BREAKING France Poses Biggest Test Yet for Trump’s Brand of Nationalism – News

BREAKING France Poses Biggest Test Yet for Trump’s Brand of Nationalism – News


France Poses Biggest Test Yet for Trump’s
Brand of Nationalism. When President Trump swept into the White
House in January, some of his advisers gleefully predicted that his victory would set off a
populist wave across Europe, scattering mainstream parties on the left and right and wedding
Europeans to the same nationalist ideology that Mr. Trump espoused in the United States. With far-right parties then on the rise across
the Continent, it did not seem that far-fetched a proposition. Now, with the French presidential election
starting this weekend, Mr. Trump faces the stiffest test yet of whether his brand of
nationalism and nativism appeals to voters elsewhere in the Western world. That may explain why the president decided
to weigh in on the campaign as brashly as he did on Friday, writing on Twitter that
the terrorist shooting in Paris would upend the election. Continue reading the main story
“The people of France will not take much more of this,” Mr. Trump said. “Will have
a big effect on presidential election!” The White House insisted the president was
not trying to tilt the outcome of an election abroad that includes a nationalist candidate.
Officials said he was merely extrapolating from his own experience: In late 2015, Mr.
Trump’s candidacy got a propulsive lift from fears of terrorism in the aftermath of
deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. But Mr. Trump always viewed his victory as
part of a global populist movement. His election came just months after Britain’s decision
to leave the European Union, commonly known as Brexit. Far-right parties seemed to be
on the rise in Austria, the Netherlands and even Germany, where nationalist parties had
failed for decades to gain a foothold. The big prize was France. Marine Le Pen, the
leader of the National Front party, has a credible chance of winning the presidency,
running on an anti-immigrant platform that echoes Mr. Trump’s.
If Mr. Trump is keeping score, however, as he most assuredly is, he would have to admit
the Trump wave has yet to rise. In Austria in December, voters narrowly chose a Green
Party candidate over one from the far-right Freedom Party as president. In the Netherlands
last month, the Party of Freedom fell short of being the largest party in the House of
Representatives. Some European analysts speak of a Trump backlash. Ms. Le Pen still has a chance of winning.
But France’s presidential election has become a fragmented affair, with her and three other
candidates — a conventional conservative; a centrist, a former banker; and a rising
leftist — all vying to emerge from the pack in a campaign that has been driven as much
by concerns over the economy as terrorism and security. Voters will choose among 11
candidates in the first round of national voting on Sunday. Moreover, Mr. Trump is unpopular in France,
and as a result, Ms. Le Pen does not invoke his name on the campaign trail, even if his
campaign is in some ways a blueprint for hers. There is little doubt he favors Ms. Le Pen.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Trump said Friday that though he would
not endorse her, the fatal shooting of a police officer on the Champs-Élysées, an act claimed
by the Islamic State, would help her because she was the candidate who is “strongest
on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.” Ms. Le Pen seized on the attack to turn the
election into a referendum on what she calls “radical Islam.”
She and Mr. Trump do not know each other, but early on, she clearly sought to tie herself
to his success. After his election, Ms. Le Pen exulted that it had “made possible what
had previously been impossible.” In January, during the transition, Ms. Le Pen was photographed
having coffee at the Trump Tower cafe, prompting a flurry of rumors about whether she was in
Manhattan to meet the president-elect. (Mr. Trump’s aides denied it.)
Fears about Mr. Trump’s influence over elections in Europe deepened after the disclosure that
Breitbart News, the far-right website formerly run by the president’s chief strategist,
Stephen K. Bannon, planned to open offices in Paris and Berlin. (Mr. Bannon has cut his
ties with Breitbart, though he continues to talk to its journalists. While many are convinced
that the White House exerts influence over its coverage, the website has also been critical
of the Trump administration, angering Mr. Bannon in at least one case.)
There is little evidence the White House has tried to influence the election in France,
beyond Mr. Trump’s Twitter post. Even that, the White House argued, was simply the president
acting as a political analyst. “Major events have, clearly, effects on
voters’ attitudes,” said the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer. “But I’m
not going to weigh in. Let the voters of France decide this Sunday what direction they want
their country to go in.” Some European diplomats said the real threat
of interference was not from the United States but from Russia, which has used internet trolls,
“fake news” and hacking to disrupt European elections, much as it did during the 2016
United States presidential campaign. American presidents generally avoid meddling
too obviously in the politics of other countries, though there is plenty of precedent for their
trying to influence outcomes in less obvious ways. Mr. Trump has little use for such diplomatic
niceties. Soon after being elected, he publicly advised the British government to appoint
the pro-Brexit leader, Nigel Farage, as ambassador to the United States. Even President Barack Obama, who tried to
avoid being accused of meddling, got into trouble when he warned Britain, before the
referendum, that it would go to the end of the line in future trade negotiations with
the United States if it voted to leave the European Union.
This week, Mr. Obama’s aides played down the significance of a phone call between him
and Emmanuel Macron, the former banker and independent candidate, who urged the French
not to overreact to the Paris shooting. “They want France to be afraid,” Mr. Macron
said of the terrorists, sounding a lot like Mr. Obama.
In France, where political experts and pollsters were struggling to gauge the consequences
of Thursday’s attack on the psyche of voters, Mr. Trump’s Twitter message was expected
to carry little weight.

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