Center-Right Meltdown Spreads

It appears the United States may not be the only country in which the unpopularity of a conservative agenda pushes conservatives even further to the Right.

At TNR, David Bell contemplates the incoherence of Nicolas Sarkozy’s ideology, and his desperate attempt to secure National Front voters as he heads towards a likely defeat in France’s second-round presidential election, and suggests:

Sarkozy’s stunning acknowledgment of Le Pen’s legitimacy can only help her cause: In the days after the first round, nearly two-thirds of Sarkozy voters told pollsters they favored an electoral pact with her party in the legislative elections that will follow soon after the presidential campaign. Le Pen herself clearly wants Sarkozy to lose, declaring that she will cast a blank ballot in the second round. She has called the UMP no different from the Socialists, and, indeed, her nationalist stance offers a starker alternative to the two major parties than they do to each other. Can this alternative achieve major party status? Having helped to dissolve the traditional French right while failing to replace it with a coherent or popular ideology of his own, it now appears possible that Nicolas Sarkozy’s principal legacy will be the rise of Marine Le Pen.

Pressure from the hard right is also squeezing British Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of local elections that showed both Tories and their Lib Dem coalition partners losing heavily, even as the right-wing UKIP party made gains. According to Reuters:

Vociferous right-wingers within the Conservative Party have always maintained that Cameron should have done more to appeal to the party’s traditional supporters by attacking the European Union and talking tough on crime and immigration.

UKIP’s success at the local elections is sure to embolden those Conservative right-wingers. Calls for Cameron to hold a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU will become more strident, as will opposition to his decision to legalise gay marriage.

“So far he’s tended to treat his party like a general, a field-marshal. But he has to realise it’s not his party and listen to other voices in the party,” influential online Conservative activist Tim Montgomerie told Reuters.

That’s code for “move right or die.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.