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Another Strange French Disaster

France is not in a mere crisis in the run-up to its presidential election next month. Its citizens' relationship to politics suggests that it is in the last stages of what the great anti-Nazi historian Marc Bloch called, in 1940, his nation’s “strange defeat.”

PARIS – The “hunger games” aspect of this French election cycle began on the left. President François Hollande was brought down by his own Socialist Party. Hollande’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, became the second course at the cannibals’ banquet.

By then, the corpse of one of France’s two major parties, no longer merely supine, had reached an advanced state of decomposition. Now, at the very moment when one might expect a presidential candidate to tell the nation what he thinks of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Islamic radicals, the Socialist candidate, the wan Benoît Hamon, finds nothing better to talk about than legal marijuana, red sludge, and endocrine disruptors.

On the right, the disaster is just now cresting. Early on, former president Nicolas Sarkozy was eliminated. Former Prime Minister Alain Juppé, after being crowned virtual president for much of last year, was toppled by those who had adored him. And, in the wake of the scandal surrounding François Fillon, the Republican nominee and the man who defeated him, Juppé lost his nerve and on March 6 definitively quit the race.

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