I agree in part with Jim Wolfreys on this:
Sarkozy came to power on a promise to break with the compromises of previous governments. One apparent measure of his determination to do so was the trenchant language used on immigration. It is this combination of authoritarianism and anti-immigrant rhetoric that has contributed to Sarkozy's undoing at the expense of the FN.
This is largely due to the demagogic nature of racism in the political arena. Since it is based on the myth that immigrants (or ethnic minorities in general, or Muslims) are to blame for unemployment, crime or other aspects of social decay, it has become a self-defeating tool for the government.
Under Sarkozy, unemployment stands at its highest level for a decade, at 10%, and France has one of the worst youth unemployment rates in Europe. Here, the link between racism and authoritarianism is important. The debate over national identity engineered by Sarkozy's UMP has seen Islamophobia reach a new pitch – at one point the party spokesperson compared the burka to a "Mickey Mouse mask".
Yet however shrill the scapegoating of Muslims, it has done nothing to obscure the government's impotence in the face of serious social and economic problems. Moreover, the realisation that Sarkozy is not an enforcer but a rather insecure figure in thrall to wealth and celebrity, has strengthened the claims of Le Pen to be the real authority figure in French politics.
One of Sarkozy's biggest failures is that he has legitimated the arguments of the French far right by using its language and that by not providing results,he has lead a part of the electorate to conclude that they may as well vote for the real dea forl when they were voting for Sarkozy they thought that, contrary to the far right, he would do what he preached since he would have the power to do it.The trouble is that Sarkozy's rhetoric is likely to get tougher. He needs the vote of his right whether it is extreme or not to get reelected. This reality explains why yesterday, in his first public intervention after the Sunday's elections, he put back the Burka/burqa in the center of the political debate, but saying that it was one of his priorities to have the parliament vote a law to ban it.