Columns, Opinion

REMILLARD: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio should proceed with caution, learn from France

So, I didn’t really expect to be writing about the GOP all semester. But when the Thursday Republican debate on CNN more closely resembled an episode of “Bad Girls Club” and the Democratic candidates literally retweeted each other as a result, it’s clear where the action is.

I’m constantly tempted to compare what’s happening in this election cycle to the current political climate in France. And with former French National Front Party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen’s recent endorsement of Donald Trump, according to Politico, this seems even more appropriate.

Le Pen founded the National Front Party in France in 1972. It is a far-right nationalist party predicated on xenophobia and isolationism, largely in reaction to the various immigration issues introduced by increased European integration, from emigration in Eastern Europe all the way to the current Syrian refugee crisis. Le Pen was, in 2011, kicked out of his own party for some casual Nazi sympathizing, according to The Guardian.

What a week it has been from Donald Trump, amassing a diverse resume of endorsements from the Ku Klux Klan and anti-Semitics alike — all while fending off a strangely united band of attacks from fellow candidates Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. The senators seemed to be tag-teaming Trump in some fiery exchanges at the last GOP debate, illuminating his weakness on immigration and foreign policy.

And just last weekend, Rubio and Cruz released their tax summaries to the public as a way to pressure Trump to do the same. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney recently told FOX News that Trump’s tax information could contain a “bombshell.” During the debate, Trump claimed he couldn’t release his tax documents due to the fact that the Internal Revenue Service is currently auditing him.

So what we have here is a new movement by the Rubio and Cruz campaigns to stage a cooperative offensive on Trump as we close in on the all-important and perhaps campaign-defining Super Tuesday. This could be great, right? A concerted effort to dismantle the shaky foundation of the Trump campaign once and for all, both by calling attention to the lack of implementation for his outrageous policy proposals and to the inconsistency of his views.

But Rubio and Cruz should watch out. And they should watch the French. Here’s why.

Back to the National Front. After Jean-Marie Le Pen’s disgraceful exit in 2011, his daughter, Marine Le Pen, was voted the new leader of the party. Since, she has rebranded the party after her father’s dismissal as, you know, only low-key racist instead of blatantly racist.

Marine Le Pen has taken advantage of the recent terror attacks in Paris to bolster her anti-immigrant stance. These positions have taken hold in the French electorate too, growing particularly critical of the European Union’s open-border policy that some claim allowed the Paris terrorists to enter France.

In the 2015 French regional elections, the National Front garnered 6.45 million votes, a record for the far-right party, according to The Guardian. This is where Rubio and Cruz need to pay attention. Despite a record number of votes, the National Front didn’t win any of the 13 regions in France. This was due to a concerted effort by the two mainstream French parties — the center-right Republicans led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy and current President Francois Hollande’s center-left Socialist Party — to prevent the National Front from taking hold in the election.

The Socialist Party effectively threw itself on its sword in the election to avoid National Front success. The party strategically pulled candidates in certain regions to avoid splitting the vote with Republicans for anti-National Front voters. Similarly, voters who generally support the Socialists gave their votes to the Republicans to ensure a National Front loss. It worked, and the mainstream parties took all 13 continental regions in France.

But tactical voting has its downside, as does the kind of political cooperation we have been seeing with Rubio and Cruz since the last debate. In the upcoming 2017 French presidential elections, political analysts worry that the political cooperation that was responsible for keeping the National Front out of government could bolster Marine Le Pen’s bid for France’s highest office.

This could occur if Le Pen can successfully paint the two mainstream parties as effectively the same, using their cooperation against them, while branding the National Front as the “New Right” in France.

Rubio and Cruz should share this concern in light of their latest anti-Trump quasi-coalition. The chummier the two get in an effort to tear him down, the more likely it is Trump will paint them as establishment politicians, and further distinguish himself as the new face of the American right.

And Rubio and Cruz have to remember that, as sound as many of their points are against Trump, people who like Trump like him because he’s different from politicians in general. Cooperation may be a smart tactic, but a smart tactic isn’t always the best tactic — especially with Republicans.

More Articles

Comments are closed.