Wednesday, May 03, 2017


First Ross Douthat says, don't worry about Marine Le Pen in France, unlike Trump she's a competent administrator. And she's kinda like DeGaulle -- he disowned the Vichy traitors, she denies Vichy rounded up Jews; same diff! (But then, muses Douthat, "perhaps de Gaulle’s style of nationalism" -- like the National Front's Nazi apologism -- "is too chauvinist and mystical" for you modern sissies. Political correctness run amok!) Also Le Pen is running against "Emmanuel Macron, the John Lindsay of the Eurocrats" -- haw haw Lindsay, only black people liked him!

Inevitably Douthat flashes the now-traditional convincer: "These are the same sort of issues that helped Trump win the presidency..." Your argument is invalid, libs, because Trump won the second-highest number of votes in 2016.

But Douthat has a cherry gig, and it's a little early in the cycle to go full Nazi; so, he recites dutifully, "the Front’s Vichy taint is a good reason to prefer a world where a Le Pen never occupies the Élysée Palace" -- before coughing into his fist: "At the same time, individual personalities and their policies also matter — and there the case for #NeverLePen seems weaker in important ways than the case for #NeverTrump."

Then at The Week Noah Millman asks, "But why shouldn't the French elect Marine Le Pen? And why shouldn't we in America be fine with it if they do?" Just because her party "has fascist roots and retains sympathies with Vichy" and "the party's agenda remains fundamentally racist and xenophobic" is no reason to oppose her, apparently, because "it is also beyond dispute that Marine Le Pen has moved the party considerably away from those roots" -- that is, they're no longer minimizing the Holocaust, they just hate Muslims, which is apparently no big deal for Millman.

Le Pen is expected to lose, but Millman has learned from Trump that it pays to talk like a winner; after all, way back in 2015, Millman made an "effort to articulate why Donald Trump was getting traction, and why he would continue to get traction if his opponents continued to focus on his unacceptability rather than engage with his fundamental argument." And his half-assed side-bet paid off! So Helter Skelter, she's coming down fast, get ready for the New Populism.

Like Douthat -- and like most of these mini-Moldbugs (though he lays it on especially thick) -- Millman does stick in little bullshit demurrers -- e.g. "In the end, I can't say that I actually hope for a Le Pen victory" -- but you can feel his boredom at even having to make such accommodations with polite society, whereas when he pitches Le Pen he perks up:
Finally, it is true that a Le Pen victory would likely be welcomed in Moscow and in Washington, and would be a terrible blow to those who see themselves as the liberal vanguard. But there are other threats to liberal democracy than populist nationalism, and the technocratic order that Macron runs to vindicate may well be one of them.
And the other is Muslims!
Brussels rules not so much with the consent of the governed as with the conviction that it alone is capable of properly balancing the continent’s manifold interests — which is precisely what ordinary democratic politics is supposed to be for. Is it so unthinkable to prioritize the latter threat over the threat of populism?
Le Pen is populist, which means she's the people's choice whether the people choose her or not, and the EU is technocratic, so if you oppose Le Pen you must be a soulless social engineer. (Who likes Muslims! You know, like all those wussy liberals with wussy desk jobs who like black people.)
I am not a populist-nationalist. I am far too liberal to be a nationalist and far too conservative to be a populist...
Yeah yeah buddy we get it: You're a nice guy.
But I do believe that populism plays an important part in the ecosystem of democracy. And if that banner is going to advance, I might just rather it be carried by someone who cares about our common liberal heritage than by someone hostile or indifferent to them.
Maybe Le Pen should say something about "our common liberal heritage" that doesn't sound like the Rivers of Blood speech for a change.

Rod Dreher, having a special dispensation from Jesus, doesn't even bother to say he wouldn't vote for Le Pen; "No way in hell I would vote for Macron," he says defiantly. "...If Macron [beats Le Pen], as is still expected, does anybody seriously believe that France’s decline will be arrested? That the massive immigration problem in France will be taken care of?" But Dreher's gutlessness inevitably comes out; he can't quite say he's for Le Pen, either; he admits only that feels about her the way he feels about Trump -- "while I could not support him in good conscience, I was most exercised over the vehemence with which so many people — including #NeverTrump conservatives — attacked him." He wants it in the pocket, but it has to be a bank shot -- you know: get it in without being obvious that you're going for it.

We're getting a lot of this sympathy-for-the-devil kind of thing from the more intellectual type of conservatives these days. In his essay about the loonier New Rightists -- those batshit-crazy, anti-social-as-well-as-anti-socialist creeps who are now infesting the White House -- Andrew Sullivan says he himself isn't quite a reactionary, but he used to be one in his salad days, over which he daydreams wistfully, "nostalgic for aspects of my own past" when he was pimping imperialism and The Bell Curve. So while folks like you, upon hearing some weirdo who's been asked "whether he believes race matters to a national identity" respond with "I’m not going to say something that could be used to destroy my livelihood and career,"  might shudder and think, what an asshole, Sullivan is not only sympathetic -- he also cedes such freaks the future: "they are much more in tune with the current global mood than today’s conservatives, liberals, and progressive."

And that's the really weird distinguishing trait of this new "populism": Though  Douthat, Millman, Dreher, Sullivan et alia talk about Le Pen and the reactionaries as if they've already won, they aren't really that popular.  Le Pen's family and party have been at it long enough to have institutional momentum, and they've caught a tailwind from international racist movements reinvigorated by the now-generational War on Terror, but she's no more a beloved consensus figure than Trump and lacks the advantage of an Electoral College; and Sullivan's spotty racist fungi are even less likely to steal your girl, literally or metaphorically.

Apparently Trump's not the only one who's so bent out of shape over failing to win the popular vote that he has to keep finding ways to portray himself as the People's Choice without actually being chosen by the people.

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