Macron Le Pen TV debate Dominique Boutin/TASS/Getty Images

The Macron Miracle

In many ways, France was primed for a right-wing populist to win power: beyond having been hit hard by the eurozone crises of the past decade, voters have lately faced a wave of terrorist attacks. But the French displayed a level of political maturity and intelligence that others might rightly envy.

PARIS – Before the just-concluded French presidential election, the United States’ National Public Radio (NPR) requested that I give an interview about the outcome. But there was a catch: the interview would take place only if the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen won. It seems that good news, like Le Pen’s defeat, is barely news at all nowadays.

But the truth is that the victory of the pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron is a very big deal. Last year, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and the US elected Donald Trump its president, the rise of right-wing populism went from seemingly impossible to seemingly irresistible. And, in many ways, France was primed for a right-wing populist to win power: beyond having been hit hard by the eurozone crises of the past decade, it has lately faced a wave of terrorist attacks.

But French voters – including many whose preferred candidate or party didn’t make it to the second round – recognized the perils of letting Le Pen reach the Élysée Palace, and delivered Macron a robust victory. It was a show of maturity and political intelligence, and a lesson to the UK and the US. (Perhaps that is the part NPR didn’t want to face.)

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