Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the granddaughter of French literal fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen, spoke at CPAC last week, and Rod Dreher went gaga for her. Yet he has trouble admitting that she's pretty much what you'd expect National Front royalty to be -- he keeps saying he just doesn't know enough, though he really likes her! I think there’s more than one reason for that.

Calling Le Pen's CPAC speech "dynamic," Dreher swooned, "she went on to condemn euthanasia, gender theory, and transhumanism." She even quoted Mahler! "Continental conservatives in the Le Pen mold are more traditionalist, focusing on natural law, religion, and culture," Dreher explained approvingly.

But he wanted it made clear: "To the extent that she represents his racist, anti-Semitic views, Marion ought to be ashamed," said Dreher later. Still,  he said, "despite having read Bill Wirtz’s TAC piece about her, it is not clear to me what she believes on race and Judaism." Wirtz's piece notes that in 2016 Le Pen's National Front "ran on banning the kippah in public places" -- though he did not cite, possibly because he could not find, Mademoiselle Le Pen explicitly affirming (or, for that matter, denying) her party's position.

"I prefer the flawed attempt of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen to address from the traditionalist right the most pressing problems of our time to the doubling down on the same tired dogmas of the US conservative establishment," said Dreher. Again, he really, really wanted it known that he abjured her grandfather -- "To be clear — pay attention here — Jean-Marie Le Pen is an actual fascist, an anti-Semite, and a disgrace" -- and said elsewhere that he also doesn't like "her secular nationalist aunt Marine, whom I find unappealing" (though he was much more sympathetic to her when she ran for the French Presidency).

And, to make his gutless equivocation even more obnoxious, he added, "Do not take me as endorsing Marion Maréchal-Le Pen! I honestly don’t know enough about her to do such a thing, and I certainly condemn the racism and anti-Semitism of her grandfather — and, if she espouses it, then her own racism and anti-Semitism."

But he kept on about her. In another post contemptuously dismissing Mona Charen and other anti-Trump and anti-Le Pen conservatives as dainty "Principled Conservatives," Dreher wrote, "Marion Maréchal-Le Pen’s [CPAC] speech can only sound like blood-and-soil nationalism to Principled Conservative ears... whatever the sins of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen and her family, Anglo-American conservatism has something important to learn from the European conservative tradition, and needs to think about it, does not make one an anti-Semite or a blood-and-soil nationalist."

Among other things, Le Pen said at CPAC, "We do not want this atomized world of individuals without gender, without mother, without father, without nation" -- a quote that was promoted on Twitter by the straight-up Nazi Defend Evropa. In fact, Defend Evropa was altogether more forthright about what Le Pen was about and why they liked her than Dreher in their own coverage of the speech:
Marion talked about pride, guilt, atomization of society, identity, enrootment to the land, peoples, legacy, survival of nations, family and many more. A beautiful speech, well received from the American public. The tide is turning, Le Pen reminded us, the Nationalists, why we should fight. And we will fight!
DU also cheered when Le Pen condemned the European Union as "an ideology without land, without people, without roots, without soul, and without civilization." She didn't mention blood, though, so Dreher's still in the clear.

And that's what his hard sell with soft details is all about. Dreher's always tergiversating about Trump -- saying he dislikes his "vulgar" style, but implying that maybe there's something valid about his movement; doesn't he attack the same people Dreher reflexively hates, after all? -- and he does something similarly sneaky with Le Pen, in fact, overtly associating Trump with Le Pen and not in a negative way:
The fact that we have Trump has a lot to do with the failures of establishment conservatives — and they still don’t seem to have any real idea why they failed. Is it really the case that the only reason people like Trump and Le Pen find traction on the right is racism and bigotry? The only reason?
You see what he's doing -- he's saying sure, maybe there's a leeedle bit of racism there, and maybe you find it disturbing -- but look, she represents a new kind of conservatism: She doesn't like trans people, either! And if that doesn't turn you on, she's also a nationalist ("Let me be clear here: I’m not offended when I hear President Trump say America first… I want France first for the French people!"). And if that doesn't do it for you... well, like he said, he's not sure what she really believes, we shouldn't judge her by her grandfather, and wasn't that speech stirring...

For her own part Mademoiselle Le Pen makes a valiant effort in her public appearances to keep the potentially less attractive features of National Front ideology quiet, but sometimes the mask slips -- as when The Guardian asked her about mixed marriages and she said, "I'm not against it... For me, marriage is a very personal choice. The only thing I'd say is that I know, from people who've told me firsthand, that sadly mixed marriages can be a bit conflicted on everyday issues. For instance, the naming of children – Muslims need children to take Muslim names, often they want women to convert to Islam..."

I'm sure Dreher knows, as it is not (yet) Le Pen's business to, how something like that might go over in the States -- like gangbusters with the Trump base, perhaps, but not so well with the more soap-and-toothpaste-involved middle Americans. But he also knows that you might could sneak it over the plate if you keep it vague and, if someone smells a rat, make sure to protest that you don't approve of the old version of this exciting new conservatism, from which the new thing is, in some ineffable way, just different. There'll be plenty of time to sort out the details later -- when it's too late.

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