The French are too intellectually vain to borrow others’ political ideas but too interested in style not to appreciate and appropriate that of others. So, on May 7 they might confer their presidency on a Gallic Barack Obama.

In 2008, Obama, a freshman senator, became a national Rorschach test, upon whom Americans projected their longings. Emmanuel Macron, 39, is a former Paris investment banker, untainted by electoral experience, and a virtuoso of vagueness. His platform resembles (as Jonathan Miller described in the Spectator ) “a box of chocolates from one of those upscale confiseries on the Rue Jacob: full of soft centres.” This self-styled centrist is a former minister for the incumbent president, Socialist François Hollande, who in a recent poll enjoyed 4 percent approval. (Last Sunday, the Socialist Party candidate won 6.35 percent of the vote.) Macron calls his movement En Marche!, meaning “on the move,” which is as self-congratulatory and uninformative as Obama’s “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Macron proposes to cure France’s durable stagnation by being ever so nice. Which means, above all, by not being . . . her.

In 1984, when Marine Le Pen’s anti-Semitic and xenophobic father, Jean-Marie, received more than 2 million votes for president, a Paris headline asked: “Are there 2,182,248 Fascists in France?” It was not an unreasonable question, he having advocated uniting all “the forces of the nation in a fasces.” He was pointedly invoking the Roman symbol of power — rods lashed together around an ax handle with the blade protruding — from which fascism took its name. His slogan was cunningly sinister: “My program is what you are thinking.” Meaning: what you flinch from saying about Jews, immigrants and other deplorables.