A Transatlantic Holy Alliance?

The result of recent elections in the United States and in France raises the possibility of a new Holy Alliance, a loose alliance of the two countries to uphold the principles and values of Western civilization by changing the present system.

The great Marxist, Groucho, put it succinctly. "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member." Present-day politics has its amusing side as prominent individuals criticize the ruling "elites" or establishment in their country, those who dominate and share in the making of political, economic and military decisions. Criticism of the establishment, by those within it, has become fashionable as recent elections and statements show.

Donald Trump's campaign for the U.S. presidency did not drown because of his constant warning he would drain the swamp in Washington. On the contrary he floated with it. More surprisingly, British prime minister Theresa May and, less surprisingly, Francois Fillon, a leading candidate for the presidency in France, themselves members of their country's elite, point out the inadequacies of contemporary elites.

On November 14, 2016 Prime Minister Theresa May spoke at the Lord Mayor's Banquet at the prestigious Guildhall in London to a wealthy, influential audience dining on roast beef and drinking $300 bottles of red wine. She spoke of being aware of the downsides as well as the benefits of the globalization process and of the tensions and differences between those who gain and those who lose from the process.

In a manner similar to Trump, who was supported by those called "deplorables" by his rival Hillary Clinton, May indicated she understood the problem of modest to low income individuals who see their jobs being outsourced and wages undercut. These individuals see and are unhappy about the emergence of a new global elite who sometimes seem to play by a different set of rules and whose lives are far removed from their everyday existence.

For some time, France has been largely governed by a small group of individuals, a self-reproducing caste drawn from those who have studied at the same few elite schools. If Britain has Oxford and the U.S. has the Ivy League, they are only partly comparable to the role and dominance of elite French schools. Those schools, the Sciences-Po, ENA, Ecole Polytechnique, and the HEC business management school, determine the careers of their students and the leaders of France.

One of those eager to be a leader will emerge in the presidential election in France to be held in April 8 and May 2017. Two of the major presidential candidates have made similar statements critical of the French elite or society. The views of Martine Le Pen, head of the Front National (FN) are well known. She has compared events in present-day France, including mass immigration of Muslims, now 8% of the population, to the barbaric invasion of the 4th century, and asserts that the consequences will be the same. The Muslim "occupation" in France weighs heavily on local residents.

Le Pen is a fierce nationalist, and prominent parts of her program are in opposition to the European Union, the "Europe of Brussels," to globalism, to free trade, and to open borders. One of her rallying cries is emphasis on the "voice of people... the spirit of France." She is likely to do well at the first round of voting, but according to polls, not likely to win at the second round. However, the polls in France, like those in the U.S. concerning Trump, may understate the hidden vote, whose priority is anti-immigration.

Opposing her will be a nominee of the Socialist party, but that party and its leader President Francois Hollande, is at present deeply unpopular. Hollande has not yet declared if he will be a candidate to succeed himself: his positive decision is dependent on serious reduction of unemployment in the country. And Prime Minister Manuel Valls is in the wings.

The main opponent of Le Pen will be Francois Fillon, the 62-year-old candidate of the right-wing party, Les Republicains (formerly UMP). Fillon has had a 35-year-old political career, including being prime minister 2007-2012, and a cabinet minister five other times, and a parliamentary representative of his home town, Le Mans. He had led in the first round of the Republican primary, gaining 44.1% compared with rivals, Alain Juppe with 28.6% and former president and his former boss, Nicolas Sarkozy who was eliminated from the second round since he was third with 20.7% of the vote. On November 27, 2016 Fillon won the second round of his party primary with 67 % of the vote. The electoral slogan, similar to that of Donald Trump, of this veteran conservative was, "we have to change the system."

Francois Fillon is more moderate than his rival Juppe, but he is an integral part of the conservative, Catholic Right section of Les Republicains, if not a "social reactionary", the term used by his opponents in referring to him. Though Fillon had emphasized his social conservatism, his Catholic and family values, he has declared he would not seek to overturn the 2013 law allowing same-sex marriage. Though he is personally opposed to abortion, he will not change the 1975 law advocated by Simone Veil that legalized it in France, nor change the abortion law. He embodies family values: he and his wife, originally Welsh, have raised five children in their 12th-century chateau in Western France.

Fillon is clear about the menace facing France and the world. Russia poses no threat. The real danger is Islamist terrorism and fundamentalism, the invasion of bloody Islamism into daily life: "that invasion could herald a third world war." Fillon holds that Radical Islam is corrupting some Muslim citizens in France. He advocates administrative controls on Islam, dissolving the Salafi movement, and banning preaching in Arabic. In summer 2016 he approved the banning of burkinis, the full-bodied swimsuits, worn by Muslim women on the beaches of France.

His attitude towards Islamic extremism was clear in his book, Conquering Islamic Totalitarianism, published in 2016. He called on France to war against that totalitarianism. Like Le Pen, he asserts that France is not a multicultural society, and opposes the idea of identity politics. On the contrary, French national identity must be protected. He invokes, among other things, cooperation with Russia and with Vladimir Putin, who has praised him as a very principled person. The two share a concern about the virulence of Islam, especially ISIS, and the protection of Christians in the Middle East. Fillon believes sanctions against Russia because of its actions in Ukraine should be dropped.

Fillon, an admirer of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, plans policies similar to theirs, including cuts in public spending, raising the retirement age, reducing the number of public sector jobs by half a million, ending the 35-hour week, lowering taxes, and curbing the power of the trade unions.

Fillon also shares positions that are similar to or coincide with those of both Le Pen and Donald Trump. Among them are doctrines of patriotism, family values, and reduction of immigration to a minimum. All three stress the sovereignty of their country, the U.S. and France, and call for what they see as a decline to be stopped.  All three share the strong view that authority and true values must be restored in their country. As in the case of Brexit in the UK, for the three politicians, opposition to immigration is still the key. Does this herald a Franco-American alliance?