But with the backing of young voters like Vergnaud, Le Pen may become the next president of France. As the country hurtles toward the election this spring that could alter the course of European history — the first round is Sunday — Le Pen's once ...
“Since only the radicalized youth goes to vote, the FN wins,” he said.
That dynamic could be especially pronounced this year. Polls show that support for Macron is shallow, with even those who say they back him unsure whether they will actually turn out for a candidate with no formal party affiliation and a platform that seeks to please both the left and right.
As a former economy minister and investment banker, the pro-E.U. Macron also struggles with young voters who don’t fit the profile of the successful urban cosmopolitan.
“In France, you have a lot of young people who don’t live in the big cities, who didn’t go to college, who left the education system,” said Jérémie Patrier-Leitus, the 28-year-old leader of one of Macron’s several youth factions. “You have young people who are unemployed, and it’s easy to tell them that’s because an immigrant took their job.”
Macron has taken the opposite tack, trying to convince France’s disgruntled youth that immigration is good for the country and that the E.U. is worth saving. It’s a pitch, Patrier-Leitus acknowledged, that doesn’t always bring crowds to their feet — or voters to the polls.
“Europe has strong opponents, but very weak supporters,” said Patrier-Leitus, who regularly travels between Paris and his job at a French cultural center in New York. “We didn’t realize how fragile Europe really was.”
If Europe’s young defenders have been tough to rouse, its opponents are filled with passionate intensity.
Dussausaye, the head of the National Front’s youth wing, said when he first saw Le Pen speak at a 2011 rally, it “was like Cupid’s arrow” for the then-17-year-old.
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