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Dewey defeats Truman

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French nationalist/racist/anti-Semite/insert-media-synonym-for-far-right-wing-here, scores a big upset, coming in second in France's national elections, ahead of socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin. This gives Le Pen the right to participate in the runoff election with incumbent president Jacques Chirac. That's, I gather, approximately the equivalent of Pat Buchanan beating out George Bush a few years ago for the Republican nomination.

Now, I admit I don't know enough about French politics to comment intelligently on them -- insert punchline here -- but a few thoughts:

  • This is more of a rejection of France's mainstream parties than it is an embracing of Le Pen. At 17 percent, he didn't do that well -- just a few points higher than he was polling, or than he had received in the past. The big surprise was how poorly Chirac and especially Jospin did.
  • Chirac will probably crush Le Pen in the general election. Jospin's socialist base isn't going to go to Le Pen.
  • Although Le Pen's total wasn't that much higher than in previous elections, in politics appearance matters much more than reality. This is going to be seen as a big rejection for European integration and for immigration.
  • The politics of European elites and the politics of European citizens don't seem to be quite in alignment.
I don't know what this means, if anything, for Europe-U.S. relations, but perhaps it will humble the French a little.


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