The French Rally to the Republic

PARIS – Before the second round of France’s regional elections on Sunday, most predictions suggested that five, perhaps six, of the country’s regional governments would fall into the hands of the National Front (FN). But the French people pulled themselves together and turned out to vote in much greater numbers than anyone expected. The result is that a xenophobic, racist party, one hostile to everything essential to the spirit and greatness of France, was defeated in all of the contests that it was supposed to win.

Some will express surprise at this strange country, which is never so great as when it is on the edge of a cliff. They will worry – and they are right to worry – that a situation of extreme peril, a veritable threat to the nation, was required before the French recovered their senses and took the path of reason. And they will regret that the French are not the prosaic sort of people who know how to be themselves at normal cruising speed, without having to hear a cannonball whistle past. But that is how it is.

And I, like many others, will not try to hide my satisfaction at seeing the smug scoundrels of the FN break down and resume speaking in their historic register, with their authentic voice, which is one of hatred and mob rage. This, truly, was a victory for the republic – a triumph of popular resistance.

The French turned out, en masse, to say that they did not want to see the Le Pen gang take possession of their regions. That is the most important lesson from Sunday’s vote, and it is a reassuring one. But what caused the nation to right itself?