An essay by Nathan Pinkowski at First Things analyzes the resurgence in France of traditionalist Reaction, personified by Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. It gives more, and more explicit, evidence that the formerly exhaustive hegemony over the categories of latter day political discourse of the spectrum from Left liberal to Right liberal has begun to tilt. The appearance of the essay in First Things – a bastion of Right liberalism – would seem to indicate that the classical liberalism of the religious Right by whom and to whom First Things is written has begun to undergo – not to suffer, so much as to enjoy – the radical shift of orientation that arrives with the realization that there is an altogether different axis of political categories, that is orthogonal to the spectrum from communism on the left to libertarianism on the right, prior thereto, and superior.
Pinkowski begins by saying that, “Since the 1980s, the French Left and Right have formed a front républicain or cordon sanitaire to keep the Front National (FN) out of power.” His conclusion is that with the rise of the reactionary Right – or as we would call it, the orthogonal Right – French politics has begun to enter a phase change, in which the rightward end of the classically liberal spectrum will begin to waken from its liberalism, so that the cordon sanitaire will instead quarantine the Left.
The article is well worth reading, not just on that account, but because it provides a succinct and informative précis of domestic French politics since the Revolution, focusing naturally on the decades since WWII. Highly recommended. A sample from the conclusion:
Rather than predict electoral success or failure, it is more important to acknowledge the emergence of a new political tradition. The once-conflicting strands of the French right are discovering intellectual and political unity through a critique of liberal individualism. For this reason, anti-Orléanism could realign French politics in a way not seen since de Gaulle.
De Gaulle’s achievement was to draw the more traditional cultural forces of the French right into the orbit of republicanism. He used the resources of Bonapartism to fix the errors of the Fourth Republic and build a lasting republican regime. But his alliance with Orléanism was a Cold War alliance of convenience to hold off more sinister forces. While Orléanism is to the right of communism and socialism, its conception of freedom makes it an ally of all attacks on traditional authority and culture. When French communism weakened and French socialism became bourgeois, this alliance ceased to make sense. In a way, what France has witnessed since 1989 is a return to 1789. As was evident then, Orléanism is ontologically left. It votes to execute the king.
The test for the French right is whether it has the virtue of prudence. Can it identify the problems of new decades and new circumstances that de Gaulle never addressed to create a new political alignment? While it must hold to de Gaulle’s republicanism, it must confront its real foes more directly than Gaullism ever did. Thus the sine qua non of the French right is a new cordon sanitaire. Curing the body politic of its ills requires quarantining liberal individualism and detoxifying France of May 1968.