The Morning: France’s larger meaning

Macron won, partly thanks to older voters.

Good morning. Emmanuel Macron won, but radical politics isn't going away.

Emmanuel Macron in Paris yesterday.Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

'The chance to dream'

The world's democracies have avoided a major new crisis.

Emmanuel Macron, the incumbent president of France, yesterday won re-election over Marine Le Pen by a vote of roughly 58 percent to 42 percent. Macron's victory means that one of Western Europe's biggest powers will not be run by a far-right nationalist who wants to distance France from NATO and who has a history of closeness to Vladimir Putin.

The victory is a tribute to Macron's skill as a politician and policymaker. Although hardly loved by many French citizens, he has managed the Covid-19 pandemic well and helped accelerate economic growth during his first five years in office. In a solemn speech last night in front of a twinkling Eiffel Tower, Macron said the French had chosen "a more independent France and a stronger Europe."

Still, the campaign offered some new warning signs for Western democracies. Le Pen's showing was considerably better than in France's last election, in 2017, when she won 34 percent in the final round versus Macron. And when her father made the final round of the presidential election, in 2002, he won only 18 percent of the vote.

Over the past two decades, a growing share of French citizens have drifted toward the Le Pens' nationalist politics, with its hostility toward Muslims and skepticism of the institutions that have helped keep Western Europe largely peaceful and unified since World War II.

It's a common story across Western democracies, including the United States. As many working-class voters have struggled with slow-growing incomes over recent decades — a result of globalization, automation and the decline of labor unions, among other forces — they have become fed up with traditional politicians.

Roger Cohen, The Times's Paris bureau chief who was previously our foreign editor, said these voters have a sense "of being invisible, of being forgotten, of being the lowest priority."

A polling station in the city of St.-Denis.Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

A geographic gap

In France, many were angry that Macron raised a tax on diesel fuel in 2018. "Just fine for the hyperconnected folks in big cities like Paris," Roger says, "much less so for people who have seen train stations and hospitals close in their communities and need to drive to work in some Amazon packaging warehouse 60 miles away."

Geography is a dividing line, in France and elsewhere. Frustrated working-class voters often live in smaller metropolitan areas or rural areas. Professionals tend to live in thriving major cities like Paris, London, New York and San Francisco; they also tend to be more socially liberal, more in favor of globalization and less outwardly patriotic.

The "cosmopolitan elites," as the Democratic political strategist David Shor notes, are now numerous enough to dominate the leadership of political parties — but still well shy of a majority of the population in the U.S. or Europe.

As a result, the traditional parties of the center-right and center-left have collapsed across large parts of Europe. In France, those two parties — which dominated politics until recently — won just 6.5 percent of the vote, combined, in the first round of the French election two weeks ago. Macron — a member of a new centrist party that has few other major figures — finished first with 27.8 percent; Le Pen finished second with 23.1 percent, and a far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, finished third with 21.9 percent.

In Britain, these same forces led to Brexit, the country's 2016 vote to leave the European Union, as well as a decade of poor showings by the Labor Party. In the U.S., working-class frustration allowed Donald Trump to take over the Republican Party with a populist message, while Democrats have lost many working-class votes, partly because of the party's social liberalism.

In France, Le Pen's campaign took advantage of anger about recent Islamist terrorism and surging inflation to post the best showing of her political career (as a recent Daily episode described). She still did not win — or even get within 15 percentage points — but it would be naïve to imagine that her brand of politics cannot win in the future.

A generation gap

Macron has retained the presidency in large part because of his strength among older voters. "The French electorate has fractured along lines that are largely generational," Stacy Meichtry and Noemie Bisserbe of The Wall Street Journal wrote: In the first round, Macron won the oldest group — those 60 and older. Le Pen won voters between 35 and 59, and Mélenchon, the far left candidate, won those 18 to 34.

"Radical politics in France is not about to fade," Roger said. Le Pen tapped into voters' disappointment about the course of their lives. Mélenchon offered an idealistic vision of a society where the profit motive does not dominate, inequality is reduced and the environment is protected.

"Nobody else was offering young people the chance to dream," Roger said. "They will want to continue to do that."

Related: Jacobin, a socialist publication based in the U.S., argued that Mélenchon "defied the smears — and provided hope for France's left." And The Economist, a pro-market magazine, called Macron's win "a victory for centrist, broadly liberal, pro-European politics" as well as for "tolerance, freedom, respect and the European Union."

More on the election

  • Turnout was the lowest in two decades.
  • "I had no choice": The voters who didn't like Macron but did not want to see a Le Pen presidency.
  • European leaders expressed relief. "We can count on France for five more years," the president of the European Council said.
  • The focus in France now shifts to parliamentary elections in June, which will determine how much leeway Macron has. Le Pen described them last night as "the great legislative electoral battle."

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ARTS AND IDEAS

Dior's fall 2022 men's wear show.Vianney Le Caer/Invision, via Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Fashion's novel trend

In recent years, the worlds of literature and fashion have become more entwined. Dior featured models walking down a runway printed with Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," while Valentino tapped authors like Brit Bennett and David Sedaris to contribute to ad campaigns. Books have become "coveted signifiers of taste and self-expression," Nick Haramis writes in T Magazine, and it's an open secret in Hollywood that book stylists suggest reading material for celebrities and influencers to carry — and be photographed with — in public.

Critics wonder if the books are simply being used as props. But stores like the Strand in New York have long provided services in which they'll fill shelves for clients, celebrity or otherwise, by color, style or subject.

"It could be art and architecture monographs in shades of peach, blue and green, or all leather-bound books for a room with a goth feel," said Jenna Hipp, who puts together libraries for corporate clients and celebrities. "Clients will say to us, 'I want people to think I'm about this. I want people to think I'm about that.'"

For authors, if books have become a version of the latest It Bag, it's good for business. "If you ask any writer, they want to be read, but they also want to keep writing," said Karah Preiss, who runs Belletrist, an online reading community, with the actress Emma Roberts. "The bottom line for publishers is not, 'Did your book get read?' It's, 'Did your book sell?' And famous readers sell books." — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

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Spinach-artichoke lasagna that deviates from grandma's recipe.

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Stream these action flicks, including a Polish gangland film inspired by "A Clockwork Orange."

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Now Time to Play

The pangram from yesterday's Spelling Bee was flipflopped. Here is today's puzzle — or you can play online.

Here's today's Wordle. Here's today's Mini Crossword, and a clue: More strange (five letters).

If you're in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. The Economist spoke with Sam Ezersky about editing The Times's digital puzzles and facing down Spelling Bee fanatics.

"The Daily" is about traffic stop reform. "Sway" features Tina Brown.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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