April 21, 2002


Le Pen causes major poll shock (CNN, April 21, 2002)
Far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen is set to have caused a huge upset in the first round of the French presidential elections by defeating Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, exit polls show.

Le Pen, who has played the anti-immigration card during the campaign, won 17 percent of the vote on Sunday, coming second to incumbent Jacques Chirac's 20 percent, Interior Ministry figures showed after 23 percent of the count.

Socialist Jospin, who has been criticised for having run a lacklustre campaign, came third with 15 percent.

Le Pen, who heads the National Front Party, will go forward to a run-off vote against the conservative Chirac on May 5, if the early predictions are correct.

One assumes we won't have to listen to any French lectures about how we don't respect human rights for awhile, huh? Looks like Moussaoui's safer here even if he's charged with a capital offense, at least he'll get a trial before being executed.

But seriously, it's easy to kick the French around over this; they richly deserve it. However, there is a serious subtext that all of us would do well to keep in mind. France (along with the rest of Western Europe) is, quite literally, dying. In just a few years there will be more people of Arab/African extraction in France than there will be classic Frenchmen. With the "French" aging and dying off and not reproducing at replacement level, they actually have a declining population. Meanwhile, they depend on immigrant labor both to do the work and to pay the taxes that prop up the massive social welfare state. Not only has this produced a large influx of Islamic immigrants, but they reproduce at astronomical levels. So you've got these intractable sources of racial, or at least ethnic and religious, tension and it is going to get worse, not better.

Admittedly, I loathe France and the French, but can anyone honestly imagine the "French", who have even tried to ban the use of American phrases, peacefully allowing themselves to become a minority in France? Sooner or later they face a choice between that prospect or taking either the rights or the lives of enough French-Arabs to retain control of the country. You'll read a lot about how little this one event matters, that Le Pen is going to lose in a landslide and may get as little as 20% of the vote...but the point is that this rabidly anti-immigrant party is indeed going to get that much. And in the coming years, as the country becomes more polarized between ethnic groups, Le Pen and similarly xenophobic parties are going to grow, not shrink.

Nor is France the only nation trapped in this demographic vise. Throughout the developed world we have dropping population rates and aging populations, while the ethnic groups we depend on for menial labor and tax revenues have almost ridiculously high fertility rates. The kind of racial animus that Le Pen feeds on will begin to rear its ugly head everywhere in the West.

The healthiest way to deal with this problem is, of course, to start reproducing ourselves at higher levels (which means making divorce harder to obtain, shifting the elderly out of nursing homes and back to their families homes, restigmatizing abortions [&maybe even recriminalizing most], making it easier for one parent to stay at home, maybe even subsidizing child birth and child rearing) while we fully integrate our societies and make sure that our immigrants share our values so that we will can be comfortable about the gradual transfer of political power to their hands. This integration will be easiest here in the U.S., where the main immigrant groups are Latinos, who are already mostly Christian and thus Westernized. But it is essential that we do everything in our power to instill the full range of Western values in these new citizens. This means English-only schooling, greater emphasis on citizenship and Great Books in schools, along with a shift towards non-public schooling where religious values can be taught, and a significant reaction against the multiculturalism that seeks to maintain native identities rather than to blend people into the American culture. I have no idea how the nations of Western Europe can integrate their mostly Muslim immigrants into their societies--the prognosis there seems grim.

Such are the implications of Le Pen's "upset", which can only have surprised those who have been ignoring the West's population implosion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 21, 2002 3:32 PM
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