The French Far Right Comes on Little Cat Feet

James McAuley in The New Yorker (Photograph by Rit Heize / Xinhua / Getty):

In the early spring of 2017, before France’s previous Presidential election, I took a taxi from my apartment in Paris to Saint-Cloud, a wealthy suburb to the west of the city. I remember the feeling of dread as the car crossed the Seine, the quaint church set into a hillside overlooking the urban sprawl below. I was a twenty-eight-year-old reporter, and Jewish, about to visit the home of Jean-Marie Le Pen, one of the country’s most notorious Holocaust deniers and far-right agitators.

Jean-Marie’s daughter, Marine, was running in the French Presidential election for the second time that year, and I was there to profile him for the Washington Post. On April 24th, she will again face off against Emmanuel Macron, in the final round of the vote. The two sparred in a lengthy debate on April 20th, during which Macron hammered Marine for her admiration of Vladimir Putin and reliance on a Russian bank, and she attacked him for ignoring the plight of ordinary citizens. The far right has not been this close to power in France since 1944. Marine has styled herself as a candidate of almost grandmotherly compassion, focussing on the rising cost of living and posing for photos with her cats. Although she is likely to lose, she has already won the battle for legitimacy: polls project her winning forty-four per cent of the vote, which would be her highest share in any of her three Presidential campaigns. She is increasingly popular with working-class and lower-middle-class voters, who say that she has listened to their economic concerns while Macron, preoccupied by the war in Ukraine, has barely bothered to campaign.

More here.