L’Entre deux tours

Last week was a hard one.

I lost a lot of faith in the French left—in Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and in voters.

I felt like many people were ready to leave our family to the dogs rather than vote for someone they didn’t care for.

Mélenchon is someone I admired immediately when I first heard him speak on television a few years ago. He was speaking about, for me, the most important of French values, the “droits de l’homme.” He’s an eloquent politician, and, I thought, a principled one.

I didn’t vote for him on April 23rd because I was wary of parts of his platform. I was a little worried I might regret it. Suffice it to say, I don’t, and I’ll probably never vote for him. I definitely don’t think a politician should “tell” his supporters how to vote. I do however understand the American tradition of throwing your support behind another candidate once you’re out of the picture—and JLM has been utterly unable to do that.

For a comparision, here’s what he said in 2002:

Le vote d’extrême droite doit être réduit au minimum par nos propres forces. Je n’ai en effet aucune confiance dans les électeurs de droite qui n’ont pas voté au premier tour, et qui vont venir aux urnes, ni en ceux qui l’ont fait et qui sont à cette heure la clientèle visée par la campagne de second tour de Le Pen. Et je ne crois pas que Chirac soit capable de convaincre qui que ce soit par lui-même. J’affirme clairement que tout atermoiement dans les rangs de gauche nous expose au minimum à une nouvelle avancée de l’extrême droite qui dégradera davantage le rapport de force social et politique de la gauche aux législatives. Mais nul ne peut exclure non plus que pire encore n’advienne tant les jours qui viennent seront disputés et aléatoires. Quelle conscience de gauche peut accepter de compter sur le voisin pour sauvegarder l’essentiel parce que l’effort lui paraît indigne de soi ? Ne pas faire son devoir républicain en raison de la nausée que nous donne le moyen d’action, c’est prendre un risque collectif sans commune mesure avec l’inconvénient individuel. Plus nous aurons réduit Le Pen avec le bulletin de vote Chirac, plus forts nous serons pour débarrasser ensuite le pays de ce dernier aux législatives.

And I can’t for the life of me understand what changed. Is it because it’s the second time?

In any case, when I say it’s been a hard week, it’s because this election is deeply personal, and all of the “abstentionists” coming out of the woodwork are breaking my heart. These are the ones I thought were my people, that I shared values with, who would fight for refugees and immigrants and gay rights.

I was wrong. Am I being melodramatic? I’ve spent the last ten days trying to understand, and it still feels like it comes down to this: for those who are abstaining, maybe, at first, they won’t feel the difference between the Front National and Emmanuel Macron. Maybe these people are mostly white, straight, rooted in France for generations. For them maybe it does come down to a difference in economic policies (and I do know that those deeply touch people’s lives).

But for us, Marine Présidente, accomplishing her platform, means losing dual nationality. It means losing French citizenship for me. It means losing almost all chance of being hired in any position other than my current one. In short, it means no future here.

Which feels terrible. But I know that, even though it would be a logistical and financial hardship, we would be able to make a life for ourselves in the States.

So many other families don’t have that option.

And some day, of course, the consequences of a fascist president would start to be felt by even white, straight, “français de souche” abstentionists (not to mention the people actually voting FN).


10 thoughts on “L’Entre deux tours

  1. In France, it does seem there is this tradition of telling your voters who to vote for. I find it strange, but as he’s one of the few who hasn’t done it, it definitely upsets me.

    I’m terrified of the results Sunday night. We honestly don’t know what we’re going to do if she wins. And I’ll be in the middle of MLP territory next week (le Nord) in a town she won. That scares me no matter the result.

    • It has been nice to be in Poitiers which is to the left of the political spectrum. Out in the countryside of course it’s a different story, but even so, this part of France is not FN territory.

      But like I said in response to Sam, at the end of the month we’ll be dining with FN-voting family…

      • Lyon and Villeurbanne were heavily Macron. Outside the metropole, Le Pen came in first. While Mélenchon came in first in Lille, she won a lot of cities in the North including Valenciennes which is where I’m headed for the weekend.

        My husband is already refusing to go to Franche-Comté as planned this summer as it’s so FN including most of his family… He even flat out told one of his uncles that voting FN was voting against us, and the response was basically “So?”. 😞

  2. What you’re describing is how I felt after the US elections. I’m actually still having a hard time respecting all of my colleagues and the family members who voted for Trump. I just can’t look at them the same way anymore, as dramatic as that sounds. So I think that has made me avoid having some of those conversations here…which is totally the wrong thing to do of course.

    • I was lucky enough to not know (or at least not be aware of knowing) anyone who voted Trump. It’s true it has been a relief. Soon we’ll be going to a wedding for an FN-voting couple in J’s family—it’s hard to look at them the same way, or know that though I wish them well with their family, the feeling is clearly not mutual! (Though I’m sure they haven’t put 2 and 2 together to realize that a vote for the FN is a vote against us.)

      As for having conversations about it, this past week has only convinced me that people are entrenched in their convictions and are impervious to other points of view.

  3. My husband also worried he would regret not voting for Mélenchon, but like you, he hasn’t with how Mélenchon has been carrying himself after the first round. When we were watching the results that night, France 2 interviewed some of his supporters who said that they wouldn’t be voting next round. It took me back to the Bernie Bros after Clinton cinched the dem nomination… false equivalencies and all that.

    I just hope the French elections don’t go the way of Brexit and our elections last year. Every French person has been telling me it will never happen, but that’s what I told them about Trump and look where we are now!

    • Yes, Brexit and Trump are two reasons all the reassurances don’t reassure me! And I can’t believe anyone feels so confident about it that they would just not go vote…

      Glad to know I’m not that only one (along with my husband) who feels that way about Mélenchon.

  4. Sadly, left-wing politics is often just as tainted by self-interest as right-wing politics, and I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the case of Mélenchon. For me, Hamon was the most credible of the main candidates (not necessarily in terms of his manifesto, but in the sense that he seemed genuine and honest) but, as they say, good guys finish last.

    I share so many of your fears about life in France under Le Pen. We are worried about what it will mean forour family, but even if it wasn’t too bad for us personally, I also would find it very hard to live here knowing that so many people support those kinds of policies.

    And I’m really mad at the abstentionists too. “Neither nor” is not actually an option here!

  5. Kate Turk says:

    My thoughts are with you and France today. I hope the French fight for their liberal democracy more than we did here. It’s so precious and now we find out, fragile.

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