Marion Maréchal-Le Pen was until recently a Deputy of France’s National Assembly from Vaucluse. She is a member of the National Front, like her better known aunt and grandfather. The National Front (FN) isn’t one of the largest of the country’s parties. Only 8 of the 577 Deputies in the Assembly are members. The largest two political parties have, respectively, 311 and 112 Deputies.
Still, the FN has clearly been one of the noisiest parties in recent years. It is generally considered a right-wing party (advocating limits to migration, talking a tough law-and-order stance, opposing continued French membership in the EU).
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, is described by The Guardian as “even more rightwing and socially conservative than her aunt.” The aunt in question is Marine Le Pen, who has in recent years sought to lead a “de-demonization” of the party, trying to live down its extremist reputation.
But the niece seemed uninterested in de-demonization when she appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday.
Politics is the family business. Marion’s grandfather (Marine’s father) is Jean-Marie Le Pen, one of the founders of the FN in 1972.
Right Wing View
The FN is often very explicit about seeing itself as a continuation of the Vichy government during the Second World War, i.e. those who surrendered half of the country to Nazi Germany and then ran a collaborationist regime in the half remaining to them. Seven years before helping to create the FN, in 1965, Jean-Marie Le Pen supported the candidacy of Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour for President. In that context, Le Pen asked rhetorically “Was General de Gaulle more brave that Marshall Pétain in the occupied zone?” then answered himself, “That isn’t sure.”
He had to make this point on Vignancour’s behalf because Vignancour had been general-assistant secretary of information (that is, an official propagandist) for the Vichy government.
In that 1965 election Vignancour did not do well. He polled just 5.2% of the vote in the first round, and so didn’t come close to making it into the second round.
In her speech to CPAC Thursday, his granddaughter Marion spoke about Islam and migration into France from Islamic countries. She pictured this as a grave threat to French independence. France is passing “from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam,” she lamented.
Some American conservatives, though, were not appreciative of the fact that she was there to speak at all. Radio host Glenn Beck, for example, sees Ms Le Pen as proof that “European conservatives [are] very different” from the U.S. sort.
Likewise the publication The American Conservative says that the organizers of the conference may not have known who they were inviting, and that even Bernie Sanders would have been a better choice.
Left Wing View
A writer in Foreign Policy three years ago punningly called her “Joan of Dark.” The writer, James Poulos, worried that the younger Le Pen might give all too much of a new vigor to her party and family heritage. He said that with her as its face the FN might morph “from a reactionary footnote to a weirdly forward-facing cosmopolitan mash-up of old-style nationalisms left and right.”
Today, the left wing view of Ms Le Pen’s speech, indeed of her presence, at a gathering of American conservatives can best be expressed in a tweet from Andrew Weems.
“Opening day at CPAC – Mike Pence … Le Pen, Wayne Lapierre, the Apocalypse only needs one more horseman.”
Likewise, David Rothkopf, a Carnegie Endowment senior fellow, tweeted that Le Pen’s speech establishes that “the right in America is truly defined more than anything by ethno-nationalism.”
But the left doesn’t seem to be as worried about her these days as it did three years ago. She is still an enemy, but no longer an especially dangerous one, in their eyes.