Ann Althouse poses this question in referring to a NYTimes article: "Should France's policy of not taking account of race, ethnicity, and religion, in light of the recent rioting, make us look more favorably on our own attention to such things?"
I had a different question when I read the article--why the difference in the two democracies? The pattern in the US seems to be that political conflict tends to cause people to build coalitions of interest, trying to attract the last few votes to put them over the top. Perhaps that's at least a major reason why the US and France differ: they are a multiparty parliamentary system while the US is a two party system. In a multiparty system I guess maybe you appeal first to your base, and then negotiate with the leaders of the other parties to attain power.