Le Pen’s popularity, and her share of votes, has only increased, and she has managed to present her agenda—anti-European Union, anti-immigrant, anti-euro—as approaching the mainstream, even as she cherishes her status as an outsider, untainted by the past twenty years of deepening French political crisis.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack on Wednesday, as traffic surged on her Facebook page and she picked up thousands of new followers, she did nothing special to insert herself into the story or to exploit the fears that the Front has long fed on. She reiterated her longstanding call for France to withdraw, unilaterally and at once, from the Schengen Agreement, which allows for open borders within the extended European community, but that was hardly newsworthy.
Rather, Le Pen appeared to adopt the time-tested opposition strategy of waiting for the political establishment to make a misstep that would turn attention her way—and she did not have to wait long. Within hours of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the ruling Socialists and a coalition of allied parties of the left announced plans for a massive solidarity rally on Sunday—a silent march through the heart of Paris in the cause of “national unity”—without extending an invitation to the National Front.
The exclusion of the Front was great news for Le Pen. Nobody believed that she would have wanted to go and be associated with the political mainstream, but, by failing to invite her, the Socialists had given her a cudgel. “I don’t intend to submit myself to this blackmail,” she told Le Monde.
“It’s a total perversion of the concept of national union. They’ll have to accept the consequences from the voters.” She went on, “This whole thing is a way of pushing aside the only political movement that has no responsibility in the present situation, along with its millions of voters. All the other parties are deathly afraid. They’re thinking of their little elections and their little mandates. Their old reflexes that have frozen political life for twenty years and that dug the chasm between those who govern and the people. If I’m not invited, I’m not going to insist. It’s an old trap. The slightest incident and they’ll say it’s my fault.”
Pic - "Meantime in Deutschland..."