United By A Common Language of Hate
“Would you accept 12 million people moving into your home? You would not. On top of that, they start to remove the wallpaper. Some of them would steal your wallet and brutalize your wife. You would not accept that. Consequently, we are welcoming, but we decide with whom we are welcoming.” While one might think this is one of Donald Trump’s tirades against Mexicans or Muslims, it is in fact the current front-runner for next year’s French Presidential election, the leader of the far right Front National (FN) party, Marine Le Pen.
Both Trump and Le Pen use binary language to explain complex issues and offer sound bite solutions to appeal to their followers, designating the cause of the economic and cultural malaise of their respective countries to mass immigration, poor trade treaties, exportation of jobs to China and other low cost countries through globalization and loss of “traditional” values which have been corrupted by the influx of new religions and ethnicities.
However, although much of the rhetoric is the same, their backgrounds and aspirations are quite different. Le Pen was schooled in her far right ideologies by her father, the neo-fascist Jean Marie Le Pen. He founded the FN party in 1972 and took it from from the radical fringe to mainstream politics by his populist appeal to the working class and rural populations, seeking answers to their own demise and turning away from the conservative and social mainstream parties who appeared to offer no solutions. Le Pen has been very active in politics for nearly twenty years, promoting herself as an independent outsider and attacking the “establishment” politicians of both parties as corrupt and obligated to special interests who finance their campaigns.
Whether you agree with her points of view, and there are many in France that do, there is no doubt that she is committed in her beliefs and is seeking a popular mandate to enforce the changes she feels are necessary to “make France great again”. She has never been associated with the conservative party and has always been independent from their influence. The movement that she heads, if not created by her and the party she represents, has led the discourse for over forty years and has gradually built support amongst the population. Win or lose in the 2017 Presidential election, you can see Le Pen continuing to work hard for the party she heads.
By contrast, Trump appears simply to have hijacked a movement that had its foundation within the conservative elements of the Republican party, to which until this Presidential cycle, he has never been particularly associated with or acted passionately on its behalf. Indeed his self publicity as a “brilliant” businessman who works the system for his own benefit appears to be his main justification for being fit to be President and there is very little substance to any of his political solutions or policy statements. His motivation appears to be largely about promoting himself and his brand, a clever salesman working his audience by playing on their fears and one doubts that should he fail, that he would continue to invest any time or effort to promote this agenda of doom, unless of course he could somehow profit from it.
There is no evidence that he previously cared about any of the issues that he now professes to care so much about; no investment of time or money in building political support around the positions he now promotes- building walls to keep out Mexicans out of America and extreme vetting of all Muslims seeking emigration to the USA. Until this current presidential campaign, he has shown very little interest in politics or the plight of the individuals he now claims to represent, those working class families who are struggling to maintain lifestyles and income levels or obtain jobs that provide hope for the future.
The social changes and right wing nationalism that Le Pen has vocally supported for the past twenty years, may not be palatable but they are sincere. Le Pen may lose the next French Presidential election but there is little doubt that win or lose, she will continue to advocate for her political views and invest significant time and effort to support other members of her party, including her niece, who are seeking election in various regional contests throughout France. Should Donald Trump loose, it is very doubtful that he will continue to invest time to help those he now says he cares about. It appears that his aspirations lie in potentially leveraging his increased personal profile for private financial gain, possibly even establishing a new TV network to promote his own agenda and increase his personal wealth. Le Pen, may be wrong but she is genuinely for the people she represents, Trump is simply for himself.
- Sophie Hadfield