Soon, French PResident Jacques Chirac will face Jean-Marie Le Pen, France’s near-Nazi candidate, in the next PResidential election. Le Pen finished ahead of Lionel Jospin, the Prime Minister, in the runoff, earning the right to duke it out in the final round.
This has caused much consternation, as Le Pen is not an agreeable or likeable fellow. Chirac has announced that he will not debate Le Pen.
I feel this is a grave mistake:
The reason Le Pen got this far, IMHO, was that neither Chirac nor Jospin would debate him in any substantive way. Basically every issue Le Pen holds dear - immigration, anti-EU sentiments, racism, crime, etc. - was dismissed as being unworthy of the attention of the two big candidates, at least in terms of directly rebutting Le Pen. I think that basically validates Le Pen and gives him room to say anything he wants.
The effect of Chiran’s and Jospin’s refusal to debate Le Pen, as well as their own shortcomings, means Le Pen is the only major candidate discussing some issues that are important to people. If he’s the only candidate saying he’s worried about France’s crime problems, people who are afraid of crime might feel inclined to vote for him, especially if the other candidates are dismissing it as unimportant. Le Pen might be full of it, but if he’s the only one even talking about it, well, that’s worth votes.
History has shown that a clear and unambinguous platform will often defeat a candidate with no distinctive platform at all. Le Pen has a clear and unambinguous platform, even if a lot of it is basically a load of crap. Chirac and Jospin don’t, by comparison, have anything to say that distinguishes themselves from one another on a macro level, that the average voter can sink her teeth into. The problem with Le Pen isn’t just that he’s a BAD alternative. It’s that he’s the ONLY alternative, even though he’s bad.
Le Pen IS wrong about this stuff. Debate him, for God’s sake. If you do your homework you could wipe the floor with him.