The French Donald Trump isn't a rich businessman; doesn't deliver incoherent diatribes while bragging about "having the best words;" and could never be accused of being anti-women. The French Donald Trump did, however, inherit the family business -- a political party -- from daddy; is an effective orator, entertaining and inflaming the audience with direct, simple language; and is also a blond, whose calling card is anti-immigrant rhetoric, meant to appeal to the economically disenfranchised, under-educated voter. As to being anti-woman, well, the French Donald Trump is -- a woman. Her name is Marine Le Pen, and her chances of being elected President are certainly no worse, and perhaps even better than, The Donald's.
Marine's father, Jean-Marie, a former paratrooper and street-brawler (he lost an eye in one such encounter) founded the Front National (the "FN") in the 1960s, built on the resentments of the one million French settlers who left Algeria after it gained independence from France. From its birth, the FN was virulently anti-Muslim and antisemitic. (Le Pen famously called Hitler's gas chambers a mere "detail of history.") But he was a brilliant speaker and magnetic personality, and he built the FN from a party on the lunatic fringe of French politics to the spring-board to his second place finish to Jacques Chirac in the French presidential elections in 2002 -- a political tsunami in France.
In 2011 Le Pen eventually handed over the reins of power to his daughter Marine. And, like King Lear, almost immediately he regretted it, for she quickly marginalized him and began to remake the party into her own image.
Marine Le Pen is 47-years-old, the twice-divorced mother of three whose current partner is a high official of the FN. She graduated from France's top law school, and briefly practiced as an attorney. She physically resembles her father, fair-haired and burly, and shares certain personality traits too: She is pugnacious, quick on her feet, with a taste for blood and a feel for the crowd. But unlike her ultra-traditional far-right father, Marine portrays herself as a modern woman. The slogan "France is for the French" remains, but she has dropped the anti-semitic barbs while retaining and refining the anti-immigrant (that is, anti-Muslim) message that remains at the center of the FN's appeal.
Equally important, she has adopted a populist economic agenda designed to attract working-class, lower-income voters and unemployed youth, who feel abandoned by the traditional parties, including the ruling socialists, who have done little to protect them from the ravages of globalization. She is positioned to attract votes from the right and left -- not very far from Trump's strategy.
And it appears to be working. Unlike the Donald, Marine is a professional politician in for the long term. Polls have shown that she would receive twice the number of votes as President François Hollande if the election were held today.
The most worrying cloud on Marine's horizon is another woman -- her young niece, Marion Maréchal Le Pen, petite, glib and photogenic, a traditional Catholic of the far-right, who is being pushed by Jean-Marie Le Pen to exact revenge on his daughter Marine for having excluded him from his own party and "democratizing" its agenda.
Does the Donald have a niece (or nephew) possibly waiting in the wings?