It seems fashionable nowadays to compare Donald Trump to Marine Le Pen or the Trump movement to the French National Front. The idea behind this comparison is to suggest that the French far right might very well win the coming presidential elections in May 2017 and create a French “Trump surprise.” But, as when it came to comparisons between Brexit and Trump, comparisons between Trump and Le Pen tend to be hyped. There are some evident similarities between Le Pen and Trump, but there are also crucial differences. It is true that both tend to reject mass immigration and globalism, that their discourse is deeply anti-elitist, and that the establishment, at least during election time, frenetically smears them. Their current successes flow from global skepticism of politics and the establishment media and the intelligentsia. Furthermore, France, maybe more than any other western country, experiences a deep identity crisis which was recently revived by the migrant crisis. This has been fertile ground for the National Front’s wins.
Marine Le Pen has, however, some fundamental differences with Trump. First, she is not a billionaire. Although this could seem irrelevant, one reason Trump appealed to so many electors is that he was not beholden to special interests, did not need to be president, and proved himself to be an efficient businessman, making projects happen ahead of schedule and under budget. For Trump’s supporters, their candidate was running in this election out of genuine love for his country, not out of material interest. Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, is a career politician. As with every career politician, her job is to be elected and reelected. Whereas Trump was a part of the private sector, Marine Le Pen made politics her career and is therefore not viewed as an outsider as much as Trump is.
On this note, Trump’s profile might be closer to another presidential candidate: Emmanuel Macron. Macron was a French government senior official and an investment banker at Rothschild before he engaged in politics. In 2014, he became minister of the economy in the socialist government until he resigned in 2016. Unlike Trump, Macron is no billionaire, but he nonetheless appears as a non-career politician who does not need to be elected (i.e., whose motives are supposedly selfless). Thus, Trump’s ability to identify topics of interest to the electorate is sometimes closer to…