Emmanuel Macron’s win was met with a huge sigh of relief throughout Europe and the world last night. Macron’s victory over right-wing Marine Le Pen represents a symbol of hope for citizens everywhere, that society can stand above hateful rhetoric to choose a suitable official.
Following the election of President Donald Trump, fear of the rise of populist parties has been a common topic. Specifically in Europe, where anti-immigrant sentiments are coupled with suggestions of the breakdown of the European Union, this fear has been particularly strong. After the Dutch election earlier this year, where a right-wing populist party was also defeated, all eyes were on France.
The election of Macron signifies that we should trust our systems of government. Although many claim that American democracy is being threatened, at the end of the day, it has functioned just as it’s intended to. Giving a voice to the people, and responding to what the people want. What’s necessary for moving forward is showing people that what they want is not discriminatory policies and offensive representatives, but a leader and government who can unite a country.
This semester I have thought a lot about the rising popularity of the right-wing, the return to nationalism and the social divisions that are plaguing societies around the world. My time in Denmark has shown me that even a society that is so seemingly perfect is vulnerable to ethnic divides, and that the U.S. does represent one of the best examples of cultural exchange within one country. I know that my national bias is coming through when I praise the U.S. so highly, and I won’t deny that I’m partial to the American approach to life. Watching the movie Pearl Harbor last night had me so emotional, I even surprised myself with my patriotism.
I think what I’m trying to communicate is that things may seem bad right now. In the first 100 days of his presidency, Trump has already rolled back many important program and jeopardized the wellbeing of millions of Americans. Britain is leaving the European Union, threatening one of the foundational institutions to European cooperation and international stability. The refugee crisis continues to worsen, North Korea is becoming increasingly aggressive on the world stage, and the threat of terrorist attacks is still prevalent in many places around the world. I could list all of the ways that our world seems to be falling apart at the seams, how the citizens of today seem to be myopic to how their actions affect the citizens of tomorrow (cough cough, climate change).
However, it’s the little victories that remind us that things can get better. The Dutch and French elections are just small pieces in the puzzle that is European politics and international relations. They serve as an opportunity for the world to remember that things change – governments, communities, individuals – and that these changes can be for the better. It may seem bad right now, but history has shown us that things can be worse. We need to move forward with the knowledge of our past mistakes, looking to a brighter future and reimagining what’s possible.