Political Animal


May 04, 2012 5:26 PM Center-Right Meltdown Spreads

By Ed Kilgore

It appears the United States may not be the only country in which the unpopularity of a conservative agenda pushes conservatives even further to the Right.

At TNR, David Bell contemplates the incoherence of Nicolas Sarkozy’s ideology, and his desperate attempt to secure National Front voters as he heads towards a likely defeat in France’s second-round presidential election, and suggests:

Sarkozy’s stunning acknowledgment of Le Pen’s legitimacy can only help her cause: In the days after the first round, nearly two-thirds of Sarkozy voters told pollsters they favored an electoral pact with her party in the legislative elections that will follow soon after the presidential campaign. Le Pen herself clearly wants Sarkozy to lose, declaring that she will cast a blank ballot in the second round. She has called the UMP no different from the Socialists, and, indeed, her nationalist stance offers a starker alternative to the two major parties than they do to each other. Can this alternative achieve major party status? Having helped to dissolve the traditional French right while failing to replace it with a coherent or popular ideology of his own, it now appears possible that Nicolas Sarkozy’s principal legacy will be the rise of Marine Le Pen.

Pressure from the hard right is also squeezing British Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of local elections that showed both Tories and their Lib Dem coalition partners losing heavily, even as the right-wing UKIP party made gains. According to Reuters:

Vociferous right-wingers within the Conservative Party have always maintained that Cameron should have done more to appeal to the party’s traditional supporters by attacking the European Union and talking tough on crime and immigration.
UKIP’s success at the local elections is sure to embolden those Conservative right-wingers. Calls for Cameron to hold a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU will become more strident, as will opposition to his decision to legalise gay marriage.
“So far he’s tended to treat his party like a general, a field-marshal. But he has to realise it’s not his party and listen to other voices in the party,” influential online Conservative activist Tim Montgomerie told Reuters.

That’s code for “move right or die.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • howard on May 04, 2012 6:35 PM:

    i don't know french politics well enough, but in the uk, i'm reduced to hoping for the following:

    a. the lib dems finally withdraw from the cameron government, leading to elections;
    b. the labor party goes all in and runs on an expansionary policy;
    c. elected, the labor party implements expansionary policy - and the economy expands!;
    d. envious neighboring countries wonder why they have to continue to soldier on under the burden of austerity and policy changes elsewhere!

    i mean, does anyone have a better scenario?

    (it's tougher for france to do this, btw, regadless of the election outcome, because it's part of the euro)

  • idlemind on May 04, 2012 8:13 PM:

    I have hopes that there is a pattern emerging here: conservative leaders will continue their rightward march, with an appreciable fraction of their followers splintering off in revulsion along the way. But the question is just how much power the fanatical diehards will achieve before their numbers shrink too far. Not to go Godwin, here, but we've seen this all go very badly before in history.

  • Peggy Enmor on May 04, 2012 10:45 PM:

    @idlemind, I'm afraid there's good reason to be cautious about this rightward trend. And while "going Godwin" was coined at a time when we all thought final solutions were beyond the pale, it's shocking to see just how quickly once-firm assumptions disintegrate.