) sigh of relief that France will be there fighting with them. The next few years in global politics will define how we as a species move forward, and with the US government effectively declaring war on the natural world, we need all the allies we can get.
Macron is not perfect by any means. He is a former banker who wants to deregulate France’s economy, weaken labor laws and cut taxes. We’ve seen this scam play out over and over again around Europe — particularly in Britain where the government gutted banking regulation and almost single handedly brought the global economy to its knees. From a progressive point of view, he leaves much to be desired. But Macron is not an ideologue, and above all else has pledged to keep France an open country friendly to immigrants and cooperative with the rest of the world. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, humanity faces a stark choice going forward: extinction or internationalism.
Internationalism as it stands is a messy mixture of political and economic alliances, deeply flawed trading agreements and fragile global environmental accords. The systems we have in place to avoid catastrophes and global conflicts are imperfect, but they at the very least a step in the right direction. Ethno-nationalism has historically fought to rip apart these attempts to create a more collaborative world, and given the stakes, we simply cannot afford to let them have their way.
Trumpism represents an updated version of 20th century fascism, but its tenets are the same: it is deeply xenophobic, misogynistic and nationalistic, and it seeks to marginalize minorities. It denounces internationalism in all its guises, and is rooted in ethnocentric mythology. Fascism is the dark side of the human psyche, and as a species we must never allow it to dominate our social structures.
Emmanuel Macron has a huge task ahead of him, and must build on the alliances he has built in the political center in France. He must also work diligently to strengthen cooperation between other centrist progressives around the world and help nurture likeminded political movements. This will not be easy given the forces he is up against, but alongside Angele Merkel and a stronger Europe, he is in a very good position to make a positive contribution.
Again, Macron’s vision for the world is not perfect by any means, but it is the best we have right now and is worthy of all of our support. Trumpism was dealt a serious blow this past weekend, and for that there is reason to be optimistic.
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.