American liberals are anxiously watching Sunday’s presidential election in France, where they fear a victory by the far-right Marine LePen would undermine the West’s newly emboldened defense of democracy from both external Russian militarism and internal ethnonationalism.
Macron, a centrist former investment banker, is no hero of progressives on either side of the Atlantic, but they say the alternative is far worse, so the choice is obvious.
“This is a genuine threat to progressives’ vision of a pluralistic, multiethnic democracy,” said Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “Everyone should be clear that a Le Pen victory would be a massive boost for the Trump movement here.”
Le Pen, the anti-immigrant party leader who has long been friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, represents the far-right’s best chance in years of taking control of a major European power after finishing within 5 percentage points of President Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the election this month.
Polls show Macron, running for a second term, has expanded his lead and most expect he will prevail in Sunday’s runoff. But the polls were off in the first round and analysts say supporters of a left-wing candidate who narrowly missed the runoff may stay home or even cast a protest vote for the anti-establishment Le Pen over the unpopular Macron.
“The most important thing to remember is that no French president has won re-election since 2002, so he’s sort of starting with the deck stacked against him,” said G. Elliott Morris, a polling analyst for the Economist.
While there are many differences between the two country’s politics and their leaders, Macron, like President Joe Biden, is facing rising prices due to inflation, disillusionment after the initial excitement of his victory, and accusations of being out of touch with the daily struggles of ordinary people.