It is no secret that the world has been slowly turning against the established globalized neoliberal order. The new right-wing populist order has many faces, but its most famous is that of President Donald Trump. While Donald Trump could end up being a successful president, his brash actions and gimmicks have hurt the image of new right-wing movements currently gaining support around the world. He has emboldened populists and right-wingers, but has alienated many who are moderate or leftist, which hampers the ability of the new right to become mainstream.
French politician, Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, represents something more advanced than President Trump. Some have branded her as the “French Donald Trump,” which is inaccurate. She has been in politics far longer than President Trump has, and represents a more composed version of the Trump movement. While the odds that Marine Le Pen will win the French presidency are slim, she has provided the world with a glimpse of a new conservative order.
Marine Le Pen received a Master’s Degree in Law and a Masters of Advanced Studies in Criminal Justice from the Panthéon-Assas University. She spent time as a lawyer and was a member of the Bar of Paris, and then proceeded to join her father’s political party, the National Front of France. At the time, the National Front was a far-right party, whose members were anti-Semitic and often echoed the Nazis in their rhetoric. The party was run by her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who once described Nazi gas chambers as “merely a detail in the history of World War II.” His frequent anti-Semitic slurs caused the French media to brand him as “the demon” and the “devil of the republic.”1 Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen rose quickly through the ranks of the National Front, and eventually became its president. She took charge of one of the most extreme and far-right parties in Europe, and she turned it into a mainstream political power. At best, Trump has verbally repudiated the endorsements of some extreme far-right supporters, but has not completely disavowed them like Le Pen.
She immediately set out to de-demonize and cleanse the image of the National Front. She purged its ranks of Nazi sympathizers and the known anti-Semites. She even kicked her own father out of the party. Le Pen transformed the platform and image of her party. Her platform contains economic and social policies from both the left and the right, but has retained its ardent nationalism. She champions herself and her party as the protectors of French democracy and the French national identity, which has appealed to many in France. And while conservative political parties typically appeal to older voters, the National Front is the most popular party amongst French millennials.2
She is pro-choice, gay-friendly, and supports banking and financial regulation while also emphasizing national sovereignty, anti-immigration and anti-elite policies. She is also anti-Islam, and plans to shut down mosques and Muslim organizations tied to Islamist groups. During her campaign, she planned on meeting with a French Muslim religious leader. It is customary for women to wear a headscarf when speaking to him. However, Le Pen refused, cancelling the meeting rather than caving to the demands of the Muslim leader. Clearly, she believes that French citizenship and nationality go hand in hand, and advocates for a structured point system for non-French nationals to apply for citizenship. On the other hand, Donald Trump has come up with the most basic plan to protect the “American identity:” the travel ban.
Marine Le Pen also supports leaving the European Union. She argues that the EU has stripped France of much of its sovereign and economic power. Many of her economic policies are based upon the idea of protectionism. She plans to re-industrialize and expand the French agricultural industry, and to reduce foreign influence, she plans on banning foreign investors from investing in certain industries. Additionally, she plans on reinstating the national French currency (the franc). Le Pen has a detailed plan on how to detach France from the global economy, and make sure that the French economy is for the French only. At best, Trump has merely said he wants to leave NAFTA and tax companies that outsource.
While President Donald Trump has made many of the same points Marine Le Pen has, he has done so without her precision and detail. Le Pen published a 144-point plan on how to execute her campaign goals.3 President Donald Trump has come up with vague ideas about what he might do in the future. While his first address to Congress was heralded as “presidential” by the media, and is thought to have caused the Dow Jones to cross the 21,000 point threshold, his future plans are still uncertain.4
Additionally, Marine Le Pen has worked to integrate leftist policies into her platform, while President Trump has done nothing of the sort. While Le Pen has said controversial things, she is not embroiled in as many scandals as President Trump. Some of these scandals are merely gross exaggerations by insecure liberal media organizations still sore about losing the election, but there is still enough validity in these accusations to weaken right-wing populist movements around the world. Lastly, President Trump invoked a simplistic, blustering form of nationalism and patriotism with his “Make America Great Again” slogan and “America First” policies, while Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, has been able to craft a campaign that seems effortlessly interwoven in French nationalism and the French identity.
While Donald Trump ran as a Republican, he has done many things that would not characterize him as such. What is he then? While news sources report that Republicans now control all three branches of the government, this is not necessarily true. the president is not controlled by Republicans; he is beholden to no one but himself. All we know for sure is that he took advantage of the ills globalization has caused. At the end of the day, Trump hasn’t spearheaded a new conservative movement in the United States, he has played upon a developing movement’s fears and used that to reach the White House. He is the result of what ails the world; he is a symbol The Republicans will keep President Trump at an arm’s length, and when they need to, they will cut him loose. His supporters will then vote for whichever candidate they dislike the least. On the other hand, Marine Le Pen has spearheaded and united a political movement around the French National Front, and turned a far-right organization into an advanced political party that will impact French politics and the rest of the world for years to come. She is not merely a symbol; she’s a cure, and under her guidance, conservatives can mix the antidote to the globalization that has devastated many communities across the world.
President Trump’s policies don’t necessarily benefit most of his voters, and it is very difficult to see him as the embodiment of the future. Anti-globalism is gaining popularity around the world, and will most likely be the future of politics, even though it is a backward concept. This state of simultaneously being forward and backward is unique and intriguing, and it is dominating global politics. Marine Le Pen is a female, pro-gay politician, who also wants to shut down mosques and minimize Muslim presence in France. In sum, President Donald Trump represents what ails the world, but Marine Le Pen represents a unique, forward-backward movement that could revolutionize politics, which is exactly what conservatives around the world should embrace for their ideas to be successful.
- Cécile Alduy, “The Devil’s Daughter,” The Atlantic , March 1st, 2013. ↩
- Lazara Gamio , “The millennial surge fueling Europe’s right-wing populism,” Axios , March 12th, 2017. ↩
- Helene Fouquet, “France’s Marine Le Pen Unveils Presidential Platform Measures,” Bloomberg , February 17th, 2017. ↩
- Adam Shell, “Trump speech breathes new life into Trump Rally: Dow hits 21,000 for 1st time,” USA Today , March 1st, 2017. ↩