PARIS -- Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once famously declared: "In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman."
Or perhaps you should ask an independent entrepreneur.
The ultimate man of action, international businessman and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, won the White House on a Thatcher-like platform of restoring free-market economics and returning power to the middle and working classes. Mr.
Mr. Trump won by championing true capitalism. He campaigned against the Wall Street corporatism that has long perverted the capitalist system, and then he went further by advocating cultural restoration and job repatriation -- two issues that weigh heavily on Americans and the entire Western world today but were non-issues in the Thatcher era. Trumpism might be better understood as neo-Thatcherism or neo-Reaganism -- the philosophies of the Iron Lady and the Gipper applied to present-day realities.
In France, former Prime Minister Francois Fillon's victory Sunday in the first round of the center-right Republican Party's primaries has media worldwide describing him as the French Margaret Thatcher. (Apparently, all it takes to be compared to Thatcher in France these days is to be an Anglophile with a British wife.) Fillon will now face Alain Juppe in a second-round runoff on Nov. 27, with the winner advancing to the presidential election in the spring.
One of Thatcher's most important actions was to break the powerful unions that straitjacketed the British economy. Fillon would have to do the same if he hopes to modernize the French economy. The best test of future behavior is past behavior, and Fillon, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2012 under President Nicolas Sarkozy, wasn't able to sell the Sarkozy agenda. Nor was Fillon able to stand up to Sarko when needed, so Fillon's promised reforms fell far short.
The big problem is that the entire system is organized to serve a caste of elites that has replaced the role of royalty in the French Republic. Union leaders are part of that system.
The biggest obstacle to a Trump-style win in France is that the French aren't Americans. Most Americans want the government to stay out of their lives -- to take as little of their paychecks as possible in exchange for as little interference as possible. The French look to their government to provide for them. French workers pay about half of their salaried income to the government, with their companies paying exorbitant payroll taxes on top of that, so it's easy to understand why employees and employers alike have great expectations of government and expect a return on their investment. For the system to change, this cycle has to be broken.
No one in the French presidential race is talking about financial independence from government. No one is vowing to dismantle a deeply flawed system.
A Trump-style victory in France will only be possible with Trump-style courage to smash the system itself. Doing that will require a candidate -- whether it's Fillon, Juppe or far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen -- to first realize that the system itself is the problem and to then convince voters of that, despite inevitable media and establishment backlash.
The French are misconstruing Mr. Trump's victory, viewing it through the prism of the only system they understand. While accurately viewing it as a rejection of globalism, the French wrongly see the election of Mr. Trump as an endorsement of protectionism and isolationism. Mr. Trump merely intends to repatriate offshored manufacturing jobs and negotiate balanced trade agreements. It is indeed possible to be open to trade with the world while prioritizing the interests of your own citizens. The problem is that existing free-trade agreements have created unlevel playing fields. Mr. Trump has explained that when trade agreements are unbalanced, import tariffs are necessary. He's not saying "don't trade."
"Neoliberalism" is a dirty word in Europe. Too many Europeans hold the ridiculous view that free-market economics have failed them, and that the solution is more nanny-state government intervention. The real problem is the perversion of free-market capitalism and basic trade to the benefit of the French ruling class, and to the detriment of middle- and working-class citizens.
If Mr. Trump's economic reforms are successful, his victory will go down in history as the start of a revolution. Revolutions certainly aren't foreign to the French, but it's up to a Trump-style leader to provide a new vision. The French need more than just redecorating; the entire house needs to be bulldozed.
(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host based in Paris. She is the host of the syndicated talk show "UNREDACTED with Rachel Marsden" Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Eastern: http://www.unredactedshow.com. Her website can be found at www.rachelmarsden.com.)