28

I've heard it said that Marine Le Pen was like Trump and by voting against her the French have put the brakes on Trump-like populism.

What are the political similarities between Le Pen and Trump?

  • 6
    It should be noted as a comment that the inspiration for Le Pen (and her father) was the genesis of extreme right French nationalism in Charles Maurras. Maurras is also one of the quoted / admired idols of the Stephen Bannon & his admiration forms several cornerstones of Trump's campaign. politico.eu/article/… and motherjones.com/politics/2017/03/… refer. Although they are liberal sources plenty of bi-partisan sources agree – Venture2099 May 9 '17 at 9:41
38

There are major differences between the French and American political culture which reflect into their respective political agendas. I am not sure their minds or political programs fully fall into the definition of "ideologies". I sum it up like this.

Similarities:

  • Protectionism

  • Isolationism

  • Identity politics

  • Anti-immigration

  • Anti-NATO

  • Extreme vetting or more controls on Muslims; Note that there were significant attempts by Le Pen supporters like Dieudonné and Alain Soral to appeal to French Muslim voters based on anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli rhetoric (Jean Marie Le Pen is Dieudonné's third child godfather).

  • Anti-gay wedding; although the n°2 official of the national front is openly gay. This sometimes leads to tensions in a party with a homophobic past.

  • Relationship with media

Differences:

  • Marine Le Pen sometimes goes socialist (35h work week, partial nationalisation of banks, ...), sometimes full liberal (stop the family subsidies, ...) while Trump looks like a fully convinced capitalist (within the borders, as protectionism goes). Note that it wasn't always like this, the old national front was much more liberal economically. To some extent it still is when it campaigns in south eastern France, unlike when it campaigns in northern France, as shown here an article in french that discusses the differences between the socialist north and capitalist south of national front voters.

  • No gun passion in France, hence no gun passion in Le Pen

  • French people love their universal health care system. Hence Marine le Pen wants to keep it; but not for foreigners. Unlike Mr Trump's attitude towards health care

  • Marine Le Pen wants a kind of "national preference" for public employment, public housing, ... (this has been part of the national front's program for a long time, and part of why it is anti-constitutional, it goes against equality before the law). I never heard anything like this from Mr Trump.

Sources: National Front's program, Mr Trump's positions

  • 16
    I know that pinning down Trumps actual position is difficult, but Trump has supported universal health care in the past, and has spoken in support of somewhat 'socialist' ideas such as not raising retirement ages, mandated maternity leave, etc (which seems in line with right-wing populism). In practice, he doesn't seem to support any of this, but who knows if Le Pen would have. I think if we want to compare them, the best thing would be to compare their campaign, not how they actually govern (especially as this is impacted by other elements in the party, see eg health-care). – tim May 8 '17 at 14:43
  • 8
    Also worth noting that the National Front and those like them are the children of fascist groups. Their ideological roots are third way, and so not left or right. Trump is far more simplistic, like a caricature of rich America. Also, the idea that a retirement age is "socialist" is bizarre, and similarly trade protectionism isn't exactly capitalism. Autarky is closer to imperialism or fascism. – inappropriateCode May 8 '17 at 17:43
  • 7
    @inappropriateCode In socialist countries, a fixed retirement age is usually linked to obtaining a state pension. It's a form of market control and re-allocation of resources, which are both things associated with socialism. I think you mis-read the point on protectionism: the OP is saying that Trump is a capitalist, with the exception of his view on protectionism. – JBentley May 8 '17 at 21:23
  • 2
    Could you expand on what you mean by "identity politics"? What sorts of policies/behaviors are you describing? – jpmc26 May 8 '17 at 23:59
  • 2
    @Sumyrda It more likely has something to do with issues like homosexuality and/or racial differences; see Wikipedia to get a general sense of what it's about. But I'd still like to see it expanded into something more concrete for this answer. – jpmc26 May 9 '17 at 6:43
6

There's some significant difference between Trump and Le Pen, due in no small part to the major differences between France and the US

  • France, like a lot of Europe, is dealing with immigrant problems, most notably ISIS attacks being carried out by some in the growing Muslim population. For better or worse, these attitudes translate into a fear of said groups. So while Trump and Le Pen share a desire to limit immigration, the reasons are vastly different. Trump is focused more on illegal immigration, while Le Pen's is more nationalism, openly aiming to all but stop it

    The 2017 National Front manifesto renews its commitment to a massive reduction in legal immigration. Ms Le Pen argues French citizenship should be "either inherited or merited". As for illegal immigrants, they "have no reason to stay in France, these people broke the law the minute they set foot on French soil".

