On May 7, France will vote in a runoff election between far-right Islamophobic Holocaust revisionist Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old business-friendly centrist who served as economy minister in President Hollande’s astoundingly unpopular administration.
Join me, won’t you, for a quick romp through our sickening present, during which we are constantly reminded of our endless, defective capacity to repeat not just old mistakes but very, very recent ones.
Macron is far ahead in the polls, but Le Pen still has a shot; the French left has shown an eager willingness to throw immigrants, refugees, Muslims, Jews, and the French economy under the bus to poke at a flawed status quo.
Slavoj Zizek wrote today in The Independent:
This is liberal blackmail at its worst: one should support Macron unconditionally; it doesn’t matter that he is a neoliberal centrist, just that he is against Le Pen. It’s the old story of Hillary versus Trump: in the face of the fascist threat, we should all gather around her banner (and conveniently forget how her side brutally outmanoeuvred Sanders and thus contributed to losing the election).
It takes a real feat of cold, tangled logical acrobatics to conclude that, in the event of a fascist candidate, people who don’t want a fascist president should not gather around the banner of the candidate who is not a fascist.
Unfortunately, you can never go back to the time before you let an extreme candidate like Trump or Le Pen take power. The U.S. can’t return to a state in which the electoral success of a person like Donald Trump is unthinkable—no matter what happens during this particular presidency, the brutal possibilities it has unleashed will hang in the air for the foreseeable future.
There are certainly differences between the Clinton-Trump match-up and its French counterpart—for instance, Le Pen doesn’t appear to be mentally unbalanced, as New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat glowingly noted—but, broadly, a parallel has emerged. The choice between Clinton and Trump was a fairly obvious one: one of the candidates was clearly unhinged, and one of them was not. Somehow, this didn’t stop a fair number of voters from sitting out the election or voting third-party. There is a similarly logical choice to be made in France: one of the candidates is a poorly-disguised fascist, and one of them isn’t.