Marine Le Pen, Leader of the French National Front
Credit: Rémi Noyon/FLICKR

To a limited degree I can agree with what former Dubya Bush speechwriter Marc A. Thiessen says here:

The French vote was not an endorsement of globalism or a vote of confidence in the French political establishment. It was a rejection of Le Pen’s toxic brand of Putinism and anti-Semitism. And the person who should be happiest that Le Pen lost is Trump. She would have been not an ally, but rather, an albatross for the president, because Le Pen was the left wing’s caricature of Trump come to life.

I actually have a number of quibbles with this statement, however. The French presidential election was a lot more complex than a simple referendum on Marine Le Pen. Overall, it was a rejection of France’s establishment, including their two main political parties. It’s true that the public there rejected Le Pen as the alternative to the status quo, but the success of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign wasn’t a simple rejection of Putinism or anti-Semitism. I don’t know how well Le Pen would have allied with a Trump administration, but I think her election would have been welcomed in the White House and interpreted there as further validation that they’re part of a vanguard of an international movement. On the other hand, it could very well be true that Le Pen would have become some kind of albatross for the Trump administration.

It’s just that I am not sure the problem would have been that Le Pen is the left-wing caricature of Trump come to life. It’s not really clear to me how Trump and Le Pen differ in any of the respects that really matter. They seem to be very closely aligned.

Thiessen’s thesis is based on the left-wing caricature being distorted and unfair, primarily because he doesn’t buy that the Trump campaign is in the pocket of Putin or that anti-Semitism is fair charge to make against him. There are many possible theories of what the many connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians might mean, but it seems very premature to brush aside them all as insignificant. And as long someone like Steve Bannon is essentially running the Oval Office, charges of anti-Semitism cannot be dismissed. At a minimum, anti-Semites have taken comfort in how Trump staffed his administration.

Most of all, I don’t think the American public pays a lot of attention to French politics so it’s hard to envision how the outcome of the presidential election there will have an impact on Trump. Given that, I think it’s fairly clear that the administration is disappointed in the outcome there and far from sighing in relief.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at