Today’s new headlines are a liberal democrat’s worst nightmare. On a wave of growing public discontent, and in response to the phenomenal influence of “Tea Party” activists, the Republican party in the US snatched two significant electoral victories – gaining a convincing majority in the House of representatives and barely losing in a fight for control of the second legislative chamber, the Senate.
A close equivalent of this in France would perhaps be Jean Marie Le Pen, or now his politically astute daughter, finally steering France to the right. In this French-version ‘tea party’ scenario, the very right wing wins the day, either symbolically – as is the case is the US, by gaining the hearts and minds of the French at the ballots by convincing the public that well, it is not so much that the entire global economy is suffering from the effects of an economic recession – but that the “French need to take back their country”. The language of politicians and the political discourse would take on the distinctly xenophobic and – to be provocative here – a pinch of fascism. And we would see provincial France take on an amazing new strength and voice in French politics – as we have seen in the US where large corporations seeking business friendly policies have managed to play on the gullibility of those less urbane parts of America to secure the resurrection of the republicans in the House and Senate.
Well, one should’t be too hasty in writing the prospects of a dramatic rightward shift in France off as an utter impossibility. The ‘right’ could yet prove its mettle as a force to be reckoned with: and indeed, we’ve seen the rise of the right across Europe and some evidence of a rightward shift in France, too.
For one, we’ve seen a distinct movement to the right on rhetorical level if one listens closely to the tenor of several political player in France. Policy positions on issues ranging from immigration to religious tolerance have also assumed a uniquely right leaning tinge.
Yet,be that as it may, the politics and economics of France remain centralized with Paris at the core of the French political economy – and this could be one of France’s key saving graces from the further capture of politics by the conservatives. If France where to go the route of several European countries and became more rightist. OR, more dramatically, if a tea patty like movement were to materialize in France – it would face the challenge of winning over the powerful and significant political and economic core of the French polity – Paris itself. Unlike other parts of Europe, it is reasonable to argue that if Paris where to somehow cease to exist, France itself would follow suit. Such is the centralization of economics and politics of France that Paris is far more than just an important player but a decisive one, too.
Now, given the leftward personality of the city – a shift to the extreme right similar to the US would struggle to receive the light of day in a place as progressive as the French capital. It could be – but it would be an amazing feat to replicate a similarly deep and wide reaching support of the equivalent of a Sarah Palin-kind of politician -led political movement, rising to power on conservative language that often sounds racist and xenophobic. This would be a hard sell to Paris which prides itself for it progressiveness and reverence for rationality. It would be a tough job deepening right wing roots in France when its very heart, Paris, is decidedly leftward – at least in this blogger’s opinion.
A French version of the ‘tea party’ could perhaps have some success here – given the current trends across the continent, the current economic climate, and the emergence of surprisingly conservative speech in French politics. Yet, there is hope hear that the light of day would be limited for such a movement to do too much damage, thanks to the centrality of Paris.
It’s unfortunate to have watched the ascendancy of the tea party movement in the US, and more so, to observe the low calibre of it’s leadership and to remark that the US public endorsed such a rightward shift. But, such is democracy in the US. As for France, well, while it’s feasible that the same would occur, there would likely be an unwilling and grossly resistant political core, Paris. And without it’s head and heart on board, the right wing of this country would face challenging times replicating a tea party-like phenomenon here.
For more French analysis of US mid term results, however, see France24’s press analysis by clicking on the heading above!