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The current trans-Atlantic view of Europe is one of continental political decline, elegant at best but ominous at worst. Much of the European Union seems threatened by hostile if marginal (or not always so marginal) nationalist parties, above all in two leading nations, France and Britain. These parties attract great attention because of their dramatic character but are hard to take too seriously, given the weight and continuity of the party systems in nearly all of Western Europe.

Most dramatic, because of its disturbing re-enactment of Shakespeare’s “Lear,” is the National Front in France. In the past two weeks this drama has played out in the family of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, with principal roles assumed by the patriarch, his eldest daughter, Marine, and his granddaughter Marion Marechal-Le Pen.

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