First came Brexit. Then there was the “shock” election of Donald Trump. Afterward, all eyes turned to France. People began to ask whether lightning would strike a third time with the surging popularity of the nationalist leader in that country, Marine Le Pen.
My answer it: probably won’t.
Stumped was one of the few books that predicted Trump would win, and the only one that did so according to a testable model that proved true beyond my own expectations. The main thesis, to put it crudely, is that the better persuader, the person (and overall team) that best utilizes the proven social and psychological principles of influence (which Stumped displays in detail), wins the election. What does the Stumped model say about the French election and the chances of Marine Le Pen?
It’s About the Brand
One of Donald Trump’s strengths heading into the primary was that he was a celebrity billionaire businessman that everybody knew. He was associated with success and so could run on a theme of “bringing business sense to Washington,” a desire many people had.
Marine Le Pen does have the advantage of being known, which, it turns out, helps in advertising tolerance. The problem is the Le Pen brand is completely toxic to several generations of voters in France.
This is entirely the result of her father’s foolishness over the decades. Jean Marie Le Pen is a folk hero to Alt-Right devotees, but this only shows why they’re destined to be about as unpersuasive. Jean Marie Le Pen created the National Front and made it the dominant expression of French nationalism. Unfortunately for him, he also successfully co-mingled it with racism and anti-Semitism in the minds of the French public. If this sounds unfair to you, too bad. A nationalist movement was going to be prone to those charges from the media and academia by default, and Jean Marie Le Pen gave them strong confirmation bias many times over many years. According to “the Godfather of Influence,” Robert Cialdini in Pre-Suasion, what draws attention is assigned supreme importance, often undue. Instead of drawing attention to the benefits and glories of French nationalism, Jean Marie Le Pen drew attention exactly where his enemies wanted him to, making it easier for them. I remember hearing a Frenchman saying that proclaiming your support for the National Front in the old days was basically the equivalent of proclaiming that you had gonorrhea.
When your status is that low, you aren’t going to be persuasive, ever.
Jean Marie Le Pen didn’t understand the concept of word-thinking, where labels drive behavior, and it cost him.
When Marine took over the National Front in 2011, she began a campaign of “de-demonization.” In doing so, she purged the National Front of its nastiest elements. This was successful to a great extent and made the National Front the largest party in France. It eventually resulted in the purge of Jean Marie Le Pen himself, who is not on speaking terms with Marine as a result.
Instead of her father’s rabble rousing, Marine Le Pen aimed the National Front at real concerns, concerns that were rising yearly – the mass immigration changing the character of France, the resultant terrorism, and the economic stagnation France was in, with 10% unemployment, as a result of the European Union and its increasing creep into national sovereignty. The times were changing, and the appeal of nationalism was growing.
However, while Marine Le Pen’s nationalism has been very attractive to younger voters in France, to many older ones, she is still irreparably co-mingled with her father’s toxic brand. The Le Pen name is associated with all those bad words people don’t want to be seen as, even if Marine’s actual platform would be popular otherwise. This makes her attempt at persuasion hampered from the start and leaves in doubt her ability to build a winning coalition, which is even more important in France because…
“The System is Rigged”
The electoral system in France consists of two rounds, normally. If someone hasn’t gotten over 50% in the first round, which is probable given the choice of parties in that country, a second round is held between the two top vote-getters. The winner of that round wins. This system was set up purposely to keep the National Front out of power.
Yet, to my knowledge, Marine Le Pen hasn’t drawn attention to this. She could have set up a powerful narrative of the globalist and europhile elites being against the French people. The elites rigged the system to prevent the people from expressing their justified anger and outrage against them, to prevent them from enacting the changes they want for their country. To my knowledge, Marine hasn’t done this. Failing to do so certainly won’t make it any easier for her.
