The first round of the French presidential elections on Sunday has been considered a rejection of the mainstream parties, and a surprising victory for the two political “outsiders” who will move onto a second round in May: the centrist Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! (Onward!) and Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front. The New York Times, for example, called it “a full-throated rebuke of the mainstream parties” and The Economist warned that the “first-round result could also presage the break-up of the French party system.” Although the results certainly indicate a historical ousting of the Socialist and Republican Parties, which have been governing France for most of the past 50 years, the results were hardly unexpected, and the two leading candidates are not political outsiders.
In his article “A Historic But Unsurprising Election In France – Why It Was a Long Time in Coming,” Martin A. Schain suggests that the recent French election round isn’t all that it’s made out to be. The first paragraph, written above, explains exactly what he means by this.
The election has been seen by many as the “rejection” of mainstream sentiment, the “victory” of “outsiders,” and a fight for the right to rule. It’s the same fantasy that gripped American elections in November of 2016. The outsiders defeat all odds pit against them and they win because they are the true representation of the people. To have this representation is the foundation of a strong republic. However, if Schain were to provide commentary on the nature of these elections, he would likely agree that this is isn’t true, especially for the French election.
Schain seems very doubtful of people who feel this way, because to him, this was a story too good to be true. The last sentence of this paragraph begins with the world, “although.” That immediately refutes the beautiful imagery of struggle and success (although that’s debatable depending on who you ask) that came immediately before. It turns out that the outcome of the election was “hardly unexpected” and that the candidates were not “outsiders” at all. Heartbreaking. Shattering. Devastating.
So, why this? I think I’ll leave it to Martin A. Schain himself to explain.