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The French “invisibles” vote for Le Pen

In case you are, legitimately, wondering who is voting for French extreme right leader Marine Le Pen,  take the time to read the following article https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/opinion/sunday/why-my-father-votes-for-marine-le-pen.html?_r=0    by Edouard Louis, a brilliant young man who grew up in a very poor household 100 kilometres north of Paris.  In his village, there are no historical monuments, no fancy cafés with terraces filled with tourists and svelte Parisians, no theaters or movie houses showing foreign films.  Oh, there had been a flurry of activity 40 years ago or so “when everyone worked for the same factory” but by the 1990s it had shut down and most people were on welfare. Feeling deserted by the French Left,  voters flocked to the other side, the extreme right National Front led by a self-appointed champion of “the little people”,  Marine Le Pen.

Does the story sound familiar?  Big people or entire parties in power ignoring, or worse, debasing the little people, the invisible ones?   Remember Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” remark?  That was the end of her for two reasons: l) that she said it but 2) that she THOUGHT it. The invisibles pick up on things like that, you see.  They may be down, they may be low, they may be poor but they have feelings like every one else and like everyone else, they seek their place in the world.

Enter Marine.  She’s had a make over, distancing herself from her violent, openly anti-Semitic father.  She now promotes herself as a smiling, blond, smart, feminist mother and politician who is interested in all these people no one else talks to or about.  She’s the only politician who offers solutions.   Simple ones like: close the borders so all those foreigners can’t come in and the jobs will be for you!  Get rid of the euro and you’ll have more buying power.  France for the French!

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is.  The Democrats cried bitter tears when Hillary lost. I’ve had young women tell me that it’s because people are misogynists.  Perhaps. But maybe it’s  because a big hunk of the people who might have voted Democrat were insulted by her remark about “deplorables” which reinforced their perception of her as a too-smart graduate of an elite East Coast women’s college, someone who’s “above” them and to whom they do not relate in any way – especially since she didn’t spend a lot of time with them.   Same thing in France where the Socialist Party spent more time on in-fighting (who’s most to the Left? who’s betrayed the Party by moving toward the Right?) than on getting down to the nitty gritty and helping the people who need it most.

Edouard Louis doesn’t see or talk to his father much these days.  He was the first in his family to leave home.  He studied philosophy at one of France’s most prestigious universities and has published a novel. (The publisher turned down his first novel in which he described the poverty and exclusion he had grown up in by saying that poverty like that hadn’t existed in France for more than a century!).  He is a homosexual and this is the cause of much of the tension and unhappiness between him and his father. Edouard says that his father looked forward to the day he could boot out the Arabs and the Jews and liked to say that “gay people deserved the death penalty-looking sternly at me, who already in primary school was attracted to other boys on the playground.”

But Edouard also writes that beyond this,  he now realises  his father had understood long before he had that “our existence didn’t count and wasn’t real.” The elections gave him a chance to “fight his sense of invisibility”,   Terrible words, when you think about them.

We can thank Edouard for giving us a glimpse into a French life that most of us will never see. For it’s not one life, it’s the life of many.

We should be kind enough to feel compassion for the downtrodden and our leaders should be astute enough to include, instead of reject, them if not for reasons of the heart, for practical ones.  The day there are enough of them -and that day may come sooner than anyone would wish – they’ll elect a Marine Le Pen or someone like her who is filled with false promises and will lead us all down a road we don’t want to be on.

4 thoughts on “French “invisibles” vote for Le Pen

  1. Chuck Offenburger

    Bonjour, Mme. Rochefort,

    Terrific, insightful column. In America, we are now living exactly what you wrote about, and you are witnessing the turmoil that results. You’re absolutely correct that one of the main functions of government must be to take good care of the poor and less-fortunate, and not in condescending ways.

    One thing good about the French campaign and election is that it certainly has aroused strong thinking and commentary from you — and that’s fun to read! Plus it takes my mind off what’s happening right in front of me in your home state of Iowa and the rest of the U.S.

    The news this morning indicates that you now must put on your investigative reporter hat and go solve this last-minute hacking that seems to have targeted Emmanuel Macron.

    Reply
    1. harriet.welty Post author

      Hello Chuck,
      And thanks for your kind words about my column. You are right about the French elections getting a lot of attention in the U.S.
      Re the last-minute hacking of Macron’s emails and spate of fake news including claims that he has an offshore account in the Bahamas, there are several theories but they all seem to lead to the same groups that hacked Hillary. However, I’m sure more will come to light in the coming days. For the moment, we’re waiting for the election results in only four hours. We will be glued to the screen. Stay tuned for more about Macron! Harriet

      Reply
  2. Nancy Sayer

    Great blog, Harriet.
    It’s easy to detail why we want Macron over Le Pen. More important, is to show why she has a following. Which you did, using an example to illustrate many. Millions.

    Reply
    1. harriet.welty Post author

      Always important to find out why the Trumps and Le Pens of this world have a following. Much harder, though, for politicians to do something about their unhappiness than to analyse it. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply

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