By Ben Barrack
In 2004, the Madrid train bombings in Spain shockingly seemed to helped the socialist candidate José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero win the election for Prime Minister three days later. It didn’t make sense that the more conservative government of José María Aznar would actually suffer defeat due to a terror attack; it didn’t fit the model. Right-wing leaders were supposed to do better in times like that.
Upon further examination, there is a reason for the perceived anomaly. Perhaps this one paragraph from an article in the UK Guardian published shortly after the attacks tells the story. About Zapatero’s victory, it said:
His Socialist party ousted the Spanish government yesterday after voters appeared to turn on the party of José María Aznar, the outgoing prime minister, in the wake of last week’s suspected al-Qaida attack on Madrid commuter trains and a perceived lack of information on those responsible for it.
Coupled with Zapatero’s pledge to remove Spanish troops from Iraq, Aznar either didn’t seem to grasp the true nature of the problem of didn’t want to level with the Spanish people. Either way, he failed to identify the problem; THAT’s the difference.
In France, the stock of a political party leader named Marine Le Pen has been rising recently. Her party has done well in elections and she’s gaining in popularity by following the Geert Wilders model. The terror attacks in France at the offices of a satirical magazine are not resulting in support for left-wing President Francois Hollande, who is the one in denial. It is Le Pen who has identified the problem in her country – Islamic immigration.
Here is what Bloomberg reported about her reaction to the attacks:
France’s Front National leader Marine Le Pen pinned the blame for the killing of 12 people in Paris yesterday on Islamic radicals, as mainstream leaders tried to downplay the religious dimension of the attack.
While President Francois Hollande called for national unity in an attempt to deter the public from demonizing the country’s 5-million strong Muslim community, Le Pen said France has to confront the beliefs of the gunmen who stormed the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
“Time’s up for denial and hypocrisy,” Le Pen, who has railed against immigration, said in a video posted on her party’s website. “The absolute rejection of Islamic fundamentalism must be proclaimed loudly and clearly.”
The lessons voters draw from the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II will shape the political debate as the country looks toward the 2017 election. Hollande, the most unpopular president in modern history, is struggling to make up ground on Le Pen, who’s seen her support surge as she blames immigrants for France’s near-record unemployment and deepening inequalities.
Aznar didn’t identify the attacks accurately and had troops in Iraq fighting an unidentified enemy. In the case of France, a politician has accurately described the attackers within her own country. Again, Bloomberg reports:
“Of all political parties, the Front National stands to gain most from this atrocity,” Jim Shields, head of French studies at Aston University in Birmingham, England, said in an interview. “Public agreement with the FN’s ideas has been rising steadily and this event will play into the party’s anti-immigration, anti-Islam agenda.”
When the Islamist terrorist Mohammed Merah carried out deadly attacks in Toulouse and Montauban in 2012, Le Pen was the presidential candidate who benefited most, Shields said.
On May 5, 1940, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced that he had tendered his resignation after his miserable failures against Nazi Germany. He also announced that Winston Churchill would replace him. Churchill had been ignored – exiled into the political wilderness for years – until the reality he was demanding everyone accept was slapping them in the face.