The Danger Of ‘Making France Great Again’
Carolyn Walsh ’17
Opinion Co-Editor Emerita
In the grand scheme of modern global politics, a presidential election in France might seem insignificant or even mundane compared to the dire situation in Syria and the chaos that is the Trump administration. However, the contest between the centrist and pro-Europe Emmanuel Macron and the far-right and xenophobic Marine Le Pen has the potential to be far more consequential than most Americans might think.
When French voters go to the polls on May 7, how they choose between Macron and Le Pen could very well inflict the same kind of political upheaval in France as the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election has done in the U.S. Moreover, if Le Pen claims victory, it could mean the end of the European Union and the current international order as we know it.
What is going on in France is almost eerily similar to what transpired during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Like in the U.S., the presidential election in France has been a serious test for the country’s political establishment—and one it has so far failed.
The French election process consists of two rounds of voting. The first round consists of voters casting their ballots for the candidate of their choice from a list of all qualifying candidates. As it is extremely rare for an individual candidate to receive over 50 percent of the overall vote in the first round, a second round of voting is held as a runoff between the top two candidates. Whoever wins this second round becomes the next French president.
The first round of the 2017 election was held on April 23, and not one candidate from the traditional center-left and center-right parties came close to getting the majority of the vote. Rather, the former investment banker and independent candidate Macron and Le Pen of the far-right National Front are headed into the runoff on May 7.
Again, to parallel the U.S., Macron, the “safe” and Clinton-esque candidate, has been showing promise over Le Pen in the most recent polls. Overconfidence among French anti-populists looking at these trends is understandable. However, something similar to the overwhelming shock felt in the U.S. after Trump’s win has great potential to happen in France.
Le Pen and her National Front Party have been at the forefront of the resurrection of far-right politics in Europe. Le Pen’s ability to take advantage of a divided and disillusioned French electorate should not be underestimated. A National Front victory has the real potential to destabilize Europe and to shape France into a protectionist, xenophobic, and neofascist state.
In contrast to Macron, Le Pen wishes to leave the European Union, abandon the Euro, and reinstate the French franc. If such a “Frexit” were to happen, the European Union and the dream of a unified Europe would be dead.
With last year’s Brexit, France and Germany remain the largest powers sustaining the EU; a French withdrawal would be a mortal wound to a system that has more or less provided political and economic stability to the continent for decades.
Le Pen’s policy attitudes toward immigration represent a whitewashed form of the kind of xenophobia that defined the National Front’s controversial past. Although she has succeeded in making this antagonism toward immigrant populations more mainstream, it is no less extreme and harmful—she wishes to ban all net immigration and reform France’s welfare state so that the bulk of spending is directed toward French citizens.
In the effort to “make France great again,” Le Pen has made it clear that the best future for France is one that caters to a narrow, nostalgic vision of French culture and “Frenchness”—one that marginalizes the voices and lives of those who come from different cultures.
The French people have a serious task ahead of them. On May 7 they will have to choose whether or not to reject the dangers close-minded, populist, and xenophobic politics. Let’s just hope they don’t make the same mistake we did.
The Grounds for Impeachment
by Carolyn Walsh ’17
As if it were not obvious enough that the Trump presidency is like a terrifying episode of The Twilight Zone, our Commander-in-Chief has somehow managed to up his insane conspiracy game by accusing former president Barack Obama of wiretapping him during the 2016 election campaign.
Trump took to Twitter earlier this month to lament the “terrible” news that Obama spied on Trump Tower before the election—without providing any substantive evidence to support this extreme allegation. In the days following, high ranking individuals, from Obama himself to former FBI director James Clapper to House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif, came out to say there is absolutely no evidence of any wiretapping of the Trump campaign.
Despite the outrage and objections from both sides of the aisle over Trump’s claims, the President and key members of his team have refused to take back or even apologize for what has been said. Since taking office, Trump has been embroiled in multiple scandals—but this could be the one that finally delivers a fatal blow to his administration.
With these wiretap claims, Trump has shown a blatant disregard for the standards of conduct associated with the Presidency of the United States, and thus, the grounds for his impeachment have never been more compelling.
