Patriotism in the Age of Globalization

LONDON – The new fault line in politics, according to Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, is between globalists and patriots. It is an argument similar to those being made by euroskeptics in the United Kingdom and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the United States. It is, however, as false as it is dangerous.

Judging by the results of the second and final round of France’s regional elections on December 13, it is also an argument that French voters, at least, roundly rejected. They cast 73% of their ballots for the National Front’s rivals, depriving the party of even a single victory.

Le Pen accused the mainstream parties of ganging up on her, describing their cooperation as a denial of democracy. Her argument is, of course, a classic example of sour grapes; the entire point of a two-round voting system is to force parties and their supporters to seek a consensus and form partnerships. Unless and until the National Front finds a way to win allies, it will not achieve an electoral breakthrough. (The same is likely to prove true about Trump.)

That is not to say that Le Pen’s claim – that those who vote for her party are the only true patriots – should be casually dismissed. She has homed in on a powerful message, one with the potential to attract supporters from other parties. That’s why it must be rebutted, both in France and elsewhere. The assumption underlying such nationalist bombast – that a country’s interests are better served by being closed rather than open – is extremely dangerous.