December 8, 2015


This conservative wunderkind is taking France by storm (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, December 8, 2015, The Week)

Marion is outspoken about her Catholic worldview, in a country where that is strange for any politician; even the FN's official line is that it is a defender not of Christian values, but of French laïcité against Muslim influence. Marion is unapologetic about her stance on social issues: She opposes abortion, even as the FN has softened its (never very hard) stance on the issue, and has stated forthrightly that if elected to head her region, she would cut off funding to Planned Parenthood (Marine disavowed those comments).

She has also bucked her party on economics. She is unashamed of being pro-business and pro-free markets, again a tremendous oddity in France. She founded a group called Cardinal to solicit policy proposals from business owners.

She is, in other words, the closest thing to a U.S.-style conservative in France.

Which is exactly the sort of politics that has never worked in France, going as it does against nearly every sacred cow of contemporary French politics -- religion in public life, moralism on social issues, the role of the market. And yet Marion keeps winning.

Politically, this strategy is very deft. If Marine's strategy succeeds, Marion is no longer just a last name and a pretty face, but the head of a constituency that must be appeased. And if it fails, Marion looks like a leader-in-waiting.

But the implications may be much broader. France had the stirrings of a "free market populist" movement with the Pigeon uprising of business owners and independent contractors revolting against high taxes. More importantly, France is a fiercely secular and libertine country -- but nonetheless one where more than a million people marched against a same-sex marriage bill, and one where an assertive Catholicism is slowly but surely surging.

It's still an open question how this will impact French politics, if at all. Will France's Catholic revival produce a revanchist, identity politics-driven Christian right? Will it just provide fuel for France's main right-wing parties, which care nothing for the issues dear to Catholics ? Will it provide a template for a new engagement in politics? Or will this revival of social conservatism, combined with outrage at high taxes, debts, and deficits, produce a kind of French version of the Tea Party?

(Full disclosure: I'm a French Catholic who is conservative on social issues and supports the free markets, but fears the politicization of the Church and disagrees with the FN's positions on immigration and dislikes its rhetoric. I have, obviously, very mixed feelings about all this.)

Posted by at December 8, 2015 2:47 PM