Here's an interesting and surprisingly even-handed BBC piece on France's nativist National Front party; they got their first seats in the French Senate this weekend. It does start by noting the unsavory past of the party, but continues to note the real appeal of an anti-immigrant, anti-EU pitch-
According to the social geographer Christophe Guilluy, there is a new divide in France: between the "metropolitan' and the "periphery". Front National voters are the French of the "periphery".
These are the people from the country, and small towns, and the sprawling new housing estates that form the outer, outer ring of cities like Paris.
That is a divide that resonates on this side of the Atlantic as well. Eastern Colorado and northernmost California both have succession movements going.
Increasingly those living inside the cities, says Mr Guilluy, are the well-off white-collar workers and the immigrants: both classes of people that benefit from globalisation.
In the periphery are the losers - people on modest incomes who are "no longer integrated economically, socially and culturally in the life of the nation". And they are 65% of the population.
The rich can afford the big cities. The poor get help affording it. The folks in between are on the outside looking in, in more ways than one.
"Contrary to what their elites keep telling them, the French have a very clear idea of what's happened in French society, because they live it in their flesh.
"For 30 years now they've been repeated the same message - that they'll benefit from globalisation and multiculturalism. But they don't. Their analysis is rational, relevant and above all it's the majority view."
There's somewhat more benefits to globalization in the US than in France thanks to a more market-friendly system and multiculturalism is more adjusting to nominally Catholic Hispanic immigrants than nominally Muslim immigrants from Africa in France. American small-towns are more religious than French ones, and it's more secularization that has hit the US provincials harder than multiculturalism.
However, an anti-immigrant, pro-traditional-culture, anti-centralization vibe runs in common with both. Tea Party folks can be paleoconservative reactionaries as well as libertarians, but the National Front tends to be more paleo and not very libertarian in its economics.
[National Front leader] Marine Le Pen adroitly articulates the feelings of these "invisible French". They see in her one of them.
That "invisible French" line sounds quite like Nixon's Silent Majority, appealing to blue-collar conservatives who didn't like where the culture was going in the late 1960s. Many of those folks voted for George Wallace's 1968 third-party run (and his 1972 run in the Democratic primaries); a law-and-order "Southern Strategy" looked to turn those Yellow Dog Democrats into Republicans without being (at least overtly) racist.
The difference here is that Le Pen isn't Tricky Dick, she's George Wallace's more-inclusive daughter, if I can compare her dad Jean Marie Le Pen to Wallace. If the Southern Strategy wasn't tried, playing to redneckish voters fears without directly playing to their ethnocentrism and racial fears, we might have had a nativist third party develop in the US.
French conservatives (or what passes for conservative in France) have played a variant of the Southern Strategy before, as this blog post from 2003 comes to mind, acting tough on lawless Muslim youth without being directly anti-Muslim. Being anti-veils comes into play as well from time to time as well.
However, when you add economic stagnation to that cultural indigestion and mainstream pol of both left and right who can't seem to do much to help that French Silent Majority, we see the National Front picking up that part of the political ecology, playing George Wallace without a Richard Nixon to counter him.
The Scottish independence vote had William Wallace invoked quite a bit, at least in US commentary on it. We may have another Wallace to keep in mind to their south.