A second French polling institute has suggested that Eric Zemmour – France’s answer to Fox News host Tucker Carlson – might face Emmanuel Macron in the Presidential election run-off next April. While the French public has been widely aware of the conservative journalist and polemist since the early 2010s, he is beginning to garner international attention.
Zemmour – born to a Berber Jewish family that left French North Africa during the Algerian war – grew up in the suburbs of Paris at a time of far fewer immigrants. He began his career as a journalist in the 1980s and quickly garnered a reputation as an astute political commentator.
During his early years, Zemmour forged relationships with preeminent French political actors. These relationships provided his articles with insights and commentary coveted by his peers. His talents as a journalist were matched by his book and essay writing skills.
In the mid-2000s, Zemmour began writing books criticizing modern day feminism as well as the multiculturalist ideology he felt had corrupted the West’s elites. For him, many of the root causes of France’s woes were the result of the deconstructive ideologies brought on by intellectuals in the 1960s who targeted traditional values and induced a sense of guilt in defending Western exceptionalism. Soon he was being identified as a leading conservative polemist, embracing opponents’ accusations of being a reactionary and increasingly invited on debate-style television and radio shows.
Because the French place high value on a person’s knowledge of culture and history, Zemmour’s ability to defend his arguments by quoting authors and philosophers impressed audiences. By the late 2000s, millions of French viewers had become accustomed to his staunch defense of his ideas on the airwaves. While he remained exclusively a journalist and author, his growing fame led ideological supporters from the left and right who valued patriotism, nationalism, and traditional values to attach themselves to his work.
In 2014, Zemmour’s star rose again. He published “The French Suicide” – an immense commercial success.
In the book, he retraced what he believed were the reasons for the decline of France throughout modern history. Chief among them was his claim that the French are no longer taught to love their country’s history, and that they are being replaced by waves of immigration from North Africa. The book addressed both the most illustrious and the most controversial aspects of French history. Zemmour argued that France needs to celebrate its entire millennium of existence if it is to remain a great power and forge a cohesive and patriotic society. Following the release of the book, some supporters began openly discussing the possibility of a run for office.
Today, Zemmour is still not officially a candidate for the Presidential race. Rather, he is promoting his latest book entitled “France Hasn’t Said Its Last Word”. His book tour has taken him across the country where thousands of people pay approximately $30 a person to hear him speak about the crises affecting the country, and in particular mass immigration.
The Frenchman has openly discussed his desire to impose immigration control as the main question for the upcoming presidential race because it has been a theme of his work for decades. In his words, whoever sets the central question of the election has the best chance of winning.
While it’s now more a question of when rather than if Eric Zemmour becomes a candidate, it remains to be seen whether he can consolidate his early surge in the polls.
His argument to conservative voters is that he is the only person capable of uniting what he calls the “two rights”: on the one hand, the wealthy, elderly conservatives who are afraid of the populistic tones and the family history of Marine Le Pen but are fed up with the demographic and cultural changes experienced by the France in recent years; on the other hand, the blue-collar workers who have lost all trust in the establishment right-wing party for failing to carry-out strong handed policies when in power and who are disillusioned by Le Pen’s series of electoral loses.
As it now stands, Zemmour, Le Pen, and the mainstream conservative candidate which has yet to be nominated, are all polling around 15 percent of the vote while Macron sits on a comfortable base of around 25 percent. If Zemmour is able to capture the broad white-collar and blue-collar conservative coalition like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage did in 2016, he could present a fierce opposition to the incumbent administration. The fact that he has never been elected and does not belong to any party will likely be an asset in the upcoming Presidential race considering the rise in anti-establishment sentiment in France.
For now, Zemmour continues to defy norms by embracing controversy in a way no presumptive candidate has done in the past. This past week he told the French press he would hit back three times as hard whenever he is attacked.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome, the French presidential race suddenly looks highly competitive, combative, and deliciously unpredictable.