Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked the world on April 21 when he eliminated socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the first round of France's presidential election. But Le Pen's triumph was merely the latest in a string of right-wing electoral victories that have embarrassed established social democratic regimes throughout Europe. From Italy and Austria to Belgium and Holland, a populist, anti-immigrant, far-right movement, animated by nationalism and xenophobia, is gaining ground. And nowhere is the contrast between the old political discourse and the new more dramatic than in Denmark.
On the evening of Sunday, April 21, France was shaken from months of political stupor by the second-place finish of ultra-right-winger Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of France's election, an event that has been described by Le Monde as no less than a "political earthquake." The aftershock has spread throughout Europe, prompting leaders and newspapers alike to express concern and dismay at Le Pen's strong showing (about 17 percent of the vote in a field of 16 candidates).
April 20 was a day of contrasts in the streets of Washington. Gigantic Maryland Terrapins mascots urging people to "Mobilize" commingled with Palestinian flags, massive street theater puppets, and the occasional Korean drumming circle. Though the causes ran the gamut from ending union-busting to lifting sanctions on Iraq, the demand for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and the creation of a Palestinian state dominated the ethnically diverse crowd of more than 75,000 that converged on Pennsylvania Avenue to march toward the Capitol. Even some police motorcycles carried stickers reading "End the Israeli Occupation Now." Small children had stealthily placed them there while unsuspecting officers revved their engines.
On Monday, a cloudless 85 degree afternoon, a crowd estimated at 100,000 assembled on Capitol Hill to rally in support of Israel. Speakers came from across the political spectrum: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, among others. The most popular speech came from hawkish former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose denunciations of Yasir Arafat and calls for a forceful military response to suicide bombings drew deafening applause from the crowd.
Our votes must go together with our guns. After all, any vote we shall have, shall have been the product of the gun. The gun which produces the vote should remain its security officer -- its guarantor."