President Donald Trump might as well have endorsed anti-immigrant National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in France’s first round of voting, calling her the “strongest” of the 11 candidates. “Another terrorist attack in Paris,’’ he tweeted. “The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!”
Le Pen would end such attacks, she claims. Though especially given that the ISIS-inspired suspect in Thursday’s shooting on the Champs Elysées is French, her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron is right to counter that no one can guarantee that. She’d turn borders into barricades, closing them “the day after I take power.” Sound familiar?
The future of the West is at stake in the race, though not in the way she means it. The French exit from the European Union that both Le Pen and far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon want would roil their economy and ours. Worse, though she has spent years airbrushing the image of the anti-Semitic party her father founded, she recently let the facade of respectability slip and said the French were somehow not responsible for deporting Jews from Paris to Auschwitz.
The tight four-way race has parallels with our own recent episode of presidential “Survivor,” with Le Pen as Trump and Mélenchon as Bernie Sanders. Almost a third of voters remain undecided, and the French are so fed up with elites and the status quo that no major party candidate is expected to make it to the second round. Let’s just hope the similarities end there, and that our oldest friends -- our first friends -- don’t repeat our mistake.
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Melinda Henneberger, firstname.lastname@example.org