With results from the French election coming in, it looks as if there will be a Hollande and Sarkozy runoff. We expected as much, but the real surprise came with the showing of the National Front which managed 19% of the vote. Someday, one of these right wing parties are going to get enough political influence to have a real say in the politics of Europe just as the Communist had in the sixties and seventies. Its enough to make one proud to be an American. The truth is we never had the colorful antics here they have in Europe. Our two party system which pushes everyone to the middle guarantees this. And looking at Europe and European history, there are worse places to be than in the in the middle.Those on the extreme right may paint Obama as a Socialist with a questionable citizenship just as the left characterizes the right as being freedom loathing bigots, but the truth is neither is the case. We may have our extremist factions, but they never rise to the level of having real political influence. Truth is we are pretty bland in the world of politics and that’s okay.
Marine LePen did not get a chance to make the runoff election but no expected her to just as they did no expect her to receive one vote in five in the French presidential election. She may not have won, but she does get to play kingmaker in that French voters who supported her will now vote for either Sarkozy or Hollande. Conventional thought would have most of those votes going to Sarkozy who finished second today. In this way, the most extreme voices will be heard.
In the States, we are finishing our real primary battles. We have settled on centrist Mick Romney and somewhat to the left Obama. Our election may have all the flared tempers of the upcoming French runoff, but we have already settled on nonexistent social policies and rather centrist economics. As to what Europe does is another matter. And it does matter in a big way, even to Americans.
A political pundit when asked what Obama needs in 2012 responded something to the effect of, “Merkel needs to have a good year.” The reasons for that are myriad, but they do point out that America needs a predictable Europe and that is the one thing Europe is not.
France aside, the right grows powerful in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Finland and the left is rioting in Greece and Spain, proof that uniting Germanic and Mediterranean Europe may not have been the best idea. As the Euro is the dollar’s only real challenger as a world currency and European and North American culture has many similarities, the plight of Europe is to some extent shared with Americans. As to what happens in the near term, I suppose we watch France and hope that the remainder of Europe, particularly the North can keep its more extreme voices in check. That way we can get on with our own election cycle, which will promise much in the way of drama, but little in the way of change.
Note: As for my much smaller than the French election foray into the democratic exercise, I spent the weekend getting pounded, but am also not without some support. And the photo….obviously the French flag.