According to Reuters:

Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon drew tens of thousands to a rally on Sunday, aiming to maintain momentum that has pushed the one-time outsider into contention in the French presidential election, with the first round of voting a week away.

It is a race to see which candidate can isolate France the most: Marine LePen, the National Front far-right candidate, or Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far left candidate.  Both promise to renegotiate France’s relationships with the EU and NATO, pillars of French economic and military security.  Both are now seen as potential frontrunners in the second round of French presidential voting.

Without an overpowering Soviet threat, French voters no longer believe radical decisions are a major threat to their well-being.  Repeated scandals have discredited both the French Socialists and the French Republicans, leaving voters with the conclusion that neither is much better than the other.  This makes a measure of sense: parties in power for too long tend to lean towards corruption and complacency.  Democracy is supposed to weed those traits out through punishing electoral contests.

But on occasion, democracy backfires.  Such was the story of Athens when it dispatched a fleet to annihilate the men of rebellious Mytilene, when the Athenian assembly first ordered the butchery of all the men of Mytilene, and then, mid-mission changed their mind.  The United Kingdom and the United States have both experienced a measure of this now: both Brexit and Trump do not enjoy commanding approval ratings.  While neither state is prepared to reverse their choices, it’s clear that democratic votes do not always produce new political consensus.

While Dutch voters rejected Trump-style populism in a vote in March, French voters, who have a larger rural component than the Netherlands, may well gamble on a new future with either LePen or Melenchon.  To crack up the French pillar of the NATO/EU geopolitical system in Europe will mean both a return to history and an uncertain future.  Time will soon tell whether French voters are prepared for that.

 

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