In a recent article for The American Spectator, Acton’s Samuel Gregg tackles the tensions in French politics and addresses the uncertainty that the French people have for their upcoming Presidential election. French politicians have failed to address impending economic issues such as an inefficient government and a growing national debt, but they also seem unable to address a growing concern: Radical Islam. Gregg says:
Plenty of Muslims in France are well integrated into French society, and they are just as much the practical atheists that large numbers of non-Muslim French citizens are. Many, however, are not.
…the response to Islamist ideology and terrorism remains as disparate and fractured as anything else in French politics. It ranges from the hard left’s increasingly hollow “religion of peace” happy talk and confidence that more welfare will solve most social problems, to those on the outer extremes of the right who advocate mass expulsions of Muslims.
Part of the difficulty is the realization that addressing this issue requires discussion of a question that, until recently, many French politicians didn’t want to address. And that question is whether Islam as a religion is capable of accommodating itself (as Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism did long ago) to life in a republic that prides itself on its secularity. On that subject, the jury is still out — way, way out.
Gregg examines candidates Le Pen, Macrons, and Fillon. They are strong contenders for this year’s election:
It’s not at all clear that the 2017 presidential election will produce a winner able to address this potent mixture of economic and cultural problems.
…Economically speaking, Le Pen’s program doesn’t even come close to the type of shake-up that France’s economy needs. Indeed, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the heavily interventionist economic program of the Socialist Party’s candidate, Benoît Hamon, a Jeremy Corbyn-like figure who comes from his party’s green-left wing.
Then there is the self-described centrist, Emmanuel Macron. [He] …however, is also a social liberal whose pronouncements thus far about the Muslim question and cultural issues more generally reflect all the naïveté of the liberal banker-technocrat who’s lost as soon as he moves beyond the world of supply and demand.
…Until January, polls suggested that a plurality of French citizens viewed Fillon as well-positioned to tackle both France’s cultural and economic difficulties. Fillon, however, has since been laid low by accusations, now the subject of formal judicial investigation, of using public money to fund fake political jobs for his wife and children. Whatever the truth of the charges, they have severely damaged Fillon’s reputation for having clean hands in a political world where financial scandals are a dime-a-dozen.
Gregg is not particularly optimistic about this year’s election and concludes by lamenting over France’s current decline, holding great concern over its weakening global economic and cultural influence. He says:
The sad thing about all these developments is that they reflect just how far France has fallen as a society. We’re a long way from the time when French was the lingua franca of the highly educated and in which people followed the pronouncements of France’s head of state as closely as they paid attention to the words of the presidents of America, Russia, and China, the prime ministers of Britain and Japan, or Germany’s chancellor.
But whoever replaces Hollande in the Élysée this year, there’s no question that he — or she — will have to opt for either (1) fundamental change to France’s political, cultural, and economic settings and all the tensions associated with such a transformation; or (2) continuing the status quo of managed decline.
In that regard, France is somewhat of a canary in the tunnel for the rest of Western Europe and the open question of whether, geopolitically speaking, it will matter very much in the upcoming century.
Image: Public domain.