Philippe Coste, a French journalist and U.S correspondent for Paris-based Mediapart, is troubled at the prospect of a Marine Le Pen victory. Le Pen, a populist French lawyer and politician, is running in Sunday’s runoff for president of France.
Coste joined Salon Talks for a roundtable discussion, during which he explained how France is consumed by its own version of anti-globalist populism. This complete shake-up of France’s political landscape explains why Le Pen, who Coste said has historically been perceived as a fringe figure, has risen to second place in French polls.
“I think it’s a very special year, the affect of some kind of a populist wave all around the Western World that has happened. It happened with the Brexit, it has happened with Donald Trump here, and the same thing in France in a way a lack of trust, growing lack of trust, in the established parties. This time everybody has a legitimacy everybody can, because of this distrust of politicians, everybody has a chance, mostly, at least four main candidates have a chance.”
As someone who comes from a more traditional strain of American conservatism, I told Coste I was concerned by how French elite are characterizing Le Pen’s supporters. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, I witnessed how insulting Donald Trump supporters caused further tension. Coste said this has happened in France on both the Left and Right.
“[I]t’s exactly what happened. That’s why Jean-Luc Mèlenchon, a populist on the extreme left wing, is able to grab some of the — a lot of — the votes of Marine Le Pen, but it’s true that the left wing especially, which had been powerful for quite a while, and the moderate right wing in power in France have been warned again and again that dismissing, refusing, putting under the carpet, the anger and the fear of a large part of the population toward globalization, toward a world they didn’t understand, a more technological world they didn’t understand the complication of the parameters that their work life depend on, this would at one point legitimize extremists and people who are like Trump in the United States, like wrecking bulls against a system.”