The Fake News is Learning
During the Brexit referendum, the Remain campaign ran on something they called “Project Fear.” The main theme was to show how scary leaving the European Union would be. The same was true of Hillary Clinton’s campaign against Donald Trump. That isn’t a bad approach, theoretically. Fear is the most urgent emotion. If you’re really afraid of something, you have to solve that first before you do anything else. If there’s a predator around, you need to get out of there before you solve for your hunger.
Yet, both campaigns lost. Why?
First, I would say that the Leave and Trump campaigns were doling out fear of their own – of terrorism, excessive immigration, etc.
As it turns out, there’s also an interesting thing about the emotion of fear. It’s not just about how you gin it up, it’s about what you do afterwords. Robert Cialdini explains:
But there’s a particular type of fear-stoking message that appears most capable of changing behavior. It does so, ironically enough, by reducing the fear it produces. That’s no small advantage, because high levels of fear about the ominous consequences of lung cancer (or diabetes or hypertension) might cause certain likely victims to deny that they will encounter those consequences personally. “Hell.” a heavy smoker might say, “my grandfather on my mother’s side smoked all his life and lived to 80. So I’ve probably got good cancer-fighting genes.” Others might entertain different but similarly misleading nonsense to dampen the inflamed anxiety. A favorite among young people just starting to smoke is to suppose that by the time they suffer the ills of their actions, medical cures will be both available and easily obtained.
What’s the persuasive alchemy that allows a communicator to trouble recipients deeply about the negative outcomes of their bad habits without pushing them to deny the problem in an attempt to control their now-heightened fears? The communicator has only to add to the chilling message clear information about legitimate, available steps the recipients can take to change their health-threatening habits. In this way, the fright can be dealt with not through self-delusional baloney that deters positive action but through genuine change opportunities that mobilize such action.
Now consider it in a political angle.
I’m not sure about the Brexit campaign, but I know last year Hillary Clinton really had no offer. Donald Trump did though. Europe was being invaded by “refugees?” Stop them from coming to America with territorial restrictions and “extreme vetting.” Illegals and drugs are pouring across the border? Build the wall. Not enough jobs? Do tax reform to spur growth and renegotiate unfair trade deals. In the meantime, Hillary Clinton, assisted to the hilt and beyond by the fake news media, raised a lot of fears about Donald Trump, but there seemed to be no available steps to take to mitigate the fear, as just voting for her was clearly not enough, which dovetails with my next point.
It’s often a given that people don’t merely want to vote against something, but for something. The Remain and Hillary Clinton campaigns didn’t really have an offer, where the Donald Trump campaign was themed on making America great again and the Leave campaign offered Britons to take back control of their country.
Things are different in France.
The fear against Marine Le Pen is real. Aside from the “racist,” etc. angle, with her in power there is not an inconsiderable chance that France could leave the European Union, which would shake world markets and, since France is on the euro, the French markets in particular. Still, that isn’t the real story I’m watching.
The real story is that the fake news has learned from Brexit and Trump. People need something to vote for, not just against. They need something positive and above all clear, to mitigate fear. In France, the fake news hasn’t simply prompted fears of Marine Le Pen, they’ve been promoting Emmanuel Macron to the hilt, gushing about how awesome he is.
What takes our attention is presumed important, so the fake news promotes Emmanuel Macron while giving only cursory, bad attention, when it’s needed at all, to his opponents. In both “Project Fear” and the Clinton campaign, attention was paid to leaving the European Union and Donald Trump more than their own respective messages, thus increasing the perceived importance of their opponents. The fake news fully cooperated.
In France, the establishment and the fake news destroyed Francois Fillon with a financial scandal and Marine Le Pen has a very checkered personal brand. So the fake news media can promote fear while then giving the legitimate, available step of Emmanuel Macron, the Rothschild investment banker who’s being billed as a populist. The lion’s share of attention is thus being paid to Macron.
I must admit, the hustle is a good one.
Brexit and Trump caught them by surprise. The establishment and their fake news organ is learning that people need a positive, clear message in response to fear, and people want to vote for something positive. They’re now field testing this approach in France against Marine Le Pen, and it’s proving successful. Take note of this adaptation. It will be important going forward.
