Apr 25, 2022

Emmanuel Macron wins in France.

Emmanuel Macron wins in France.

Plus, a question about far-right and far-left news outlets.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

First time reading? Sign up here. Would you rather listen? You can find our podcast here.


Today's read: 11 minutes.

Emmanuel Macron prevails. Plus, a question about far-right and far-left news outlets.

Photo: Jacques Paquier
Photo: Jacques Paquier 

ICYMI.

On Friday, I wrote about the controversy around Black Lives Matter and what I thought it told us about how the public misunderstands journalists. It was a very well-received edition, which I was happy about, and I wanted to plug it again here. Remember: Friday editions are for paying subscribers only, but if you want to read it you can click here (and subscribe when prompted).


Quick hits.

  1. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Chief Lloyd Austin met with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Ukraine, the highest level American visit to the capital since the war began. (The meeting)
  2. Congress returns to session this week after two weeks of Easter recess, and are expected to start work by passing another aid package for Ukraine, another round of Covid-19 relief and rescinding Title 42. (The work)
  3. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the longest serving Republican in Senate history, died on Saturday at the age of 88, two years after retiring. Hatch is remembered as a staunch conservative on social issues who also worked with Democrats on children's health insurance and disability rights. (The legacy)
  4. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill stripping Walt Disney Co. of its self-governing authority at its Orlando-area parks in retaliation for its opposition to the parental rights bill dubbed "Don't Say Gay" in Florida. (The bill)
  5. Twitter is now openly pursuing a deal to sell the company to Elon Musk, with some reports that an agreement could be finalized by Monday. (The deal)

Our 'Quick Hits' section is created in partnership with Ground News, a website and app that rates the bias of news coverage and news outlets.


Today's topic.

The election in France. Yesterday, Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen in France's presidential election, becoming the first French president in 20 years to win a second term. Macron delivered a victory speech with 97% of the vote counted in which he acknowledged a deep dissatisfaction with his first term and promised to address these concerns going forward. In the end, he won 58.5% of the vote to Le Pen’s 41.5%.

"Many in this country voted for me not because they support my ideas but to keep out those of the far-right. I want to thank them and know I owe them a debt in the years to come," he said.

Macron's victory prevented what could have been a major political upheaval on par with Britain's exit from the European Union or the election of Donald Trump, one that would have reshaped global alliances and France's place on the world stage. Le Pen is France’s most popular far-right candidate, and she railed at Macron for the rising cost of living in France and how immigration was reshaping the country. She has proposed plans to give "national preference" to French citizens over immigrants (regardless of their legal status) in seeking jobs, welfare and housing. She also proposed a ban on Muslim head coverings in public.

Yet even in defeat, her increase in vote share from 34% in 2017 to 41% this year is viewed as a warning to the French government that frustration over rising cost of living, immigration and Covid-19 mandates is driving high rates of dissatisfaction.

If Le Pen had won, it also would have had a profound impact on the Western alliance against Putin. She had pledged during her campaign to dilute French ties with the European Union, NATO and Germany, although she had recently backed off of her initial promise to leave the European Union entirely. She has also criticized the sanctions on Russian energy supplies and faced criticism for her past admiration of Putin. As the head of a nuclear power and perhaps the second most powerful nation in Europe, her victory could have shaped the outcome of the war.

While Macron's victory was still wider than expected, it was far less convincing than his 32-point drubbing of Le Pen in the 2017 election.

Below, we're going to take a look at some commentary about the election, and what it means for France, the world, and the U.S. in particular.


What the left is saying.

  • The left celebrated Macron's win, saying it was a blow to Putin and the far right.
  • Some called it a win for democracy.
  • Others said it was concerning that politicians like Le Pen are becoming mainstream.

In CNN, David Anderson said it was a major blow to Putin.

"France, Europe and the free world have survived a substantial challenge to their collective well-being. While some 1,200 miles away, Russian President Vladimir Putin suffered a profound blow as Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right challenger Marine Le Pen, a Putin ally, to become the first French President in a generation to win reelection," Anderson wrote. "Macron observed that he wants a rainbow France, a nation receptive to new ideas at home or abroad, one that is comfortable as a leader of the European Union, NATO and the free world, that is prepared to stand up resolutely at any cost to tyranny abroad and at home.

