It’s OK to admit it: France just gave the world hope

May 11, 2017 Originally published on SFGate

And lo, the world did exhale. Just a little.

French media handled it all better. They did not bleat out endless fake news or tweet blatant misinformation – even merely to debunk it. They did not swarm all over the “scandalous” 9GB email dump that happened a hugely suspicious handful of hours before the election, the result of a coordinated (probably Russian) hack that targeted Emmanuel Macron.

They respected the traditional pre-election media blackout. They heeded the national rule not to publish false news. In short: The French media didn’t succumb to mania, the racist candidate didn’t encourage her followers to beat people up, the voters weren’t fazed, the polls proved accurate and the far better, more calmly intelligent candidate won.

And for a moment, all felt right in the world.

The best news of all? Despite months of icy dread, Marine Le Pen’s xenophobic, Trump-stabbed populism was crushed, quite overwhelmingly, by a 2-1 margin – though as many have pointed out, she can still claim that her party doubled its turnout percentage from when her father, another racist xenophobe, led the party. Translation: The far-right Nationalist Front is stronger than ever. So, you know, ne pas être complaisant.

There are other factors to consider. There is no Fox News equivalent in France. There are no extremist, fake-news tabloids of hate and fear, like Breitbart or Drudge, to bash lesser-educated voters into panicky compliance. There is no vicious gerrymandering of voting districts by the conservative party to give themselves easy wins, no attempts by the far-right to prevent minorities from getting to the polls or block the poor from voting.

Also, French elections are held on weekends, thus guaranteeing far stronger turnouts. In sum: France ain’t the U.S.

But even with all caveats in place, one thing seems undeniable: Emmanuel Macron’s overwhelming victory is a very good sign indeed, as much for Europe as the U.S. It’s a direct slap to Le Pen’s pal Vladimir Putin, of course, but far more importantly for America, it’s an unmistakable punch in the enormous gut to everything the Orange Monster represents.

Macron is, of course, everything Donald Trump is not. Pro-EU, pro-globalization, pro-immigration, anti-isolationist, left-moderate, young, talented, deeply intelligent, calmly and expertly versed in the actual issues facing his country, not remotely prone to flatulent, incoherent bombast or hollow reality TV bloviation for the sake of ratings or juvenile bragging rights.

His overwhelming victory in a country that suffers far more direct, far more regular terrorist attacks than the U.S. – and therefore would seem far more susceptible to Le Pen’s calculated, savvy fear-mongering – is a powerful indicator that, well, voters can still see through the hate, and all is not lost.

But does Macron’s win mean the nasty populist wave Trump so grossly manipulated is now on retreat? Not exactly. After all, Le Pen did double her party’s percentages. And, even more chillingly, the majority of the youth vote went to her; it was, ironically, the gray vote (over 65) that refused to fall for her xenophobic nonsense and helped propel Macron to victory.

The Netherlands aside, Europe remains volatile. Italy is in real danger of turning far more xenophobic in its 2018 elections. Hungary and Poland are populist strongholds. Putin’s election hackers are gaining more skill and manipulative power. The global wave of nationalistic fearmongering is far from nullified.

But it did just suffer a terrific, inspiring blow. There is now reason to think the Resistance is more variegated and far-reaching than once imagined. Macron’s win means the EU might be able to right itself. It means France can join with Germany to hold back the EU’s angry unraveling. It means Trump loses his chance to grope a woman who would have been a very powerful Putin lackey, like he is (Le Pen made no secret of her adoration of the Russian thug).

But while wariness is still (always) warranted, there is no mistaking the awesome fact that the vast majority of France saw in Le Pen a deeply sadistic, dangerous strain of the same orange cancer that’s right now attacking America, and took very direct step to stop it from spreading to their country.

For this we can all be grateful. For this we can be inspired. For this we can be hopeful that, with any luck, the energies of decency, intelligence and humanitarianism the French election largely embodied will slingshot right back to us for our 2018 mid-terms (if not sooner), and we can all share in some victory champagne. Viva la résistance.

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Mark Morford

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