France just showed America how to deal with Donald Trump.
Last Sunday it looked like Marine Le Pen’s National Front, a far-right party known for its anti-immigrant rhetoric and stance against the EU, might make an unprecedented leap to power.
In the first round of key regional elections, the party looked like it could take power in six of France’s 13 regions.
But in round two a week later, the National Front was completely trounced. They didn’t take a single region.
That’s because after seeing the National Front gain such a commanding lead, France’s Socialist Party withdrew some of its candidates in key regions and urged its supporters to back the center-right party, The Republicans.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, the leader of the center-right party that won at least six regions, called the victory “a refusal to compromise with extremes … and a unity within the Republican family, a unity with the center.”
The key word here is “extremes.” In October, Le Pen went on trial for inciting hate speech after making comments that compared Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation.
Last week Donald Trump called for “a complete shut down of Muslims coming to United States.” It’s the kind of rhetoric that no one would be shocked to hear come from Le Pen and her party (though Le Pen herself said the comments went too far).
Like Trump, the National Front has a lot of vocal supporters and draws a bunch of media coverage. They’re loud, they’re radical, they pick candidates and get active early, and they worry a lot of people on both sides of the aisle.
The thing is, there aren’t necessarily that many of them. Not in France, it seems, and not in the US.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight put it best when he broke down the numbers last month:
Right now, he has 25 to 30 per cent of the vote in polls among the roughly 25 per cent of Americans who identify as Republican. (That’s something like 6 to 8 per cent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.) As the rest of the field consolidates around him, Trump will need to gain additional support to win the nomination. That might not be easy, since some Trump actions that appeal to a faction of the Republican electorate may alienate the rest of it. Trump’s favorability ratings are middling among Republicans (and awful among the broader electorate).
And that was before Trump made comments about barring Muslims from entering the US that some have compared to Hitler.
Trump can be as loud as he wants, but it hardly means he’s got the votes. That isn’t to say his noise isn’t harmful, it’s just not necessarily effective.