Le Pen Unveils New Name, Trump Toes NRA Line

Marine Le Pen rebrands her far-right party in France. Donald Trump fears the gun lobby after all.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, February 24, 2016
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, February 24, 2016 (European Parliament)

Marine Le Pen has proposed to change the name of her far-right party from Front National to Rassemblement National (National Rally).

The rebranding follows a disappointing performance in last year’s presidential election, when Le Pen placed a distant second with 34 percent support to Emmanuel Macron’s 66 percent.

“Originally, we were a protest party,” Le Pen told delegates in the northern French town of Lille on Sunday. ”There must be no doubt in the eyes of all that we are now a governing party.”

To accomplish that, the Front must change more than its name; it must change its beliefs.

I argued after the 2017 election that the Front stood most to gain from becoming a socially, as opposed to a national, conservative party. With the defection of center-right, pro-market Republicans to Macron, there is even more of a vacuum on what in American terms could be called the “Christian right”.

But Republicans know it. They have made Laurent Wauquiez their leader, a social conservative and hardliner on immigration, in order to woo those same voters. If the Republicans turn into Front-lite, does is still make sense for the Front to become Republicans+?

Somebody who is definitively not helping: Steve Bannon, the far-right American firebrand who this weekend urged the Front to wear accusations of racism and xenophobia as a “badge of honor”.

Renzi’s replacements

Transportation Minister Graziano Delrio and Nicola Zingaretti, the president of Lazio, have emerged as frontrunners to succeed Matteo Renzi as leader of Italy’s Democratic Party.

Delrio is a Renzi loyalist, Zingaretti an apparatchik. Neither would rock the boat.

The Democrats fell from first to fourth place in the election last week. Their best hope of remaining in power is forming a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, but that would require a lurch to the left.

A tangle of resentments and bigotries

A thought-provoking thread by Vox journalist David Roberts, who argues that the American right has become, in Lionel Trilling’s words, a bundle of “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” Conservatism is now little more than a tangle of resentments and bigotries, argues Roberts, driven by the erosion of white privilege.

I think that is a little unfair to the many smart conservatives who still write for the likes of National Review and The Weekly Standard and Roberts seems to lump together conservatives and libertarians.

But there is truth in what he writes: Donald Trump has taken over the Republican Party and remade it in his image. He couldn’t have done that so easily if there weren’t a strong current of resentment and bigotry on the right to begin with.

Also read my story from January on why Republicans stick with Trump and this story from September on how his takeover of the Republican Party makes a realignment of the two-party system more likely.

Trump gives in to the NRA

Remember when Trump accused fellow Republicans of being afraid of the National Rifle Association and promised that he would introduce meaningful gun legislation after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida?

Well. Jonathan Chait took a look his administration’s actual proposal and reports for New York magazine that it toes the NRA line. There is no higher age limit on gun purchases, no enhanced background checks, no ban on assault weapons. Instead, the focus is on arming teachers, a patently absurd proposal that is nevertheless the NRA’s latest talking point.

Piñera returns in Chile

Sebastián Piñera was sworn in as president of Chile for the second time on Sunday. The businessman-turned-politician succeeds the socialist Michelle Bachelet. The two have alternated in power since 2006.

Read Christian FitzHugh’s story from December about Piñera’s challenges.