OPINION: Please France, don’t make the same mistake we did in the US

A group of Americans living in France who were left dismayed by the success of Donald Trump's "campaign of anger and fear" issue a plea to French voters not to follow the same path in their own presidential election.

OPINION: Please France, don't make the same mistake we did in the US
Photo: AFP

As a community of Americans living in France, we are dismayed by the campaign of anger and fear that has elevated Donald Trump to the highest position in our nation.

At present, we find ourselves unable to make sense of a presidency that undermines the very fabric of our democracy. We are even more alarmed, as French residents, to witness the same anger and fear spreading both in France, our adopted home, and in Europe at large.

In the United States, Trump and his administration have thrown the country into violent turmoil.

That is why we are reaching out to you, the French people, ahead of your presidential election.

We see more and more French citizens being influenced by the same kind of far-right propaganda—targeting minorities’ and women’s rights—that we witnessed in the US. We recognize the same deliberate use of fake news to spread alarmist messages and uncertainty, to stir up fear, and to pit citizens against each other instead of helping them find strength in solidarity. 

READ ALSO: Battle begins to stop fake news influencing the French election

Battle begins to stop 'fake news' from impacting the French presidential election

We observe the same feelings of disempowerment and passivity in those who are failing to stand up, to vote, to reject this unprecedented assault on modern democracy and its inevitable and disastrous aftermath.

Donald Trump is building a wall between the US and Mexico. 

In Europe, societal fences are springing up in the wake of Brexit. Here in France, at least one presidential candidate is now proposing that the country secede from Europe and close its borders to the world.

However, France does not need to look very far back in history to see the former East Germany and to understand the implications of getting stuck behind a wall. What we are quickly learning in the US is that closing borders not only hampers good relations with neighbors; it also suffocates trade and jobs.

The new reality unfolding before our eyes is one of reduced trade, higher import taxes, and excessive infrastructure costs—all with no guarantee of job creation.

Similarly, isolating France at a time when it is poised to become the progressive leader of the European Union is a step backward and a threat to the French economy and way of life.

From our perspective, “Made in France” is a stamp of quality. French products are the heart and soul of your rich patrimoine, and French workers are the country’s true and proud heroes. 

Your farmers, your artisans, your engineers, and your doctors are known and respected the world over. We believe the crucial question is not how to “protect” France's citizens behind walls based on fear, but rather how to elevate France to center stage. We need to shine a European spotlight on the richness of this country so that no one is left behind.

READ ALSO: Yes, Marine Le Pen could become French president, here's how

As outsiders looking in, we have nothing but awe and admiration for your extraordinary country, which was built on the universal values of liberté, égalité et fraternité

Please know that we feel compelled to encourage you, the French people, to avoid making the same mistake that we made in the US. In this spirit, we hope you will use your vote to rise above populism and demonstrate that France can be the champion of a better humanity.

Your presence and your voice are sorely needed.

Thank you.

Robin Molbert from Indivisibles France

Member comments

  1. With Germany paralyzed by a leadership vacuum it makes sense for M. Macron to aspire to a greater role in EU politics. The current politics in the US are awful but at least the midterm elections provide some relief. Ignorance and a poor educational system leaves the majority of Americans clueless and easily manipulated. On the other hand subsequent generations of US administrations have failed to enforce existing immigration laws. The US, UK and France bear responsibility for the refugee flows from Syria to Germany and Sweden. The Germans appear to be handling this problem while the Swedes are overwhelmed by the numbers. When speaking to French tradespeople and restaurant owners I can see why they are upset with the tax policies of the French government. They appear to be quite angry with M. Macron and this will probably cause them to vote for someone like Le Pen. Sorry if this is a bit disjointed.

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Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”