Jean-Marie Le Pen was France’s and in many ways Western Europe’s symbol of an old entrenched, at times embarrassing version of right-wing politics.
His neo-Vichy aspirations, his veneration of far-right and fascist groups, his sympathies for the far-right regimes of the 1930s and 40s, and his often anti-Semitic statements, made him an embarrassment not just for the French left and centre, but also for traditional conservatives who found the flirtation with anything remotely fascistic to be totally abhorrent and a denial of the proud historical moment when France, Britain and the United States fought on the same side as the Soviet Union against the biggest threat to human freedom in history, The Hitler Reich.
Today, many fail to understand that Marine Le Pen is not her father. Her policies have abandoned the idea of a militant Vichy ideal, she has renounced anti-Semitism and over all, she has done something that her father never aspired to do.
Unlike increasingly the neo-con French right (best represented by Nicholas Sarkozy) and the neo-lib/fake socialist left of President Hollande, Marine Le Pen’s Front National has in great measure, taken the centre ground.
When Marine Le Pen speaks of France’s commitment to secularism, she is putting a dagger in the heart of ancien regime French conservatives and their desire for an overtly Roman Catholic country. She is doing the same for a Vichy government with its ambiguous relationship with both church and Laïcité.
When she speaks about the need to respect the sovereignty of Syria and respect Russia’s right to defend the people of Crimea with the democratic mandate they presented, she sounds a lot like a socialist from the 1960s, opposed to any French associations with Uncle Sam’s Cold War.
When she speaks about a civic nationalism where all people must embrace French values rather than sectarianism or religious segregation, she is speaking from the centre ground of modern French politics.
Far from the population of countries like France turning to the old reactionary right, many parties which were formerly reactionary have adopted a centre ground that the mainstream right and left parties have blatantly surrendered to globalism, post-modernism and sectarianism.
Le Pen is just one example of this, but in European politics she is the most strident, as her own flesh and blood father, the man who founded her party, is something she is not. He was a reactionary and she is on the centre-right, with some shades of the old left.
The mainstream media do themselves no favours when judging Marine Le Pen by the standards of her father. Frankly, someone who was on the reactionary right and went to a Marine Le Pen rally, would in great part be disappointed.
I’m fully aware that for the traditional hard-socialist left and the neo-lib/neo-con right, Marine Le Pen will never be embraced, but this is indeed her appeal.
If many in Europe came to the conclusion that hard socialism was fatally flawed by the 1980s and 1990s, there is an even greater discontent today, with the neo-liberal realities which have dominated Europe since the end of the Cold War.
There is a new centre ground in town. If the mainstream media are to be believed, the centre has turned right.
In reality, the right has embraced compromise and realism in ways that those stuck in the 1930s never could do.