"Le Pen's France would have sought a path toward accommodation with a Russia that is a pariah to much of the free world, and looked inward, pulling back from Europe," Anderson said. "At the same time, she would have enforced a ban on headscarves for women or yarmulkes for men and staged referendums to disempower a legislature and judiciary she has never succeeded in dominating. She outlined at the same time a tempting prospect of lower taxes and broad social expenditures -- all most appealing to many in a nation where inflation has soared to levels not seen since 1985. But as Macron pointed out repeatedly, you have to find a way to pay for all of this."

In The Washington Post, EJ Dionne Jr. said Macron won one for democracy, but "the right still looms."

"The defeat of far-right leader Marine Le Pen dealt an important blow to nationalist forces in Europe focused on limiting immigration and marginalizing immigrants, particularly Muslims. It was thus a victory for democracy as well,” Dionne Jr. wrote. "It reflected Macron’s success in making the dangers of a Le Pen presidency more salient to key voter groups than their frustrations with inflation, their sense that he is out of touch, and a conviction among progressives that while he promised five years ago to be neither right nor left, he governed more from the center-right. To woo the left, Macron softened his stance on economic questions, notably his proposals to raise the eligibility age for social security.

"Macron was especially effective in tying Le Pen to Putin," he said. "While Macron’s quest for better relations with Putin brought him criticism from the Russian dictator’s adversaries in the West, Le Pen’s closeness to Putin (and her party’s financial ties to a Russian bank) gave the incumbent a fat target, which he hit squarely during their debate last week. Macron’s insistence that Le Pen’s proposals were racist, divisive or unworkable did the rest." Still, he warned, "Le Pen’s efforts to transform herself from a dangerous far-right zealot to a friend of the French working class bore fruit. Exit polls showed her especially strong among working-class voters. The fact that so many are now willing to support a candidate of the ultraright suggested how economic distress bred by anger over social and economic change has eroded what the French call the 'Republican Front' — the alliance in support of a tolerant, democratic republic."

Rim-Sarah Alouane said Macron's "flirting" with Le Pen's politics is doing damage to France.

"During his first term in office, Macron's administration flirted with the same right-wing themes that have powered Le Pen's rise -- including Islam, security and immigration," she wrote. "Indeed, the entire political landscape in France is not immune to the appeal of policies that have profound effects on anyone who was not born White and on French soil... the effects of the creeping acceptance of the premises fueling Le Pen's rise will be profound. The focus on French Muslims, in particular, has been marked by a steady increase in fear-mongering for votes over the past 30 years. As successive waves of terrorist attacks in France galvanized public opinion since the mid-1980s, state authorities have been trying to create a framework to oversee Muslim religious practices and organization, through the idea of creating a 'French Islam.'

"But in the past 10 years, the threat has expanded from public safety to include Muslims being seen as an existential threat to the cultural identity of what is being called 'traditional France.' Seeing an opportunity to ride a wave of discontent, politicians have pushed measures instrumentalizing the once liberal concept of laïcité (France's form of secularism), including banning full-face coverings and burkinis in public spaces," she said. "While Macron is seen as an alternative to the far-right, he has also attempted to play both sides -- putting on a liberal face for an international audience, while quietly embracing the very policies that the far-right has championed at home."


What the right is saying.

  • The right sees the race as a sign of Macron's failures.
  • Some are relieved to have avoided the implications of a Le Pen victory on the world stage, but said the discontent was important.
  • Others asked why elites continue to ignore the working class uprising against the left.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board said Macron is getting a "second chance."

"French President Emmanuel Macron won a second five-year term on Sunday over Marine Le Pen, and the Western alliance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can breathe easier. The question is whether Mr. Macron will do more in the next five years to make France great again," the board said. "The youngest French leader since Napoleon, Mr. Macron defies traditional political divisions. In his first term he appointed center-right figures to key positions and made progress with tax and labor reform. He headed off a more robust challenge on the right by promising to take on “Islamist separatism” and stand up for French values.