The legal standards for impeaching the President of the United States are quite high. Article II, Section IV of the U.S. Constitution states, “the President can be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Although there is some disagreement over what specific actions can constitute impeachment, constitutional scholars generally agree that abuses of the office, including deliberate lying and an overreach of executive power, are reasons for impeachment.
Trump’s unfounded wiretapping claims against former President Obama is a serious distortion of the responsibilities of the office of the Presidency and essentially qualifies as the criminal offence of false and defamatory speech. Trump’s hollow accusation of Obama committing the impeachable and criminal act of wiretapping the Trump campaign is itself an impeachable and criminal act.
This past week, FBI director James Comey put the final nail in the coffin of there being any semblance of truth to Trump’s claims. Comey stated in a public testimony before Congress that he has “no information” to support the wiretap allegations.
At this point it is abundantly clear that the wiretap story is a flat out lie, and probably one created by Trump to distract from the other real disasters of his administration—the executive order travel ban and the ongoing FBI investigation into the possible collusion between his team and Russia leading up to the election.
Trump has deliberately misused his power as the President to knowingly slander a former one and, it seems, to attempt to delegitimize the political opposition to his administration.
Again, Trump has shown his true colors. He has no respect for the office of the Presidency or the responsibilities and standards of conduct that come with it. He has no respect for American democracy and its value of transparency.
Finally, however, it seems that the man who cries false conspiracy theory could finally be eaten by the wolf of impeachment.
It’s Time For the Media to Take On Trump
by Carolyn Walsh ’17
The Trump administration is waging war against the media. Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, and Trump himself have lambasted negative coverage, have threatened to bar “unfriendly” outlets from having access to the White House, and have talked down journalists attempting to correct misinformation the administration has put forth. Trump’s election to the White House has presented a stiff challenge to contemporary political journalism, but it should serve as a wake up call that something fundamental in the American media system needs to change. Trump’s bullying deceit and sensationalist behavior can no longer distract from and replace the real headlines of his autocratic attacks on our liberal democracy. Scores of nationwide protests in recent weeks have highlighted civilian resistance, but it is time for the news media—and professional journalists—to step up to the plate and take Trump head on.
The news media, as an independent institution, is an indispensable aspect of our democracy. Professional journalists carry the responsibility of keeping the public informed on the activities of the government and other powerful institutions. As the citizens’ watchdog, the press plays a vital role in promoting transparency and holding public figures accountable. Throughout the campaign season, the mainstream news media’s coverage of Trump conjured numerous failures. Seeing profits in Trump’s celebrity status and his unpredictable outbursts, news media outlets more or less excused Trump’s glaring flaws and incompetence. His campaign rally speeches were broadcasted live like rock concerts, and even as Trump disparaged women, Muslims, immigrants, veterans, the disabled, and even the media itself, major networks and publications continued to play it safe with Trump, giving him the excessive coverage he craved, and avoided tough questions on policy and conduct. The media’s passive complicity with his crude antics and manipulation helped Trump win the election. In 2017, we cannot afford passive complicity anymore.
The Trump administration, although still in its infancy, has peddled out lies and invoked damage on our country’s democratic institutions and standard principles. To list all of the disturbing things the new administration has done in the past few weeks would be exhaustive, but here are a few. Trump has still refused to sever his personal business ties, violating Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, and has yet to release his tax returns. He issued an (most likely unconstitutional) executive order banning immigration from seven majority Muslim nations, which caused deliberate confusion and chaos, and then challenged the legitimate authority of federal judges who blocked the ban. He appointed notorious white supremacist and certified fascist, Steve Bannon to a key seat on the National Security Council. He, again, praised the autocratic Vladimir Putin in bizarre fashion, and he has tweeted numerous crazy, inflammatory statements because, you know, what else should he be doing? Citizens, as organized and loud as we can be, cannot demand answers and change completely on our own. We need the news media to proclaim its role as a safeguard of democracy and put a powerful and unrelenting check on Trump.
