There are officially two candidates left standing in France’s extremely unpredictable May 7th presidential election – Emmanuel Macron for the center and Marine Le Pen for the far-right. It’s going to be a historically close race. And even though the candidate is supposed to be running alone and their family members shouldn’t matter, we all know that’s just not true. Last week, Francois Fillon lost his bid for the presidency due to (among other things) the “Penelopegate” scandal where he was accused of using public funds to provide a fictional job for his wife, Penelope. This week, no one cares about Penelope. This week, we care about Mommy and Daddy.
Let’s talk about “Mommy” first. The media is paying a lot of attention to Emmanuel Macron’s wife, Brigitte Trogneux. Brigitte is 64 and Emmanuel is 39. They have been married for 10 years.
They have no children together but Brigitte has seven grandchildren. So, the young Presidential candidate is already a step-grandfather. They met when he was a student at a private Jesuit school where she was teaching. She was his drama coach; they adapted a play together when he was 15 and she was 40. He said he knew right then and there that he wanted to marry her and he eventually did. A little bit unconventional? Yeah, maybe, but that guy knows what he wants and went out and got it. I like that. But not everybody does.
Now that Mr. Macron might be President, his wife is being seen as a cougar, a predator, someone who abused her position of trust as his teacher. A tacky Taiwanese video portrays Brigitte ambling up the wedding aisle with a walker. Another campaign alleges that Emmanuel Macron is a homosexual. And, of course, there’s the more classic Oedipus complex angle of the man being in love with his mother. Would any of these theories even matter if he were 25 years older than her? Of course not. Unfortunately, ageism and sexism are still alive and well and rearing their ugly heads during this election campaign.
Brigitte Trogneux (she didn’t take the Macron name when they were married) is the inspiration behind her husband’s bid for the French Presidency. She is his trusted coach, his adviser – handling his agenda and helping him
with his speeches. Emmanuel Macron constantly acknowledges her importance to him. “Without her, I wouldn’t be who I am,” he has said. The attention that the age difference is getting is turning out to be a distraction, one that his “En Marche” center party doesn’t need in the last remaining days before the election. Hopefully, the French can look beyond that when they cast their ballot.
Now let’s walk over to the far-right side and talk about Daddy. Marine Le Pen, the National Front candidate, is the youngest daughter of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen. He is 89 years old; has run the party for four decades and founded it on racist, hateful, xenophobic tenets. He was suspended from the party in 2011 after publicly stating that the gas chambers were just a “detail” of World War II. Madame Le Pen’s Daddy is a polarizing figure in French politics who loves to be hated. He was convicted 15 times and has paid more than 30,000 Euros in fines for hate speeches. Marine claims she is “estranged” from her father. But is she? And, if she is, what does that say about her?
Marine Le Pen markets herself as the Populist candidate, the person who will speak for the working class of France. She claims to understand the ordinary guys and is not one of the present “bourgeois elite”
who govern this country. However, her Daddy inherited 5 Million Euros (about $5,450,000) and an 11-room mansion in 1977. The donor was Hubert Lambert of Lambert Cement, a wealthy French Industrialist and an ardent National Front supporter who wanted Jean-Marie to become president one day. (Mr. Le Pen ran for President and lost five times – in 1974, 1988, 1995, 2002 and 2007). Without this generous donation from a bourgeois elitist, the National Front Party would not exist. Marine Le Pen clearly benefited and continues to benefit from this political inheritance. Daddy, in a roundabout financial way at least, is the source of her rise to power. So why is she trying to distance herself from him? Why doesn’t she talk to him or answer his messages?
Marine Le Pen is trying to win a more moderate part of the French electorate. Daddy gets people angry and she doesn’t want that. She wants votes – this time enough votes to win the presidency. She has toned down the racist hate-talk that her Daddy is famous for, but is still representing the National Front party, the one that has xenophobia and racism as its base. If she really wanted a more moderate platform, why didn’t she just start her own party and divorce Daddy completely? It’s an easy-enough thing to do in France. Emmanuel Macron started his own party, as did seven other initial presidential candidates. When Marine Le Pen won the first round, she didn’t mention Daddy.
He texted her a congratulatory note, she didn’t answer. She also avoided him on May 1st, the traditional National Front speech day. Daddy spoke in front of the Joan of Arc statue in the center of Paris and she picked a venue in a more modest area in the northern part of the city. She used him to get where she is, a stone’s throw away from the presidency, the biggest Elitist office this country has to offer.
French citizens will go to the polls on Sunday, May 7th. The whole world will be watching this extremely important election for France and for the future of Europe. Mommy and Daddy will be watching too. We’ll have to wait until Sunday to see which one wins.