This segment originally aired March 14, 2017 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
The transformation of Hayange, France, a former manufacturing town of about 15,000, has been stark. Once a far-left stronghold, residents elected a far-right National Front mayor in 2014, making the town an emblem of France’s growing embrace of populism.
“We can’t take them in anymore,” National Front Mayor Fabien Engeleman said, referring to the wave of mostly Muslim asylum-seekers. “What job are we going to give them? What about housing? We already can’t find work for the French.”
Much like Donald Trump, the National Front party in France has made itself the champion of workers and businessmen frightened by the effects of globalization. And it seems to be working. Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is leading the polls ahead of France’s presidential election.
The perception of Le Pen among liberals in Paris and around the world is of an anti-Muslim, racist bigot. But the French working class, a once ardently far-left voting block, have come to see her as the only candidate committed to curbing immigration and rebuilding the country’s struggling economy.