"Mr. Macron took on the third rail of French politics—reforming the country’s byzantine pension system—but the Covid-19 pandemic halted the promising effort. He took a heavy-handed approach to the virus with lockdowns and vaccine passports, using colorful language to describe his desire to make life difficult for the unvaccinated," the board wrote. "But life in France now is returning to its pre-pandemic normal... France will always be a high maintenance NATO ally given its strain of Gaullist nationalism. Recall Mr. Macron’s meltdown over losing a submarine contract with Australia. But he deserves credit for saving the world from Ms. Le Pen. A longtime apologist for Mr. Putin, she wants to withdraw France from NATO’s command structure. Although she condemned the assault on Ukraine, Ms. Le Pen is already calling for accommodating Moscow even as it bombs Ukraine’s cities into rubble."

Gerard Baker asked, "When will the political, corporate and cultural leaders of the West finally understand the level of discontent with the direction of political travel in their countries over the past two decades?"

"The discontent of a rising share of the populations of Western democracies has not come close to being assuaged," Baker wrote. "This discontent has complex and manifold roots. There is the cultural alienation from a progressive hegemony in the West’s major political, academic, media and artistic institutions; anger at the vast economic inequalities produced by globalization; a loss of morale from reversals in foreign wars and the rise of alternative civilizational models; unease at an officially sanctioned uncontrolled immigration that changes the character of nationhood and citizenship; frustration at the failure to address the rot exposed by the global financial crisis; resistance to the new religion of universal climate-change compliance with its costly implications for energy consumers; and, most recently, seething fury with the little autocrats in government and health bureaucracies decreeing lockdowns, masks and vaccine mandates.

"Multiple and divergent causes—but underlying it all, righteous indignation at the arrogance of unaccountable elites who dismiss opposition to their authority as the product of bigotry and ignorance and denounce anyone displaying it as a traitor or a domestic terrorist," Baker concluded. "Every time the people take to the ballot box to signal their desire to change course, the reaction of these elites is to dismiss the votes as the result of some combination of deception and foul play. When the British people voted for Brexit and the American people elected President Trump in 2016, we were told it was the work of Russian interference, racism and voters’ stupidity."

In Spectator, Veronique de Rugy said Le Pen is everything her opponents say, but "it doesn’t follow that her opponent represents liberal governance even if he compares favorably to her."

"Under Macron, the French have lived in a state of permanent emergency," de Rugy said. "When he was elected in 2017, he let expire some of the emergency powers put in place after the terrorist attacks of November 2015. But other anti-civil liberty police and military powers were made permanent. These new powers were deployed when the police fired rubber ball–shaped projectiles — a practice forbidden by other European countries — and dispersal “sting-ball” grenades against yellow vest demonstrators protesting another green tax on gas.

"Under Macron, the Avia rule forbade any speech deemed hateful, without any legal definition of what 'hateful' means. The Conseil Constitution voided it for being anti-constitutional," she added. "Macron also favors the 'Fake News' rule, based on the idea that voters are wise enough to distinguish a good politician from a bad one but too naive to make a similar distinction when it comes to news. In 2020, COVID-19 gave Macron another excuse to re-up the state of emergency. As a result, the French endured curfews for months on end, restrictions on going more than three miles from home without filling out a form, indoor and outdoor mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and an explicit commitment to make the lives of the unvaccinated 'miserable.' Some of these measures were enforced by French police and punishing fines."


My take.

I don't follow French politics too closely, aside from how their leadership and shape of their government impacts U.S. policy, but I have to admit I was a bit nervous. It's not just that I find some of Le Pen's worldview abhorrent; it's also that France has long been a north star for (little "L") liberalism, free speech and tolerance — values that I believe are key to both American success and global prosperity.

So to see someone garnering increasing support on a platform that called for, say, prohibiting normal religious expression or legally treating immigrants differently than natural born citizens was disheartening and scary. Macron, however flawed, is truly closer to a centrist in the American sense, one who has tried grasping at the various "good" you can find on both sides of the political aisle.

What I also found interesting about the framing of this story in our press is how Le Pen's politics were framed. Many in the U.S. media, in my opinion, are right to describe her as "far-right." But that descriptor really applies to her views on immigration, Islam and other social issues. On the economy, Le Pen actually profiles closer to an American left-wing candidate: An anti-elite, tax the rich and protectionist on trade. It's not hard to imagine a similar formula having political success here in the U.S.

I'll leave the more nuanced commentary to the Francophiles, but in the end it should be noted definitively that this race was not close. As much credit as Le Pen is getting for turning a 32-point landslide into a 17-point landslide, Macron pulled away the moment the race went from 12 candidates to two a few weeks ago, and probably would have won by a wider margin if there had been a larger turnout. In the wake of Covid-19, a major war in Europe and (seemingly) a new refugee crisis every year, it’s not an easy time to be an incumbent in France.

