Emmanuel Macron won in the French elections, resolutely thumping Marine Le Pen’s bid for office with over 65% of the votes. I voted yesterday, going to the Lycée Français de Chicago. I don’t speak French very well, nor do I read it very well and was worried about being grilled by the French officials who would sniff dismissively at me. Last time I had to deal with the French government was when I was renewing my passport at the French consulate, and struggled to explain in French to the staff that I would be more comfortable speaking in English. I’m not sure if it was because of my bad French, but it didn’t go well, and I left the consular office with a headache from trying to make myself understood.
I was luckier yesterday because I didn’t really have to speak much. I was able to read enough to figure out which line to go to and I knew enough in French to say hi, give my name, and grab the ballots. Oh, let’s get to the “ballots.” The voting comprised of two slips of papers, each with a candidate’s name, and a little brown envelope. I then scuttled over to a booth and put Macron’s name in the envelope and then after being confirmed and checked for the second time off a manifest, I dropped the envelope into a large glass box.
Normally I wouldn’t vote. I lived in the United States for over 30 years, and held little interest in French politics. But the last year has been so ridiculous. Starting with the Brexit referendum in June, it felt as if we couldn’t get through a month without some fresh hell popping up. Theresa May and Donald Trump are the faces of unfettered populism that has gripped most of the west.
And France wasn’t immune. Marine Le Pen ran on a similar campaign of suspicion, xenophobia, racism, and isolationism. And she was popular. In the first round of the elections, she came in second, and was moving on to the second round. Despite the polls confirming that Le Pen wouldn’t win, I was nervous. The polls promised Brexit wouldn’t pass and that Hillary Clinton would win. I was cautiously optimistic that Macron would win, but didn’t take anything for granted.
And though we’re celebrating Le Pen’s loss, it’s not over yet. Despite her promises to the contrary, May is holding a snap election in June. Because the Brexit negotiations aren’t going well, and there a lot more difficult than May imagined, she’s hoping to cleanse the government of anti-Brexit naysayers who are gumming up her plot to destroy the UK. Confident that she’ll be able to purge parliament of Labour and Lib Dem MPs, May is banking on the general elections to go as well for her as the locals went a few days ago, when the Torys picked up 130 seats, while Labour shed 120 seats. UKIP, the racist alt-right party in the UK, lost all of the local seats, but that’s not a silver lining – it’s aluminum. UKIP helped destroy the UK’s relationship with the EU, and is riding off into the sunset, happy to allow the Torys to finish the job.
But for now, I’m relieved. And I hope that Le Pen’s loss – predicted, but still a surprising – will be a necessary road block to the populist movement in Europe. Hopefully, Le Pen’s loss will put an end to talk of dismantling the EU. Hopefully, Le Pen’s loss will put an end to talk of curbing immigration, freedom of movement, and the acceptance of refugees. I’m hoping.