The National Front’s mayoral victory in the southern French village of Vitrolles, on February 9, was front-page news in Europe and is important for Americans. The NF candidate had been its brilliant deputy chief, Bruno Mégret, who barely lost the 1995 election to Socialist Jean-Jacques Anglade. Vitrolles has a large North African population and 19 percent unemployment. These factors, added to Anglade’s corruption, impressive even by Socialist standards, made a Mégret victory likely. So the Gaullist government declared Mégret disqualified to run because he had spent nine percent too much on a 1995 poll. Mégret was replaced by his wife, Catherine, who led in the first round of voting.

At this point, “conservative” prime minister Alain Juppé decided to do what President Jacques Chirac had refused to do in the last election: he withdrew the Gaullist candidate for the mayor’s office to create a “democratic front” with the Socialists. It was time to draw the line in the sand, before next year’s elections for parliament. All the other parties, from Communists to Christian Democrats (Catholics), threw their support behind the corrupt Anglade. The plan backfired. Catherine Mégret won with an absolute majority of 52.5 percent. The French now have a two-party system, the Socio-Gaullists and the National Front. Issues like immigration and opposition to yielding French sovereignty to the bureaucrats in Brussels and to the common European monetary system are back on the front burner.

The government’s diversionary tactic was to push for a vote on a bill which would make French citizens responsible for foreigners on special guest visas who need a French host to sponsor them. It is a common mode of smuggling in illegal aliens. Some “hosts” make as many as 40 or 50 requests a year. Elite and popular opinion split. Sixty filmmakers, 130 magistrates, and the national association of French mayors have denounced the measure, saying they will disobey or refuse to enforce it. Meanwhile, an independent poll reported that 59 percent of French polled approved of the bill and 58 percent disapproved of the elite’s plan of “civil disobedience.”

American politicians should take note. Polls show that the voters of the two major American parties differ strongly in their positions on national sovereignty, immigration, affirmative action, and rule by judges and bureaucrats. The leadership of the two parties, however, is basically united on these issues. The President worked hand in glove with the Minority Leader, now the Speaker of the House, to pass NAFTA, despite strong popular opposition. The Republican victory in the House in 1994 led to no reduction in the size of the central government, but instead a suicidal attempt to rescue liberal pyramid schemes, such as Social Security and Medicaid. During the grotesque presidential “debates,” the President announced he had (finally) discovered an area where he and Mr. Dole disagreed, teenage smoking. (Dole responded that they did not disagree.) Newt Gingrich, with disarming frankness, wrote in To Renew America that FDR was “probably the greatest President of the twentieth century.” A man who believes this cannot lead the opposition to the regime founded by FDR. Liberal Republicans have headed the Republican tickets in the last two presidential contests, losing disastrously to the most corrupt candidate in American history. Republicans who represent the traditional positions of the party on such issues as immigration and the tariff deserve a chance. Otherwise, Republican voters may decide either not to vote or to turn to a third party. The Doles and Dornans have had their chance. It is now time for an American Bruno Mégret.