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Macron to France: Vote Against Me and There Will Be Civil War

Just as in America, a tottering ruling establishment plays the only card it has left: fear.

Largely lost amid the fallout from the shock over Joe Biden’s health during his June 27 debate with Donald Trump in Atlanta is the president’s disparagement of anyone who would vote for his Republican opponent as an enemy of democracy. Across the Atlantic, a similar demonization of citizens is happening in France as a fragile ruling political establishment struggles to hold onto the reins of power in the nations of the West.

In a surreal question for a presidential debate forum, CNN co-moderator Jake Tapper asked Biden: “Do you believe that the tens of millions of Americans who are likely to vote for President Trump will be voting against American democracy?”

For one of the few times that evening, Biden did not hesitate. “The more they know about what he’s done, yes,” he declared.

The very same week Biden slurred the motives of those tens of millions of Americans, deeply unpopular French President Emmanuel Macron was doing the same in his crumbling fiefdom. Macron called for snap elections after his ruling coalition was routed in a June 9 European Union vote. The first round gets underway June 30.

Bidenesque Scolding in France

Macron on June 24 warned that a vote for the populist right would spark “civil war” in France. The Marine Le Pen-led National Rally is for Macron what MAGA is to Biden. Much like Democrats in the US, Macron sought to frame opposition to massive unchecked immigration into France as a grave evil.

“I think that the solutions given by the far right are out of the question, because it is categorizing people in terms of their religion or origins and that is why it leads to division and to civil war,” Macron exclaimed in a podcast interview. “But that one as well, there is a civil war behind that because you are solely categorizing people in terms of their religious outlook or the community they belong to, which in a way is a means of justifying isolating them from the broader national community and, in this case, you would have a civil war with those who do not share those same values.”

If you’re scoring at home, that’s three uses of the wildly irresponsible term “civil war” in two sentences.

GettyImages-2158254885 Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

It’s an ugly form of electioneering, but Macron – again, like Biden – couldn’t stop there. He had to personally target the motivations of average French citizens who want to end the immigration inundation.

“When you are fed up, and daily life is hard, you can be tempted to vote for the extremes that have quicker solutions. But the solution will never be to reject others,” Macron haughtily lectured.

It’s a statement that says everything about how precarious Macron’s hold on government has become.

How long can a demonstrably unpopular political establishment in Western nations cling to power by spouting platitudes that fly in the face of observed reality? The “others” Macron refers to means the wave of uncontrolled immigration causing the palpable social and economic burdens that have made “daily life” so “hard” for the citizens of France.

A Populist Bridge Too Far?

The signs of desperation are palpable. Macron was widely pilloried for his remarks. Oddly enough, however, his rabid defense of Western support for Ukraine in its war against Russia is not seen as a position that can be responsibly opposed by a rising “populist” alternative party.

On June 19, National Rally President Jordan Bardella, a Le Pen protégé, furiously backpedaled on previous calls for France to exit NATO’s strategic military command. Bardella said he “doesn’t plan to question the commitments France has made on the international stage” if the National Rally is able to create a new government after the snap elections.

Bardella’s remark perfectly echoes the words of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni when she successfully waged a populist campaign for office in 2022. “Italy should not abandon its international allies,” Meloni proclaimed in the months before her electoral victory.

Meloni was even more forthcoming about her strong support for Ukraine than Bardella. “I think Italy should show it is a faithful, solid and credible ally, above and beyond the Ukrainian cause, which I support.”

It’s an interesting snapshot of the state of European politics. Questioning immigration, once framed as the apex of bigotry, has now become socially acceptable in the battered nations of Western Europe. But questioning US-led NATO and its potential to trigger an expanded war in Eastern Europe that will ensnare its western neighbors still remains beyond the pale.

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