On Sunday, France’s worst side won the first round.
It must not win the second.
This coming Sunday, will the Front National, a despicable party led by a nepotistic clique replete with ex-cons pining for the good old days of wedge politics, gain control of entire regions of the country? In the second round of regional elections, will France concede part of its territory to the heirs of the Vichy regime, to those nostalgic for “French Algeria” and the OAS, to perennial enemies of republican democracy?
Will France consent to live with this plague, inhaling its poison day after day? Will we stand by fatalistically while smug, vulgar ignorance makes France the laughingstock and the pity of Europe? Will we resign ourselves to the posthumous revenge of Charles Maurras, Robert Brasillach and Marshal Pétain, the revenge of a cabal that sought to assassinate Charles de Gaulle, of a party led by people who hate the best of France, who never stop trying to make France smaller, less influential, less glorious than she is?
Will we stand idly by as one, two, and conceivably three or four of the regions emblematic of France’s genius are governed by men and women who, even today, when their country finds itself involved in conflict, when it asks its pilots and special forces to risk their lives in foreign theaters, seem always to side with the enemy – yesterday Gaddafi or the destroyers of Mali; today Bashar al-Assad; tomorrow, God forbid, Putin and his provocations?
No. To do so would bring too much shame, evil, and chaos.
There is still time this week, provided our collective conscience wins out over petty scheming, to push back the rising tide.
A few weeks ago, confronted with another threat to our life together, France demonstrated a deep-seated spirit of resistance that amazed the world.
The two situations are not directly comparable, of course.
One cannot place on the same level the murderous nihilism of jihadists who kill as if they were cutting hay and the sorry sorcerer’s apprentices who, by deploying the institutions of the republic against its spirit and its history, would repeal our traditions of asylum, restrain the creative freedom of our artists and revoke the rights that French women have struggled most mightily to win.
But the two phenomena do echo each other.
In the situation France faces we find a fresh, new hatred and a rancid one that, although appearing as polar opposites, mirror, complement and reinforce each other in undermining our social contract and pitting France’s people against one another.
And that is why I say this: The attacks of January and November provoked a burst of national unity that matched the finest moments of our history.
A similar expression of unity and resistance must respond to Sunday’s tone-deaf vote.
To the hatred expressed at the polls, we must reply with the same vigor as we did to that expressed in bullets and blood.
The millions who have said no to terrorism and to the black flag must now say no to those who would adulterate the spirit of our laws and usurp the French flag for partisan gain – we must say no to the one and only party whose leaders declined on January 11, the day after the killings at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market, to join the river of humanity that flooded the streets of our cities to reject barbarity and proclaim its love for France.
Concretely, this means three things.
Those who love France, those of good will, believers in tolerance and the motto of the republic, must turn out in great numbers this coming Sunday, in numbers far greater numbers than those who voted in the first round.
Citizens of the democratic Left and Right in the regions under threat must bury their differences this week and come to the polls with a single goal in mind, that of preventing a gang of adventurers, saboteurs of our system of governance and citizenship, from reaching top positions in local government.
And the candidates of the parties of the democratic Left and Right owe it to themselves, to their constituents and to France to begin immediately to explore and adopt one of the possible responses to the crisis – voluntary withdrawal of candidacy, merger of lists, or a common front, as the situation requires – that will block the path of those who, two centuries after Voltaire and a 150 years after the founding of the republic, believe that their time has come.
No excuses are acceptable.
No rationalization, however sound on its face (“combined lists create confusion,” for example, or “the Front National benefits from the suppression of debate and political differences”), can be justified compared with the urgency of preventing the Le Pen clan from taking hostage the two poles of a temporarily disoriented France.
Responsibility for the predicted defeat will fall, in our party structures as in our streets, to those whose narrow outlook prevents them from placing the common good ahead of their personal passions and individual interests.
At the end of the terrible year that she has endured, France deserves better than defeatism.
What a pity if, after standing so courageously against an outside enemy, France were to yield to an inner enemy that dreams, in its way, of bringing the nation to its knees.
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