Two weeks ago, I predicted:
Even if the polls are right and M Macron is on course to win by 20 points, that would still mean Mme Le Pen had doubled her father's share of the vote from 15 years ago.
2002 was the vote-for-the-crook-not-the-fascist election: The crook, M Chirac, got 80.2 per cent of the vote, leaving Jean-Marie Le Pen with 17.8 per cent.
Two times 17.8 equals 35.6 per cent. Yesterday, Marine Le Pen got 33.94 per cent. So my prediction was a little off, and, given what has happened to France in the intervening decade and a half, culminating in last year's summer of terror, has to be accounted a disappointment for her. Had Marine cracked 40 per cent, as her niece was threatening they would do, that would indeed have been a political earthquake.
The recriminations are already underway, within not just the party but the Le Pen family. Jean-Marie (the dad) and Marion (the niece) are said to regard Marine's focus on such issues as leaving the euro to have blunted the focus on the Front's traditional concerns such as immigration and its consequences. I'm inclined to agree: It's hard work dragging a democratic electorate the half-inch necessary to move against the conventional wisdom (as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage could tell you), and persuading them to move against all the conventional wisdom all at once is all but impossible, short of total societal collapse.
So instead a cypher (literally, if you know your macrons) has been handed a landslide simply for not being Mme Le Pen. As I wrote a fortnight back: When the Front National is all that's "the above", identifying an effective "none of" is harder than you'd think. Neither of France's establishment parties - left-of-center, and ever so slightly right-of-left-of-right-of-left-of-right-of center - made the final round. And in the run-off the far left (unlike 2002) chose to sit on its hands: the Abstentionist Party is now the third biggest political force in France, with local vote counters reporting mountains of spoiled ballots scrawled with dismissive remarks ("This election is an embarrassment!"). Le Front National is second, and is the nearest thing to a real political party right now. And a guy without a party is in first place.
So we seem pretty set up for another failed presidency, after which the abstentionist left will demand someone they too can swallow: not just a banker's sock puppet like Macron, but someone with a broader appeal, like, say, a moderate Muslim of secular-ish mien, like Mayor Khan in London. In other words, we'd be in Michel Houellebecq's 2022 scenario as outlined in Soumission - or, if you prefer, some guy called Steyn on page 119 of his 2006 bestseller America Alone:
Picture a French election circa 2020: the Islamic Republican Coalition wins the most seats in the National Assembly. The Chiraquiste crowd give a fatalistic shrug and M de Villepin starts including crowd-pleasing suras from the Koran at his poetry recitals. But would Jean-Marie Le Pen or (by then) his daughter take it so well?
The French have voted to postpone their rendezvous with destiny. But kicking the croissant down the road means another half-decade of demographic transformation that lengthens the odds against ever winning the numbers to halt it.
In that sense, the most significant fact of M Macron's election is his personal life. As we all know, he has been in love with his drama teacher since he was 15. Mme Le Pen attempted to needle him about it during their fractious debate, after he condescendingly tried to explain something to her: "Don't play teacher-pupil with me," she scoffed. "It's not my thing." Still and all, love is a difficult business, and one does not begrudge a chap finding it where he can.
Yet the fact is that, with the arrival of President Macron in the charmed circle, the leaders of Europe's biggest economies and of all the European members of the G7 are childless: Germany's Angela Merkel, Britain's Theresa May, Italy's Paolo Gentiloni, and now France's Macron.
This would have been not just statistically improbable but all but impossible for most of human history. Whatever Euro-politics is about, it's not, as Bill Clinton was wont to say, the future of all our children. Indeed, of the six founding members of the European Union - France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg - five are led by childless prime ministers: joining Merkel, Gentiloni and Macron at the no-need-for-daycare Euro-summit are the Dutch PM Mark Rutte and the Luxemburger Xavier Bettel. Mark Rutte is single and childless. Xavier Bettel of Lux is married, but gay and, hélas, for the moment without progeny.
Indeed, it would have been a clean sweep of all six of the EU's founding members - a non-procreative sextet - had not Charles Michel succeeded another gay PM, Belgium's Elio di Rupo. While M di Rupo also remains unblessed by any visit from the Euro-Stork, M Michel has managed to sire a brace of moppets. So that's two kids between six prime ministers.
That's the demographics of Western Europe writ small. The Eurocrats are a Continental version of the Shakers: They're apparently forbidden to breed, and can only increase their numbers through conversion. From Nice to Cologne to Rosengård, a significant proportion of New Europeans seem to think that, au contraire, they'll be the ones doing the converting.
When Andrea Leadsom was running against Theresa May for the Tory leadership last year, she brought up the latter's childlessness - and everyone went bananas: This is just so totally inappropriate even to mention! So I suppose it has joined the great long list of subjects Europeans are not meant to raise, or even notice. Nevertheless, at the top table of EU politics, simply because something can't be remarked on doesn't mean it isn't remarkable, and unprecedented. As I wrote over a decade ago now, Europe is barren - and its leadership class reflects that. The key line from America Alone is: "The future belongs to those who show up."
In the maternity wards of France's cities, the future that's showing up regards M Macron as merely an interim phase.
~No need to bother with the founding members of the European Union when you can be a founding member of The Mark Steyn Club. We launched the Club over the weekend and I've been humbled by the response. We'll be introducing more features of the Club later this week - including one very related to the subject above.
Another feature of the Club is commenters' privileges. I strongly dislike open comment threads with anonymous chest-puffing warriors swaggering forth to bandy profanities and CAPS-LOCK conspiracy theories. But we get far too many interesting emails for our Mark's Mailbox column, so we're experimenting with member comments with a view to getting a bit of civilized disagreement and incisive nitpicking onto the page. We'll see how it goes...