For good reason, President Donald Trump and French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen get compared with each other, with their similar stances on topics ranging from immigration and terrorism to Russia.
But the comparison that makes more sense than either man would like to imagine is one between Trump and Emmanuel Macron, the likely next French president.
That may sound curious, given that Trump virtually endorsed Le Pen, the onetime visitor to Trump Tower. Trump told the Associated Press last week the terrorist attack against two policemen may help Le Pen, and he said she was the “strongest on borders, and the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
Macron’s style is far more at odds with Trump, and the former investment banker notably publicized a phone call he had with President Barack Obama.
Let’s keep defending our progressive values. Thank you for this discussion @BarackObama. pic.twitter.com/8rhNdHkLo8
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 20, 2017
On issues, Macron has ideas Trump would embrace — including cutting taxes, increasing defense spending and emphasizing French-language learning in the citizenship process.
And yet Trump and Macron share an unfortunate characteristic: Neither has a legislative flock to enact his agenda.
For Macron, that gap is quite literal. His party — he broke with the Socialists to form the En Marche movement — has all of zero seats in the General Assembly, and, though it’s running candidates throughout the country, securing a parliamentary majority will be a tall order. Enacting labor reforms will be excruciating.
Trump is in a slightly better shape with the Republican Party. But not by much. The Republicans in the House, and certainly not in the Senate, weren’t really elected on his back, and his policy positions are at the very least in discord with theirs.
French presidential election: What's next?(1:52)
The French people have spoken: The country's next president will be centrist Emmanuel Macron or the far-right's Marine Le Pen, after the two candidates topped the polls in the first round of voting. Niki Blasina explains what happens next and what challenges the winner will face. Photo: Getty Images.
Arguably the biggest legislative achievement for Trump as his first 100 days wind down is the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But there’s nothing about Gorsuch that is particularly nationalist — he would be just as plausible a nominee if Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush were president.
On the issues that Trump discusses — immigration, trade, infrastructure investment and taxes — he has nothing to show. And not even from a completion standpoint: There really isn’t an agreement even on an outline, with his own party.
Where that leads, in both the U.S. and France, is inevitable voter frustration and the willingness to turn to unusual and charismatic politicians. So for both Macron and Trump, failure legislatively may even be more beneficial politically in a way that success, with the attendant responsibility, may not be.