French President Emmanuel Macron won a second term on Sunday over far-right challenger Marine Le Pen – the first incumbent to be reelected in France in two decades.
Ron Klain, the chief of staff for US President Joe Biden, saw a parallel to American politics in Macron’s win.
“An interesting observation, just FYI,” Klain tweeted on Sunday. “President Macron appears to have secured a double-digit victory over LePen, at a time when his approval rating is 36%. Hmmm….”
Klain didn’t expand on his observation. But we can!
There are, without doubt, some similarities between the political environment in France and the one in which Biden finds himself in.
Like Biden, whose approval rating has been mired in the low 40s for months, Macron’s own poll numbers had taken a hit over the course of his term in office. Heading into his reelection fight, though, Macron was in stronger shape than some of his recent predecessors.
And Macron, like Biden, was also facing some headwinds due to rising inflation and energy costs.
There are also some general comparisons between the candidacy of Le Pen and that of former President Donald Trump. Both Le Pen and Trump ran as nationalist candidates seeking to restore their respective countries to one-time greatness. Both sought to capitalize on anxiety about the changing world – economically, socially and otherwise – to appeal to their voters. (Le Pen’s 2022 candidacy was less overtly anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant as her past two campaigns for president in 2012 and 2017, though the focus of her policies has largely not changed. And both Le Pen and Trump have made supportive comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
So, sure. The Macron victory, on one level, bears some similarities to the current situation in which Biden finds himself.
But viewed through another lens, there are concerning trends for Biden in the French results.
Most importantly, while Le Pen didn’t win, she did come significantly closer than she had four years ago.
“Le Pen’s performance is the latest indication that the French public is turning to extremist politicians to voice their dissatisfaction with the status quo. In the first round, far-left and far-right candidates accounted for more than 57% of the ballots cast.”
And as Le Pen herself said, the showing put her National Rally party in a strong place for the coming parliamentary elections in June. “The game is not quite over,” she told supporters.
Then there’s this: More than a quarter of French voters didn’t cast a ballot in Sunday’s second round election, the highest abstention rate in five decades.(More people didn’t vote than voted for Le Pen.)
That sort of apathy has to be worrisome for any incumbent in any country.
The point? It’s always a dangerous game to look to elections in other countries to predict what might happen in America. For every Brexit foreshadowing the election of Donald Trump – and even the connection there is somewhat tenuous – there are scores of foreign elections that American political analysts sought to find meaning in which, in retrospect, told us not much of anything.
Klain is searching for good political news here. Biden is in rough political shape, and the 2022 midterm elections look borderline catastrophic for Democrats at the moment.
That Macron won a second term is, generally speaking, a vote of confidence in a liberal-leaning form of leadership that believes in globalism and the need to keep our post-World War II coalition together in Western Europe.
But France is not the United States. Le Pen is not Trump. And Macron is not Biden.