The race for the presidency of France seems to have been scripted by our television news channels—which is bad news for democracy, whose natural ground is common sense. Every week gives us a mass of news, reversing that of the week before. This is by way of telling readers that what I write today could easily be wrong tomorrow. And as I’ve mentioned before on this site, a variety of outcomes are still possible, even as the first round of the election approaches in April.
The French presidential election is almost upon us. The first round will take place in mid-April and the second in early May. Usually, such campaigns unfold in a way that is more or less predictable. Not this year.
Something strange has been happening all year in Western politics. Both in the United States and Europe, events dismissed as unthinkable have occurred again and again. In June, Britons voted to leave the European Union. In November, Americans elected Donald Trump to be President. In opinion polls throughout 2016, Euroskeptic parties like Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement in Italy and the National Front in France, once derided as fringe movements, have shown continuing appeal. In fact, in Italy, Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement just combined to defeat a constitutional referendum championed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, leading Renzi to resign.