It was thought that Marion Maréchal-Le Pen had withdrawn from political life, at least until Thursday, February 22nd, when she made a remarkable speech. Not in France, but near Washington DC, before an audience of American conservatives gathered for the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference).
Speaking in English, the former National Front extreme-right MP praised president Donald Trump’s politics. “I’m not offended when I hear President Donald Trump say ‘America first,'” she explained. “In fact, I want America first for the American people, I want Britain first for the British people, and I want France first for the French people.” Over the crowd’s cheers, someone yelled, “vive la France!”
This is not the first call from the French extreme right to the American president. After Trump’s election in January, the failed presidential candidate and National Front president, Marine Le Pen had a coffee at Trump Tower in Manhattan, fueling speculation of a possible meeting between her and Trump. The two ultimately did not meet. Though Trump did not explicitly support Le Pen’s candidacy during the French campaign, he praised her as “the strongest on the borders and what is happening in France.”
During her 10-minute speech at CPAC, the 28-year-old advocated for positions that were a near mirror of Trump’s own policies, though her presentation of them was undeniably more eloquent. Xenophobia was laced throughout as she bashed globalization, touted a desire to quit NATO, bemoaned political correctness, and criticized the European Union, which was met with boos of agreement from the audience. “The EU is killing millennial nations,” she said, going on to describe a France unable to defend its economic interests or make its own laws. “I want my nation to survive.”
She declared that there was a new generation ready to fight to promote a Conservative agenda in France. “We don’t want this atomized world of individual without gender, without father, without mother, and without nation,” she said. “So what do we want then? Finally, just like you, we want our country back.”
As the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front and famous holocaust-denier, and the niece of Marine Le Pen, Maréchal-Le Pen is perfectly teed up for a prominent place in National Front politics. “Her appearance on the stage at CPAC marked something of a return,” noted Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post. She’s not immediately entering the fray though; Maréchal-Le Pen recently launched a school of management and political science to “train the leaders of tomorrow.” Benjamin Hadded, a European politics expert, is less concerned with Maréchal-Le Pen’s populism overrunning France, saying it’s “good to remember that her ideas were defeated in France. When she talks of the power of the people, they overwhelmingly defeated Marine Le Pen in 2017.”