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Emmanuel Macron – the outside inside man

At age 39, Emmanuel Macron has an opportunity to become the youngest president in French history (and to give Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a run for his money as most charismatic liberal leader.) Courtesy Ministère de l'Economie et des Finances Français

At age 39, Emmanuel Macron has an opportunity to become the youngest president in French history (and to give Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a run for his money as most charismatic liberal leader.) Courtesy Ministère de l'Economie et des Finances Français

Stock markets are up as the world breathes a sigh of relief at the thought that Emmanuel Macron may be the next president of France.

On May 7, he and his En Marche! Party face off against Marine Le Pen and her National Front Party, having been the two top vote-getters in the first round. Basically, he’s the President Barack Obama of this story – indeed, he got a call from Obama wishing him well before the first stage of the French election – and Le Pen is the President Donald J. Trump. So it’s not a foregone conclusion that Macron will win even as many political leaders are rallying their troops around him. (Disparate groups rallied around Hillary Clinton, too.)

But hey, Brexit, Trump, maybe the third time will be the charm. Maybe the supremely rational French – the people who gave us the Enlightenment – will prove to be truly enlightened and elect someone with a calm, logical approach to immigration, refugees, climate, the Middle East, etc. Still, we’re not out of the woods, yet.

Macron is an outside insider or maybe an inside outsider. A banker and economic minister with little political experience, he came from a nonreligious family but chose to become a Roman Catholic when he was 12. He’s also married to a woman 24 years his senior, Brigitte Trogneux, who was his high school drama teacher – which got a rise out of the brilliantly funny John Oliver on his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.” (Macron and Trogneux became an official couple when he turned 18.)

What do Macron’s Catholicism and marriage tell us about him? I think they tell us that he’s an independent thinker. And it’s going to take an independent thinker to buck the current nationalist, isolationist trend, at home and abroad.

Bon chance, Monsieur Macron.