by system failure
It has become completely normal now for people in the "free" and "democratic" West to vote for the "lesser of two evils". Despite the fact that there is nothing democratic and normal in dirty tactics (which include even internal-party coups) organized by bipartisan dictatorships against real-Leftist candidates, the outcome of this process is now considered the new norm.
That is, a neoliberal (pseudo-Left for the US) candidate against an alt-right candidate, which is definitely a win-win situation for the capitalist elites against the working class in every country.
This ugly show is repeated election cycle after election cycle. The elites produce huge amounts of propaganda energy, through their corporate media, to remove any anti-establishment real threats. In the final round, they leave their most favored neoliberal Cinderella to face an alt-right bad witch.
Bad witch's role is to scary the liberal and the Leftist voters in order to vote massively for the Cinderella. In essence, the elites blackmail the voters by pushing them towards their favorite puppet with the promise that what is left from their civil liberties will remain untouched.
And if the ultra-conservative vote prevails, it makes actually little difference to them. And that's because the alt-right politicians are in many cases even more fanatic advocates of the most aggressive form of capitalism which includes fast-track and massive privatizations, just as the elites want.
In France, Emmanuel Macron plays, once again, the role of Cinderella. And Marine Le Pen plays, once again, the role of bad witch. And this political vicious circle in which the elites entrap the working class (more and more, over and over again), has its origins in a disastrous compromise by the Left with the capitalist Bourgeoisie, after the great movements of 1968, when France became one of the most active and decisive fields of massive uprising.
As David Harvey simply describes it:
When the neoliberal ethic was first being proposed, it was very much being proposed to the generation of 68 and saying to that generation, 'Look, you want individual liberty and freedom. OK, we'll give it to you in this neoliberal form, which is a very political, economic form, and you have to forget other issues, like social justice and the like.' So, it seeped its way into the discourses of much of the Left and this creates a sort of tolerance for some neoliberal practices.
This was the beginning of capitalism's most vicious attack against the working class, as it highlights the beginning of neoliberalism''s ideological domination in the entire West and beyond. And it's also the point of no-return for the Left against which the capitalist elites marked a decisive victory.
Indeed, by the mid 70s, right after the 1968 movements and Nixon's shock, the Left retreated and retired from the idea of a collective struggle.
As Adam Curtis describes in his film, HyperNormalisation:
The extraordinary thing was that no one opposed the bankers. The radicals and the Left wingers who, ten years before, had dreamed of changing America through revolution, did nothing. They had retreated and were living in abandoned buildings in Manhattan. The singer Patti Smith later described the mood of disillusion that had come over them. "I could not identify with the political movements any longer," she said. "All the manic activity in the streets. In trying to join them, I felt overwhelmed by yet another form of bureaucracy." What she was describing was a rise of a new, powerful individualism that could not fit with the idea of collective political action. Instead, Patti Smith and many others became a new kind of individual radical, who watched the decaying city with a cool detachment. They didn't try to change it. They just experienced it.
The openly neoliberal vs alt-right pseudo-dilemma has only replaced the old one, which was the social democracy vs the popular right. This new (more clearly undemocratic than ever) political culture became the new norm. Partly because neoliberalism's tricks couldn't sustain any longer the fragile facade of an ultimately fake prosperity for the working class. And partly because of the eruption of a capitalist civil war between capitalist factions that emerged from the extremely aggressive nature of neoliberlism and financial capitalism in global scale.
Although the French election only confirmed the awful legacy of Left's disastrous compromise and total retreat, Jean-Luc Mélenchon's performance in the first round shows that the real Left can revive and counterattack.
Election demographics indicate that conservatism goes hand in hand with the older generations. Which means that the younger generations already exhibit an increasingly strong desire to resist - through the electoral process, or in the streets - against this new political norm.
And as the establishment behind this norm becomes more authoritarian, day by day, in its struggle to maintain control, (without offering anything to the working class to counterbalance), it is unlikely that these generations will eventually compromise too, as did those back in 1968.