Have thoughts about "my take?" You can reply to this email and write in or leave a comment if you're a subscriber.


Your questions, answered.

Q: What’s the furthest left wing source you regularly consume? And what’s the furthest right-wing source? As someone who tries to read both sides regularly, how extreme are both sides?

— Nathan, San Diego, California

Tangle: When it comes to the media spaces, I'm not really sure how to quantify how extreme both sides are. Far-right websites like The Federalist, Breitbart and The Gateway Pundit get more attention from the left than far-left websites like The Palmer Report, AlterNet and Daily Kos get from the right. Both publish a lot of misleading work or conspiracy theories in the name of scoring political points. Both also occasionally hit the nail on the head in their framing of a story, and both pretty consistently represent the mood of their political bases.

If you're looking at national politics, elected officials and analyzing this from a political science perspective, it is pretty indisputable that the right has gone further right than the left has gone left. There are very few moderate Republicans remaining, and there are fewer by the day. There are a lot of moderate Democrats. While the "progressive left" may be a majority on Twitter or in pop culture, they lack much substantial power in elected office.

But when grading media, it's a lot more difficult. On the one hand, the top ten right-wing news outlets are a lot more popular than the top ten left-wing news outlets. That stat lacks context, though: The entire point of the right-wing media is to push back on the institutional bias many conservatives see in America's mainstream press. So, by nature, you'd expect that backlash to carry more partisan overtures than the left-of-center corporate press or even the attempts from the left to respond to that right-wing media with websites like Huffington Post or The Young Turks.

To answer your original question, I read The GrayZone, Jacobin, and HuffPost to collect a lot of my most far-left political views. I read Breitbart, The Federalist, The Sun and The Epoch Times to find far-right political views. I stay away from websites like Newsmax, OAN, InfoWars, Wonkette, the Palmer Report, Alternet and the Daily Kos, all of which are unreliable in the extreme.

Want to ask a question? You can reply to this email and write in (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.


A story that matters.

The fight over abortion rights is moving to state ballots. With onlookers expecting the Supreme Court to pare back or overturn Roe v. Wade altogether, state legislators are working to codify abortion rights as quickly as possible — setting off a state-by-state battle. In Vermont, for instance, a ballot initiative would enact a state constitutional amendment declaring an individual's right to personal reproductive autonomy. In Montana, a ballot measure would require medical care for any infant born alive, and classify the fetus as a legal person. Axios has a story on the way states are looking to preemptively address abortion rights.


Numbers.

  • 58.5%. The percent of the vote Emmanuel Macron won in yesterday's election.
  • 41.5%. The percent of the vote Marine Le Pen won in yesterday's election.
  • 18,779,641. The number of French voters who cast a ballot for Macron.
  • 13,297,760. The number of French voters who cast a ballot for Le Pen.
  • 66%. The percentage of French voters who cast a ballot in the election.
  • 28%. The percentage who didn't vote.
  • 6%. The percentage who submitted an invalid or blank ballot.

Have a nice day.

Daryl Bidner found a unique way of getting sober: tattoos. The Vancouver man had dropped out of school, struggled with addiction and ended up homeless. After years of trying and failing to get healthy, Bidner — on a whim — decided to get a tattoo. That night, when he came home, he realized he didn't have the urge to use. He just wanted to look at his new ink in the mirror. So he began getting one every few days, and 40 tattoos and a few months later, he was sober and stable. Then he went to barbering school, and is now the proud owner of 'Little Barbershop of Horrors,' where he also gives free haircuts to people from a nearby homeless shelter and supports local bands by playing their music in his one chair shop. VancouverIsland.com has the story.


❤️  Enjoy this newsletter?

💵  Drop some love in our tip jar.

📫  Forward this to a friend and let them know where they can subscribe (hint: it's here).

📣  Share Tangle on Twitter here, Facebook here, or LinkedIn here.

🎧  Rather listen? Check out our podcast here.

🛍  Love clothes, stickers and mugs? Go to our merch store!

🙏  Not subscribed? Take the next step and become a subscriber here.

Subscribe to Tangle

Join 30,000+ people getting Tangle directly to their inbox!

Join the conversation