Voting Blanc for LePen: Complexities of the French Election
"Mais c'est n'importe quoi!" I shouted across the dining table. I have easily adopted the French passion for politics after my nine months of living abroad in France, and I was finally not afraid to yell at my stubborn, 19 year old host brother when he told me he was voting blanc in the second tour. I tried to explain to him how important these elections were, but my frustration broke my French a part so all I could do was stutter. I had seen this happen in my own country; American's putting Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on equal ground and responding by not voting at all. Despite this, I had put faith in our country that Trump wouldn't pass. But he did, and because of that, it was hard for me to have faith in France.
A vote blanc in France is a vote for neither party, essentially a statement saying that neither candidate should be elected. From the Citoyens du Vote Blanc, "Je veux participer mais ce que vous me proposez ne me convient pas." Meaning, I want to participate, but what is presented isn't suitable, it isn't right for me. In theory, if above 50% of votes are vote blanc, new elections would be arranged to provide new candidates. However, this is not in place at the moment, so even if 80% of the votes were blanc, whichever candidate with the most remaining votes would be elected. Therefore, a vote blanc is merely a statement, a shout of dissatisfaction into the void. The vote blanc is an important part of the French election process, it gives people the opportunity to be involved and participate in the politics of their country, and to share their feelings of discontentment when they don't feel well represented. But these elections are different. In this year's case, a declaration of dissatisfaction is selfish, and a vote blanc is just about the same as not voting at all.
By voting blanc, and expressing his disapproval of French democracy, my host brother is deciding to share his opinion over making sure that LePen doesn't pass. He needs to remember that abstention and any vote that isn't for Macron is a vote for LePen, and I was fearful that like the American people, French citizens would forget how important individual participation is during these crucial elections.
When I found out Emmanuel Macron was going to be the president of France, the first thing I felt was relief. I was so pleased to see that my new home shared my values, and that I wasn't forced to be in another country with another Trump. The next thing I felt however, was disappointment, and some kind of jealousy. I had been so caught up in my comparisons between the French elections and the American ones that I had forgotten how different French people are from American people. I thought that the whole world was changing their generally open-minded social values, and that with Brexit and the election of Trump, even France would eventually fall to some chauvinistic, nationalist politics. I was disappointed in realizing that my country voted for Trump on it's own, not as a part of some large, chain reaction that was going to lead to the destruction of unprejudiced, compassionate societies. I thought that I could blame the world for what happened in America. I had forgotten that it was not the world's views affecting America's values that brought Trump into power, it was my own system of democracy and American voters who made that decision.
So this election, with all of my warnings to my host brother and my low expectations for France's future president, proved me wrong, and I couldn't be happier. They pushed against the bigotry and hatred that came to light in America, and I like to think it was inspired by our U.S. failures. Now, as an American, I have regained the hope for possibilities, and my urge to fight against the values unearthed by Trump, my American LePen, has grown even more significant.
Originally published by News-Decoder as “I Rediscovered Hope with the Election in France”