Having just heard about the tragic passing of Corrine Erhel, a French socialist politician who suffered a fatal heart attack while stumping for Emmanuel Macron on Cinco de Mayo, one’s first instinct is to view her death as a tragic omen for the cause she died in support of. With the final round of France’s national elections wrapping up May 7, the reasonable possibility of an upset win by Marine LePen and her National Front (FN) means that Erhel, who was only 50, may go down as merely the first to perish in the wake of a vote whose results will likely be cataclysmic for her country, no matter who wins.
While superstition is ultimately just that, it’s tempting to indulge such sentiment, given the recent sequence of events. Erhel’s death was immediately preceded by news of—believe it or not—massive hacking of Macron’s emails, the leaking of which was smartly timed to coincide with the legally mandated two-day period of silence before the vote. It’s an interesting quirk of their parliamentary system, one that would be intolerable in the United States, whose politicians can hardly be compelled to shut up, even when they’re asleep.
And they are certainly asleep, figuratively if not necessarily literally, although there can be little doubt that any number of our leading politicians are so heavily pilled-up that they need help tying their own shoes and neckties, to say nothing of reading the legislation being foisted upon them on an almost weekly basis early on in the Trump Era. Indeed, when the president’s controversial (to say the least) health-care plan passed earlier this week, by the narrowest of margins, despite ample partisan cushion, it was attended almost immediately by reports that some members of Congress had not bothered to read the very legislation that their historical reputations are now intractably tethered to. At least one of them actually admitted this on television, which strikes me as something other than the behavior of someone who is acting in their right mind.
The elections in France are being touted as a critical indicator of the trajectory of western politics in the new reality, and while it’s easy enough the parallels to events in the US in Europe, it’s worth remembering that the French are famously unpredictable. After all, the idea of the National Front getting anywhere near the runoff was openly scoffed at, as recently as a month ago. No one in proper political circles would’ve guessed that the hard-right, with all their bluster and bully tactics, would be capable of finishing as strongly as they did, let alone that their momentum would only continue in the interregnum. The LePen family has been flirting with fanaticism for years, with the father put out to pasture by his own daughter, who herself has struggled to achieve even basic credibility.
The struggle is real—at least, it was. Now she’s so credible that the political establishment is having night-sweats all weekend. Tensions are high, and so are the figureheads; in café society, the SSRIs are flowing free like fine wine, with blood soon to follow, perhaps. After watching the police torched with Molotov cocktails on May Day, it’s hard to conceive of any scenario in which the nation is not at least partially in flames within days. If Macron wins, as currently projected, the FN and its adherents will likely respond with violence. If LePen wins, violence is guaranteed. No matter who wins, the majority of French citizens will be not only dissatisfied, but terrified for the future of their country. This is not their first rodeo. They are firmly aware of the worst-case scenario. Good luck to them!