When survival is at stake, one may hear from a politician not what he believes -- but what he thinks the people deciding his fate wish to hear.
By that standard, what do the people of France, in the final weeks of their presidential election, wish to hear from their candidates?
President Nicolas Sarkozy seems to believe his countrymen are in a deeply nationalistic frame of mind.
Five million Muslims live in France, but he is cracking down on Islamists. He is demanding that the Schengen Agreement, under which Europe's nations maintain open borders, be renegotiated. If immigration from outside Europe is not restricted, says Sarkozy, he will pull out of Schengen.
He is demanding a "Buy European Act" for public contracts. He will confront Japan and China on trade. Were he running in the U.S.A., Sarkozy would be denounced as a protectionist and nativist.
His strategy? He wants to finish first in the first round of voting April 22, by siphoning support from the rightist National Front of Marine Le Pen.
Le Pen would halt immigration, crack down on crime, pull France out of the eurozone and restore the franc. She calls for an "Arab Spring" in France, a democratic revolution, yet sounds statist with her pledge to force down oil and gas prices. This lady is no libertarian.
Sarkozy is moving right to crowd her out in the first round of voting and is being assisted by a rabidly anti-Le Pen party of the extreme left led by ex-Socialist and ex-Trotskyite Jean-Luc Melenchon, who appeals to an angry and dispossessed working class.
The Left Front, made up of the Communist Party, Greens and radicals, has been gaining from the fiery speeches of Melenchon, a supporter of Hugo Chavez who endorses China's policy in Tibet and regards the United States as the "greatest problem in the world."
Melenchon loathes and mocks "the rich," and has proposed a 100 percent tax on income above $450,000. No executive would be allowed to earn a salary more than 20 times higher than his average worker. France's minimum wage would be raised 40 percent to more than $25,000 a year.
An anti-capitalist and anti-globalist who called at the Bastille for "civic insurrection," Melenchon has gained at the expense of Socialist Francois Hollande, who yet appears the favorite for the Elysee Palace.
Defending his imperiled left flank, Hollande supports a 75 percent tax on all incomes above 1 million euros and would restore pension benefits peeled back by Sarkozy to reduce France's deficits and halt the rise in her national debt.
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