“What’s Focal is Causal”
That’s the title of one of Pre-Suasion’s chapters, and it explains why the Russia hysteria has been so powerful that you have people like Nate Silver enshrining the myth that “if it weren’t for Russia, Hillary would have won.”
As it turns out, those things we pay attention to aren’t merely presumed important, but presumed as causal agents, things that answer the “why” question. Since the fake news promoted Russia hysteria to such a high degree, it shouldn’t be surprising that even the “smartest” people who you think should know better are starting to blame Russia for everything. There were other reasons why this has been such powerful persuasion, but I missed this particular one until I started reading Pre-Suasion.
Proving how lazy they are (but also proving their ability as propagandists), the fake news has been recycling the Russian hacking hysteria and using it to some extent in the French election. The more attention paid to it, the more Emmanuel Macron can say Marine Le Pen is a “Russian agent,” and the more he and the fake news can blame Russia for causing tension in the European Union, instead of its own catastrophic immigration and economic policies.
This by itself probably wouldn’t be enough to change the outcome in France, but it doesn’t help Marine Le Pen.
Is there a Hidden Vote for Marine Le Pen?
Yesterday, I was featured along with Vox Day and others in a roundup of individuals assessing the election in France. Most of us don’t seem to think the chances for Marine Le Pen are good.
One poster put up a good point – is there a hidden Marine vote out there? For Donald Trump, many individuals that hadn’t voted in years or at all, most notably the Amish in Pennsylvania, were key for him. Does such a vote exist for Marine Le Pen?
These are the results of the first round:
To win, Marine Le Pen will have to hold the areas she won (particularly that northeast area, which is almost akin to the Rust Belt in America, added with “migrant” jungle camps). She has no chance at taking Paris or Brittany (the latter being somewhat akin to those areas in the United States that virtue signal about “diversity” but don’t live near it).
So she needs to win over some of Fillon’s voters and some of Melenchon’s voters, who skew younger and are therefore better for her (the opposite of what you would expect in America). Fillon has already endorsed Macron, and his base is older and more established, which isn’t good for her. Economically, they probably favor Macron. The big question is if these social conservatives, as Fillon is, can overlook Macron’s love for third world mass immigration.
Melenchon, in the meantime, hasn’t endorsed Macron, and economically, the so-called “far right” Marine Le Pen is actually likely closer to the supposedly communist Melenchon. Will that be attractive to his young voters?
As you can see, politics in France are different than America and Britain, clearly.
It is possible that these voters could be “hidden,” but I just don’t think it will happen. Keep in mind that in the 2015 regional elections, Marine Le Pen was expected to win the Calais region, along with some others, but the second round saw strategic voting to prevent her victory. It is possible that she’ll lose regions she won in the first round in a similar way. Once more, “the system is rigged” in France, and I don’t think Marine Le Pen has drawn enough attention to it. I also don’t see any particular group out there that could prove a hidden vote in France, like say, the Amish were in Pennsylvania.
For all these reasons therefore, I am doubtful of Marine Le Pen’s chances of winning in France. If I were Marine, I would read Pre-Suasion, channel attention to Emmanual Macron being “Hollande’s little boy” (a great linguistic kill shot that takes advantage of Macron’s youthful appearance and pairs his face with that of the hated Hollande), emphasize that he is more of the same, a caretaker president that will manage the decline and displacement of France for the benefit of elites in Brussels, all the while terrorism will increase.
From there, I would offer my own program – the glory of France and the French people. In a few words, “make France great again” or something like that. Emphasize togetherness after your fearful message (again, read Pre-Suasion).
That’s the best shot she has. That and outworking Macron like Trump outworked Hillary and Truman outworked Dewey.
I just don’t think it’s going to happen for her.
The decline of France, a truly glorious country, is a sad specter to behold, but ultimately you have to pay attention to what you can control. How about outworking yourself for a glory of your own? If France declines, you can rise and shine. Read Stumped and get started.