Knowing that Macron went through certain kinds of hell to win his happiness makes it all the more interesting—moving, even—to see him emerging as a powerful champion of the modern family in its many forms. The Sunday before the debate, Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, who co-founded her party, the National Front, delivered a May Day oration in Paris. Of Macron, he roared, “He talks to us about the future, but he doesn’t have children!” Many people have fallen for the notion that Marine’s expulsion of Jean-Marie from the Party, in 2015—he had made the latest in a long series of comments dismissing the Holocaust—was, as the Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote, “a quite costly and dramatic act of political purgation.” Perhaps it was personally difficult, but politically the arrangement is opportune. While technically speaking for himself, Jean-Marie can continue to promulgate the rancid ideas upon which the National Front is built, without the Party having to take responsibility for them. He also continues to promote his daughter’s candidacy. In Paris, speaking of the French nation as “a past from where we come, and without which we would not have existed biologically, physically, morally, or spiritually,” he sought to draw a privileged genealogy for Marine. She was, he said, “a daughter of France,” and, moreover, “une mère de famille.” (She has been divorced twice, has three children, and is in a relationship with the National Front’s vice-president, Louis Aliot.) Macron, in his rendering, was essentially a eunuch. As a knock on Macron’s manhood, the line also called up a ubiquitous rumor, which is that Macron is gay and in a relationship with the head of Radio France, Mathieu Gallet.
Back in February, Macron rather elegantly brushed off the whispers, saying, “If you’re told I lead a double life with Mr. Gallet, it’s because my hologram has escaped.” (One of his opponents, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, had just kicked off his campaign by beaming himself between Lyon and Paris.) But his response to Le Pen’s comment about his childlessness was something more earnest and full-throated, an impassioned rejection of the decrepit social order that limits filiation to a man and his seed. “I sensed in our country an immense fear of the future of the family,” he told a crowd of thirty thousand supporters, as Trogneux smiled in the audience. “Would I be an enemy of the family because mine is a little different, and I claim that totally?” Once the applause died down, he continued, “I heard the National Front’s message this morning. Mr. Le Pen told me, ‘You don’t have the right to talk about the future, because you don’t have children.’ Mr. Le Pen, I have children and grandchildren of the heart. It’s a family that you have to build, it’s a family you have to conquer, a family that doesn’t owe you anything, and that you will never have!”