France: What is the Presidential Campaign Really About?

The French presidential race is the latest election to shake up establishment politics. The Parti Socialiste and Les Républicains, who have been calling the shots for the past forty years, were voted out of the race. The “remainers” are Emmanuel Macron, a clone of Canada’s Prime Minster Justin Trudeau; and Marine Le Pen, whom many believe will not win.

France is a fractured country. As in the US and the UK, the rift is not between the traditional left and right. Instead, it reflects divisions — cultural, social, and economic — that came with globalization and mass migration. A map released by the Ministry of the Interior after the first round of the presidential campaign illustrates the new political scenery.

Blue represents the parts of France where Le Pen heads the list; pink, the areas supporting Macron. The blue areas coincide with old industrial areas, deeply damaged by globalization and industrial relocation. Many blue-collar workers are on welfare; and the antagonism between Muslims and non-Muslims is high. People who voted for Le Pen seem to feel not only that they lost their jobs, but that they are becoming foreigners in their own country.

The areas in pink (Macron), represent the big cities and places where the better jobs are. It also represents the areas where the “upper classes can afford to raise invisible barriers between themselves and the ‘other’, immigrants or minorities,” explains Christophe Guilluy, geographer, and author of Le crépuscule de la France d’en haut (The Twilight of Elite France).

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