Paris at midnight, Sarkozy on the ropes, the right in retreat

The victory of Francois Hollande over Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of voting in France, and Hollande's probable victory in the runoff in two weeks, has major implications throughout Europe and the United States. It is a reaction against the ultra-conservative right that would impose more austerity, pain and joblessness while trying to appeal to anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner and at times anti-Muslim fear. There are shades of the French battle from other nations in Europe to Mitt Romney (like Sarkozy the voice of the 1 percent) and the Tea Party (like the radical Le Pen movement, the voice of anger and fear with a phony populist accent).

From the Occupy Wall Street movement to the voting in France, from the backlash in southern Europe to the falling popularity of the Tea Party in America, there is a reaction against the right and a move back toward the populist center-left.

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I have always opposed the radical austerity policies of the right in Europe and the United States. We should be creating jobs, reducing special privileges for the most wealthy and reducing those military expenses that cannot be rationally sustained. In France the voters are standing with the more socially and economically enlightened viewpoint of Hollande and many centrists, and against the conservative orthodoxy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative allies in Britain and France.

The right is on the run in Europe, for the same reasons, and in the same way, that public support for the Tea Party has fallen so far in America.

Paris now stands, politically, at midnight. The voters across France and many other nations are on the brink of rejecting the conservative orthodoxy of bailing out banks, enriching the most wealthy, punishing workers, hurting the poor and waging war against programs vital for women, workers, children and the poor.

I have argued that the right in the United States now looks more like a rightist fringe party in Europe than traditional American conservatives. Sarkozy in France and the Tea Party in America do themselves, and their nations, no service by imitating the anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner anger-and-fear politics of Marine Le Pen.

Nicolas Sarkozy will probably lose his job by imitating the fear and race politics of Le Pen in France while championing the extreme and punishing austerity policies of Angela Merkel in Germany and David Cameron in Britain.

Paris is at midnight. Sarkozy is on the ropes. The right is in retreat.

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