Xenophobia, intolerance cannot be rebranded

Turns out, you can pick your family

Turns out, you can pick your family

By Arabella Breck

The close of the first round of the French presidential election has left two candidates to vie for citizens’ votes in the runoff election May 7. 

Holding the lead after the first round is Emmanuel Macron, leader of a recently formed political movement called En Marche, meaning On The Move, who claims to not be focused on the left or the right of politics. 

Marine Le Pen—the opposing candidate—comes from a much more established political party. Le Pen leads the National Front party, of which her father was the founder. Her rise in the party’s ranks is an unusual story, including her removal of her father from the party. Before Jean-Marie Le Pen’s removal—which his lawyer called a “political assassination”—he expressed extremist anti-semitic, anti-Muslim viewpoints, according to an August 20, 2015, article from the Foreign Policy group. 

Le Pen expelled her father in an attempt to make the party appeal to a wider audience, and as shown through this past election, it has worked at least to some degree. 

However, toning down the extreme message of intolerance that has become a hallmark of the National Front party should not deceive French voters. More subtle forms of intolerance can still be harmful and, in some ways, can be more so because it is easier to normalize. 

Le Pen’s proposed policies prove that her party is still propagating isolationism and xenophobia. The policies include the removal of France from the EU, the elimination of the use of the euro, a crackdown on illegal and legal immigration, a ban on religious garb like the hijab and the niqab, and a 35 percent tax on goods from companies that relocate production outside of France, according to an April 24 BBC News article. 

These policies and the party must also not be ignored because of the legitimate popularity they have among voters. French citizens, especially those in rural areas with limited progression, are frustrated with what they perceive as an elite political system that is not addressing their concerns. Le Pen mostly appeals to French citizens in the more rural North East of France, but not in the more urban areas like Paris, according to an April 25 Telegraph article. This is a pattern seen in other countries as well, like Brexit in the U.K. and the election of President Donald Trump in the U.S. 

While Le Pen has made efforts to make her policies more appealing and accepted and people are supporting her, that does not mean these policies would benefit France or the rest of the world. 

The removal of France from the EU, which the U.K. is already in the process of leaving, would only weaken the coalition and European solidarity both economically and politically. Her proposed policies on immigration and taxing goods are classically isolationist and again would only further remove France from the rest of the world. Her position on the wearing of hijabs and niqabs is blatant Islamophobia. 

These policies should not be normalized, and there must be discussions about what these policies would accomplish, not what Le Pen claims they would. However, if Macron is elected to the presidency, he must address the growing discontent in a legitimate way that does not ignore or exacerbate the frustrations of many French citizens.