Say what you will about la République française but, unlike America, its election operations are not a rusted malodorous sewer of brazenly corrupt practices. So the election was held, the votes were counted in hours, and the official result was known by 1am Paris time. There are no unmarked vans motoring the Dordogne or the Pas de Calais in the dead of night bearing additional votes sufficient to the need.
That speaks well for any nation. Alas, not much else about yesterday does. The Top Three is as follows:
Emmanuel Macron 27.6 per cent;
Marine Le Pen 23.41 per cent;
Jean-Luc Mélenchon 21.95 per cent.
Mme Le Pen is designated by the BBC "far right" and M Mélenchon "hard left". I am unclear whether, in Beeb parlance, it is worse to be "hard" than "far. But, be that as it may, they could at least cease applying the label "mainstream" to candidates who can't crack five per cent, which is the threshold below which your election expenses are not covered by the French state.
On Friday's Clubland Q&A I mentioned en passant that I'm all about the urgency: The west will die unless we change what we're doing very fast. Yesterday was yet another of those election nights when the people turn but passing slow. Especially after the buzz about a Le Pen surge and a looming Macron humiliation, last night she didn't have a spectacular breakthrough and he survived.
There will now be a fortnight to the run-off in which the forty per cent of French voters who cast their ballots for "hard left", soft left, Green left and nutso left will be told that a vote for other than Macron is a vote against democracy itself. Mme Le Pen ran the blandest, most inoffensive campaign she has ever run, leaving it to the "even farther right" Éric Zemmour to do all the heavy lifting on la fenêtre d'Overton. And in the end all that got her was a couple of extra points in the first round.
We will see how well that approach withstands the onslaught already under way. The one man who could make a difference is the soi-disant "hard leftie", M Mélenchon. His own surge attracted less attention in the last week or two, but it's likely that, had not M Zemmour bungled his response to the war, the even-more-far rightist would have drawn enough votes from Mme Le Pen to enable Mélenchon to come through the middle and give France a run-off between a bloodless globalist and a full-bore Marxist.
In pocketbook terms, the gap between "hard left" and "far right" is now barely detectable: Mme Le Pen is pledging that no one under thirty will pay tax. There is surely plenty of overlap between the Mélenchon and Le Pen voters. Yet his priority was plain at last night's speech, because he said it four times:
Il ne faut pas donner une seule voix à Mme Le Pen.
Not a single vote for Marine!
So even the hardcore class-warrior shrugs: Better the globalist you know...
Like I said, I'm all about the urgency. If you think as I do that this is last call in the salons of the west, Election Night anywhere west of Budapest is always full of disappointments. The people turn, but very slowly, and at this rate too slow to save themselves. Nevertheless, as I was saying two decades ago:
Yesterday, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the alleged extreme right-wing madman, managed to place second in the first round of the French Presidential election. Since then, many Europhile commentators in the English-speaking world have been attempting to reassure us that the significance of this event has been much overplayed...
Er, no. It was a highly significant event that set in motion the gradual but remorseless disintegration of France's principal political factions. Which is now all but complete. As I write, here are the candidates of the "mainstream" right and the "mainstream" left parties:
Valérie Pécresse ("Conservative") 4.79 per cent;
Anne Hidalgo (Socialist) 1.74 per cent.
