NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — French Far-Right leader Marion Maréchal-Le Pen spoke in favor President Donald Trump’s “America first” policies at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday.
According to Maréchal-Le Pen, Trump’s 2016 presidential victory fits into what she said was a sweep of national pride among nations dissatisfied with globalist leaders in 2016. She encouraged conservatives attending CPAC to embrace the same nationalist principles she holds dear.
“I’m not offended when I hear Trump say, ‘America first,’” she said. “I want America first for Americans, France first for French people, Britain first for British people.”
Maréchal-Le Pen is the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the French nationalist party National Front. She served as a representative for the party in France’s National Assembly until 2017. The French National Front opposes the European Union and supports strict economic protectionism as well as the restriction of international immigration.
Maréchal-Le Pen spoke about these concerns, emphasizing the need for nations to cleave to their own national identity.
“Our [France’s] freedom is in the hands of the EU,” she said. “And the EU is an ideology without a people, without roots, and without civilization.”
Since France “lost its identity” to the EU, Maréchal-Le Pen said she has noticed that more Muslims have moved to France, threatening the country’s “survival.”
“France is in the process of passing from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam,” she said.
Maréchal-Le Pen connected what she sees as her country’s struggle for its own identity to the struggles of the United States and Great Britain to maintain their autonomy from multi-national pacts such as the Paris Climate Accord and the EU. She praised the American people for electing Trump and said that Brexit sets an example for the rest of Europe.
“When the people are given the opportunity to take their country back, they will seize it,” she said.
Maréchal-Le Pen is not the first nationalist leader to make an appearance at CPAC. Last year, convention organizers expelled Alt-Right spokesman Richard Spencer for appearing at the conference and conducting a press conference in which he espoused nationalist views based in white supremacy.
“His views are repugnant and have absolutely nothing to do with conservatism or what we do here,” CPAC spokesman Ian Walters told National Public Radio at the time.
With regard to Maréchal-Le Pen’s speech this year, Spencer (who has not returned to CPAC since his ejection) told The Collegian that he understands why CPAC would welcome her presence rather than his, even though the two share similar views: He’s a Twitter personality, not a foreign political leader.
“Conservatives will attack people who are closer to them geographically, while being more open to people abroad, who don’t challenge their claim to determining what is Right and what is not-Right in America,” he said. “I’m happy CPAC invited her. I wouldn’t be happy, however, if this meant that Le Pen and the National Front are becoming more like American conservatives.”
Spencer added that he believes someone like Maréchal-Le Pen can hold an audience at CPAC because, in his view, American conservatism is too loosely defined to prohibit nationalism in the long run.
“Conservatism is based in economics and confronting the Soviet Union, with some vague values thrown into the mix,” he said. “A true conservatism must be based in people and civilization — roots — as Le Pen says.”
Senior Joshua Liebhauser said Maréchal-Le Pen should not be considered as anything near conservative. He said, however, there are parts of her ideology that conservatives can hold in common, particularly her belief that parents should play a larger role in raising their children than the state. Additionally, he said that he understands why her nationalism would resonate with protectionist Trump supporters.
“Each country should put its own interests first, whether that be France or the U.S.,” Liebhauser said.