Mainstream news reporters need to start immediately and repetitively calling out Trump and his team for their blatant lies as soon as they happen. Truth is not and cannot become a partisan issue. Every provocative tweet Trump sends out needs to be ignored. Instead, the news media should only focus its coverage on issues of policy and governance—and it should not become distracted by a clownish sideshow. Trump and his allies seem to believe they are above transparency and accountability—but this could not be more false. Even as the administration refuses to answer important questions and attempts to paint anyone who does not agree with them as the “enemy,” reporters must continue asking the important questions and demanding transparency.
Media resistance to Trump will require cooperation and solidarity between individual reporters and major outlets. It will require the acknowledgement that being the eyes and ears of democracy—informing citizens of the truth and upholding the fundamental principles of our society—is more important than chasing ratings or getting on a bully’s good side.
Stay Angry. Stay United.
by Carolyn Walsh
I am angry. I am angry for women, for racial and religious minorities, for immigrants, for Americans with disabilities, for the LGBT community, and for Americans living in poverty. I am angry for the urgent truth of climate change and the common sense in gun control. I am angry for decency, respect, and the core tenets of liberal democracy. Since the election of now-President Donald Trump, I have been outraged for the country that I love.
In the weeks leading up to Inauguration Day, I felt mostly alone in my anger and sadness. Watching and reading the news filled me with feelings of dread and even hopelessness. On the day after the inauguration, though, something big changed. I finally found solace and inspiration in my anger by taking part in Rhode Island’s Women’s March on Washington rally.
On the sunny afternoon of Jan. 21, thousands of people flooded the south lawn of the Rhode Island State House in protest of the new administration. In cities in all 50 U.S. states—from D.C. to Chicago, New York, L.A., and Boston—massive crowds of protesters showed up to resist bigotry and dishonesty as the new normal. Standing in the crowd at the State House, it was truly remarkable to witness people’s loud and unified passion.
Speeches given by the rally’s organizers, local artists, and women’s and human rights activists, underlined a collective anger towards Trump’s attacks on American democracy and the rights and humanity of so many groups of people in this country: African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, women, etc.There was nothing passive about the anger expressed by the speakers and displayed on the many signs carried by protesters; it was a promise and a call to action.
A collective promise that we will not sit idly by when the Trump administration and the Republican congress attempt to strip women of vital access to reproductive health care, to gut government programs of assistance to poor and minority Americans, and to implement draconian immigration policies. Scores of Americans will, and must, resist dutifully and unwaveringly together.
Leaving the rally, I felt energized and secure in my anger and how to channel it. The thousands of women (and men) from every walk of life who showed up to the State House and the nearly 3.1 million that marched in cities across the country sent a loud and clear message: We will not be degraded, we are a force to be reckoned with, and we will continue to fight for our rights. Our country’s new president has displayed an astounding lack of respect for the institutions he now represents and the citizens he is meant to serve and protect.
He has, on multiple occasions, disparaged the country’s intelligence services, routinely attacked the press, and has demonstrated the audacity to believe the American people so stupid and foolish that he and his team can flat out lie and manipulate the truth. He has failed to properly address the conflict of interests surrounding his business dealings and to honor the standard of transparency by releasing his tax returns.
The allegations of Trump and his team colluding with the Russian government before the election, albeit officially unverified but not completely unsubstantiated, cannot be overlooked by the American public. We must demand transparency and straight answers because even the potential of our free elections being compromised and our President brought into office by a foreign power is an outrage and betrayal beyond comprehension.
Attending the Rhode Island Women’s March and seeing pictures and videos from the countless other marches provided me with two things I desperately needed: a reminder that I am not alone in my frustration, and a path forward with hope.
Our new president, who has bragged openly about sexually assaulting women and once called his female opponent a “nasty woman” in the middle of a debate, clearly does not know the power and strength of the American women, who have led what the media is calling the largest protest demonstration in the history of this country. Nor does he know the power and strength of the scores of Americans of all genders, races, and backgrounds who marched last Saturday and will continue to march.
Going forward, I will seek out and support, with time and money, organizations that work to uphold American principles, and to protect the rights of women and other systemically disadvantaged groups. I will sign petitions, connect with others, and I will show up and lend my voice where I can.
I will stay angry and I will stand united with the America I know and love. Keep resisting, and march on.