The BBC says of the latter, "Anne Hidalgo has struggled to be heard." Au contraire, French TV and radio - and other European broadcasters - have expended huge amounts of air time on both ladies' campaigns. Mme Hidalgo has been Mayor of Paris for almost a decade; she's as famous and glamorous as anyone in French politics. But nobody wants what she's selling. Supposedly, she's a Socialist and Mme Pécresse is a Conservative, yet oddly they agree on everything, including who to support in the second round. Ten minutes after polls closed, Mme Hidalgo cried, "Vote Macron!", and five minutes later Mme Pécresse did the same. Eurodee and Eurodum ...oh no, wait, I did that gag twenty years ago:
Terms like 'left' and 'right' are irrelevant in French politics. In an advanced technocratic state, where almost any issue worth talking about has been ruled beyond the scope of partisan politics, you might as well throw away the compass. The presidential election was meant to be a contest between the supposedly conservative Chirac and his supposedly socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin. In practice, this boils down to a candidate who's left of right of left of centre, and a candidate who's right of left of right of left of centre. Chirac and Jospin ran on identical platforms -- they're both in favour of high taxes, high unemployment and high crime. So, with no significant policy differences between them, the two candidates were relying on their personal appeal, which, given that one's a fraud and the other's a dullard, was asking rather too much of French voters. Faced with a choice between Eurodee and Eurodum, you can't blame electors for choosing to make it a real race...
Four election cycles on, these guys still don't get it - which is why the "mainstream" parties have dwindled to near statistical undetectability. Me in 2002:
If the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain topics, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable politicians -- as they're doing in France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and elsewhere. Le Pen is not an aberration but the logical consequence...
In France the soi-disant "mainstream" is dead, and the unrespectable are all about. In the commune in which I spent some of the happiest days of my life, Mme Le Pen won with over thirty per cent of the vote; M Zemmour and another far-right chappie racked up another twelve per cent between them. So that's over forty-two per cent for the hard-far far-hard "fringe" right.
Meanwhile, M Mélenchon and a couple of other extreme crazy lefties got another twenty-five per cent.
What about the globalist metrosexual dinky boy? Macron got fifteen per cent. Commune upon commune upon commune is like this: There is no mainstream, only competing extremes. Twenty years ago, Jean-Marie Le Pen briefly convulsed the French establishment. It recovered, but not sufficiently to prevent every presidency this century ending in failure, to the point where François Hollande was so toxic he opted not to run for a second term, and the establishment frantically scrambled to find an insider it could pass off as an outsider. Me five years ago:
What was needed was a 'centrist', a man who defied labels - or better yet embraced his lack of label as the ultimate label. Enter Emmanuel Macron, the 'centrist' 'independent' whose slogan was that he was a candidate of 'neither left nor right'.
Well, as noted above, "left" and "right" have both become synonyms for centralized Big State declinism: Eurodee and Eurodum. But wait: maybe the Chirac-Jospin formula just needs tweaking:
So they created their own artful Chispac-Jorin hybrid, a self-contained Eurodeedum, a both-of-the-neither-of-the-above pantomime horse comprised of two rear ends.
Thus the cypher Macron, whose come-from-between success had the EU's 'vice-president' Alexander Lambsdorff hailing him as 'France's John F Kennedy': The torch has been passed to a new generation, albeit one married to its mother's generation.
No one's even trying to sell that bollocks second-time around. Macron is the rich guys' guy, a metrosexual parody of l'homme Davos: there will be no change of any consequence. Every sentient creature in la France périphérique knows that. Marine Le Pen has a couple of 51-49 polls that suggest she still has a fighting chance on April 24th. Can she pierce through the deluge about to descend? It will be way closer than five years ago, but she needs a win.
~There will be more on the French election on tonight's Mark Steyn Show with Mark and Anne-Élisabeth Moutet. That airs at 8pm British Summer Time/3pm North American Eastern on GB News: you can watch from most places on the planet here or here.
~We had a very busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with our latest Clubland Q&A, which dealt with topics from the rotten FBI to the rotten Grammies. For his weekly film date Rick McGinnis tipped his topper to Elwy Yost, and our Sunday song selection found Mark in French election mode with "La Vie en rose". Our marquee presentation was Steyn's latest Tale for Our Time: Anthony Trollope's venture into futuristic dystopian fiction, The Fixed Period. Click for Part Six, Part Seven and Part Eight. Part Two airs tonight.
If you were too busy trying to move the Overton Window on the Champs-Élysées, we hope you'll want to check out one or three of the foregoing as a new week begins.
Clubland Q&A and Tales for Our Time are special productions for The Mark Steyn Club.