France holds its breath at the polls. And with France, the whole of Europe.
In the second round of the parliamentary elections today, a broad (though far from cohesive) coalition of centrist, center-right and center-left forces plus “unbowed” and unbalanced voters on the Left will be attempting to prevent Le Pen’s rise to power.
Will they succeed? We’ll have to wait and see.
If they do, this broad coalition could form the basis for the next government—perhaps without the dead weight of the unbowed to unbalance it—and a solid base for a return to stability.
This was President Macron’s hoped to achieve from the start: a broad and extremist-free ruling coalition. And if his gamble pays off, it could potentially serve as a model for the whole of Europe.
But we shouldn’t take anything for granted–nothing is going to be easy.
The far right has built up a head of steam. Still more importantly, its view have been legitimized and are gaining mainstream acceptance. It is no longer an outcast from the political system.
Especially now that its rhetoric has been stripped of its most extreme aspirations and references.
Obviously, that the extremes have evolved benefits democracy, which (to be honest) cannot simply keep on discounting forever the wishes of the third of the French electorate who have consistently voted for the far right in recent years.
As long as it really is an evolution. And not simply an expedient disguise.
Of course, we’ll find out which it is if the far right is ever called upon to govern. For the time being, though, it doesn’t seem that anybody is willing to take that chance.
Which is why the “popular front” is seeking, initially, to prevent Le Pen and her friends from gaining power.
But if they pull it off, obstruction won’t be enough after that. We need to tackle the far right dynamic at its roots.
And we all know what those roots are: the abandonment of the countryside, urban alienation, de-ideologization, widespread feelings of insecurity, and migratory flows.
Democracy cannot be left unprotected, nor society unguarded.
And we don’t need elections in France or the far right knocking on the doors of power to realize that.
Because elections are lost and won long before the ballot boxes are set up. Long before the vote counting begins.
Elections are won and lost in the hearts and minds of ordinary people, when they are willing to fight for a democracy that protects them. For a fighting democracy.