Picture this: A charismatic non-professional politician taps into citizens’ anger toward their government and sweeps to a stunning electoral victory. As a reward, he is slandered and demonized by curious allies of a frightened political establishment eager to turn attention away from its own clearly revealed unpopularity with the very people it claims to represent.
Donald Trump in 2016? Yes. And now this same carnival appears to be playing out in the Netherlands, where a younger firebrand, 36-year-old Thierry Baudet, has led his not-even two-year-old Forum Democracy Party to stunning success in balloting for the nation’s Senate. The fledgling populist party won 12 seats to tie Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy for the largest number of senators in the Dutch chamber.
‘Undermined By Our Rulers’
Baudet is an intellectual-minded figure who has written several books. A firm believer in the nation-state, he likes to use colorful terms such as oikophobia – fear of one’s own culture – in describing the ruling establishment that he believes is destroying his country. Baudet is staunchly opposed to open-borders immigration and cites Hungary’s Viktor Orban as a “hero” for opposing massive migration into that nation. He is also a frequent critic of climate change, which he sees as a high-dollar swindle.
His victory speech on March 20 notably echoed Trump’s stark descriptions of a network of Swamp elites running the U.S. government with no regard for the American people:
“But like all the other Boreal nations, we are being destroyed by the very people who have been appointed to protect us. We are being undermined by our own universities, our journalists, by those who receive cultural subsidies to produce our art, and even by those who design our buildings. And above all, we are being undermined by our rulers. This is a clique – a small clique of self-important professional bureaucrats, people who have never read a book in their lives and have no clue how to deal with long term-issues – that rules us. Unfortunately, they control our country’s decision-making process, and through a curious mix of cynicism, lack of ability, and self-interest, they manage to make the wrong decision every time. Not for much longer!”
The term “Boreal nations” refers to the countries that inhabit northern Europe. And just as Trump’s “America First” slogan drew ugly comparisons to fascist ghosts from the past, Baudet has been pilloried with accusations of goose-stepping malevolence merely by appealing to a heritage marker for Dutch people. The move would seem a misstep by critics who don’t understand that citizens of countries everywhere today are seeking out unique qualities of cultural identity in an increasingly homogenous globalized world. This was a special spark for Trump in 2016 that our media and political elites still don’t fully understand. Indeed, the attacks on Trump are being repeated against Baudet to such an eerily familiar degree that they appear to come from a playbook in how to fight populist reaction.
Old Manipulations Not Working
In 2016, an American college professor, John McNeill of Georgetown University, asked in the pages of the influential Washington Post newspaper, “How fascist is Donald Trump?” McNeill luridly described what he said were a litany of ways in which Trump could be identified as another Benito Mussolini. But at the end of his diatribe, he stated Trump is merely “an amateurish imitation of the real thing.”
In 2019, the NLTimes, which touts itself as publishing “more news stories daily than any other English news source about the Netherlands,” features a Dutch college professor, Jan Jaap de Ruiter of Tilburg University, expressing his dismay at all the fascist tendencies Baudet has to offer. De Ruiter even highlights Baudet’s “boreal” language as “worrying and threatening.” But at his conclusion, the professor concedes, “I do not believe that Baudet is a fascist and strives for a world as it was in the 1920s and 1930s.”
Two articles in prominent media outlets in two different countries in two separate years both thickly tarring a victorious populist politician with the brownshirt brush and then declaring neither man is, in fact, a fascist. This dated and threadbare tactic did nothing to slow Trump down three years ago, and it should not seriously hinder Baudet today. The ruling nexus of politicians, friendly media organizations and astute-posturing university professors are relying on old strategies to combat first-wave populist opponents while failing to realize that they are dealing with more advanced versions of popular unrest.
An argument could be made that Trump in many ways is the successor to previous manifestations of American anti-establishment political revolt, starting with Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan in the 1990s and including the Tea Party some 10-odd years ago. Thierry Baudet is riding this same trajectory in the Netherlands.
“Baudet is the third stage of the Dutch populist rocket launched by Pim Fortuyn in 2002, further boosted by Geert Wilders and now being sent to the moon by Baudet,” wrote Bert Wagendorp, a columnist for De Volkskrant newspaper, Agence France-Presse reports.
The rooted entity that Donald Trump calls the Swamp and Thierry Baudet label a Dutch Cartel is under siege. Angela Merkel’s political eclipse is finally underway in Germany. Emmanuel Macron has been ceaselessly plagued by the civic unrest of violent Yellow Vest protests in France. Paul Ryan has disappeared from Republican politics, and radical socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is on the rise in the Democratic Party in America.
Whatever the electoral results in the Netherlands say about Thierry Baudet’s particular political positions, they are further proof that the ruling class is on the run throughout the nations of the West. The people of the countries they govern refuse to buy what they are selling any longer. What will a fourth wave of populism bring?