  • Anti-Eurpoean-Union sentiment - As Brexit proved, there is a growing undercurrent of people who want out of the EU. Le Pen seized on that

    Published on Saturday, the document, notably short on macro-economic and practical detail, pledges to take France out of the eurozone and – unless the EU agrees to revert to a loose coalition of nations with neither a single currency nor a border-free area – to hold a referendum on France’s EU membership.

    While Trump's talk about free trade sounds similar, the US is not in a similar position

  • France still holds some pretty broad political opinions. For instance, I read these remarks after the primary, where some pretty extreme groups (like open Communists) got significant votes. Le Pen looks considerably more moderate compared to such positions

    Yet, [Communist Party Candidate] Jean-Luc Mélenchon got close to 20 percent of the vote. That’s as many votes as Fillon got. As if this alone isn’t bad enough, I suspect that if he — and not Le Pen — had been the one running against Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 runoff, many fewer people would have crossed party lines to avoid externalism and the calls to cross these lines would have been limited to Fillion and a few others.

  • 13
    Jean Luc Melenchon is not the candidate of the communist party, and has never been member of the communist party (he was in the socialist party for around 30 years ). He ran with their support, but his program is not a communist one (he wants to reinforce direct democracy with recall elections for instance). Compared to french standards, he is seen as more decent than le Pen by most of the population (he was projected to win a hypothetical second round against le Pen) – user5751924 May 8 '17 at 17:55
  • 7
    This answer completely ignores the fact that European politics is more nuanced than US republicans vs democrats. Most European political parties are left of US democrats and there are a lot of steps between US democrats and "open communists" (btw why shouldn't they be open about it? This wording makes it sound like that was illegal, which it isn't). From a European perspective, Le Pen is the right-wing outlier and Mélenchon is the moderate. Also, socialism =|= communism. – Sumyrda May 9 '17 at 5:18
  • 1
    @Sumyrda: Melenchon is not moderate; he's extreme left. He still is seen as a preferable extreme to Le Pen, notably because he is not racist/anti-semite/... – Matthieu M. May 9 '17 at 7:24
  • 3
    @Sumyrda is correct. In most European democracies, even the right wing parties are closer to the US Democrats than the Republicans. The GoP in Europe would be consider a far-right, extremist entity. The left-right spectrum in the USA is wider, more extreme and more polarised than most other modern nations. – Venture2099 May 9 '17 at 9:46
  • 1
    @MatthieuM. if you want extreme left, you have Poutou and Arthaud. – njzk2 May 9 '17 at 15:57
4

They are similar in that they are both Nationalists and Populists.

Populism is a political doctrine that proposes that the common people are exploited by a privileged elite, and which seeks to resolve this. The underlying ideology of populists can be left, right, or center. Its goal is uniting the uncorrupt and the unsophisticated "little man" against the corrupt dominant elites (usually established politicians) and their camp of followers (usually the rich and influential).

and

Nationalism is a multidimensional concept reflected in the communal identification with one's nation. It is a political ideology oriented towards gaining and maintaining self-governance, or full sovereignty, over a territory of historical significance to the group (such as its homeland). Nationalism therefore holds that a nation should govern itself, free from unwanted outside interference, and is linked to the concept of self-determination. Nationalism is further oriented towards developing and maintaining a national identity based on shared characteristics such as culture, language, race, religion, political goals or a belief in a common ancestry

The main difference is one of context. A nationalist populist running a major country in Europe is a whole different kettle of fish than one running the USA.

Europe has a fairly recent and bloody history with nationalist populism in the mid 20th Century (eg: Nazism and Fascism). So for a lot of people, seeing signs of it returning is really scary (and this is may be part of why it hasn't in fact managed to do so).

The USA on the other hand doesn't have a lot of history with Nationalist Populist politicians, or at least not a recent one, and not a very bad one*. Probably the best example I can think of were the Jacksonian Democrats, who included multiple presidents in the 19th Century, but nobody in living memory. So while such a person leading a country as powerful as the USA may also be vaguely scary, historically the world has survived the experience. Regardless nobody alive remembers the last time it happened.

* - Mexicans and Native Americans may strongly disagree with me here.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.