Writing at his normal venue, The New York Times, Roger Cohen describes a trip he took through France to try to understand the issues and position in the presidential election which holds the first round of voting on April 23, and its run-off on May 7. He views the Le Pen candidacy with alarm but isn't convinced she will be defeated.
It's a long column, very 'atmospheric.' Cohen wanders the countryside talking to supporters of all the major candidates. He describes the candidates, sees some he likes, but seems unsure they are as attractive to the French as they are to him.
Assuming that he describes accurately what he saw, if with a decidedly 'progressive' bias, the French nation is in a glum, fearful mood. Cohen wonders, as do I, if that will lead to a Le Pen/National Front win come May 7.
If Brexit and Trump's win reflect something in the developed world's zeitgeist, perhaps Cohen is wise not to discount her chances. Le Pen promises to take France out of the euro zone, reintroduce the franc, and hints at maybe leaving the EU.
Cohen translates her party's war cry - On est chez nous - as "we are at home" and professes to be puzzled by it. I believe "this is our house" captures what they mean; very clearly they say by inference "it's not the Muslims' place." Basically, it's France belongs to the French - nationalism.
If France leaves the euro zone, the euro becomes essentially the German mark by another name. With France out of the EU, the European Union becomes something like a donut with a too large hole. You only have to look at a map to see that France is, almost literally. the heart of Europe.
It isn't clear that the EU would survive the exit of France, I'm tempted to say it would not. It would likely be replaced, in time, by regional alliances perhaps based on language groupings.
I imagine a Germanic group, a Scandinavian group, and perhaps a Mediterranean group which France might join. This leaves Ireland and the Netherlands wondering where to 'hook up,' perhaps with Britain. Eastern Europe would probably build on the Visegrad group, and the Balkans would just keep hating each other as they have for centuries.
We live in interesting times.