If you are reading this I already assume you are a nice and intelligent enough person to understand why illiberal hatespeech is damaging to society, that is all I would like to say about that.
You may not have heard about this, but the U.S. just recently had an election. There was a regrettable outcome and some wildcard alt-right nationalist won to the chagrin of many. It’s true, look it up.
In a few days this country will host the next very important election in the Western world and in a month’s time, it will be France’s turn. Also this year, Germany will hold elections and Italy may call elections before the year is out. To put it mildly, this is a very important time for the future of Western democracy and the future of the EU, all of which rests on the people of a few influential nations and how they vote.
I would like to tell you a story about the Tea Party in America and how the Netherlands can avoid a fate like Donald Trump and turn the tide against populist nationalism.
It all started in 2010.
That year some influential people (Koch brothers, Tobacco lobby, and more) helped fund a new right wing type of political movement that was basically Republican, but more populist and more right wing with a focus on the economy, immigration, and all things anti-establishment. Sound familiar?
This was known as the Tea Party, an internal caucus of the Republican party. With a lot of support from these big donors, the Tea Party was able to do very well that election and many incumbent congress people were voted out, in favor of new anti-establishment politicians like Marco Rubio.
This guy, who was mocked endlessly for his ‘incident’ in the middle of a speech after the state of the union last year. Poor guy was thirsty.
In time, the popular Tea Party platform blended with the old Bush era gun-toting, flag-waving, eagle-loving Republican platform and effectively pulled the entire Republican party more to the right than it was before. The Marco Rubio’s and Sarah Palin’s of 2010 opened the door for a politician like Trump in 2016. A man who was laughable as a presidential candidate for decades and was only laughable to some this time around. He is anti-establishment and focuses on immigration, conservative economic reform, and opposing comprehensive healthcare in America. All key elements of that Tea Party 2010 platform.
This tiny political movement from 7 years ago was able to make people change what they considered acceptable and normal in politics. Like manners and being sane.
I don’t think many dutch people ever even had the thought of banning Islam before, what would be the point to even spend time thinking of it?
The mere fact that we even have to talk about this as a politicized issue is concerning, but it has become at least something to refute as the PVV wriggles its way into the political discussion.
What the Tea Party did best was sell a new type of normal, a new type of politician, and to sell people on being concerned with certain issues more than others. That was their real power and we can still feel the effects in America today.
Wilders is not the Dutch Trump.
Geert Wilders is of course very similar to Donald Trump in many ways. But from a political perspective they are at very different points in the history of partisan politics. Wilders will garner around 15% of the vote come the 15th. This is nowhere near the levels of support for Trump even just at the primary stage of the election last year.
Instead, I worry that PVV is going to act more like the Tea Party did and make right-leaning parties lean more to the right. If Wilders’ party grows and is not fought back against, the focus of attention could further turn toward the scaremongering that seems so prevalent with the alt-right. It does not have to be this way though.
A time of change
It can feel like there is an unstoppable movement toward populist nationalism, but it is important to not get caught up in the alt-right’s narrative. The Republicans took the Tea Party too seriously and assimilated many of the Tea Party’s libertarian views into their platform. They let their guard down and the party shifted focus.
Wilders has been slowly affecting the discourse of this country for years but his influence does not have to keep expanding. Every vote for a party that is not PVV will reduce the number of seats they get, if you dislike PVV’s radical right-wing platform, all you have to do is vote for any of the 11-13 other less crazy parties looking to secure seats.
The polls for the 2016 US presidential election proved to be wrong. Not because the polls could not gauge how the country feels, it seems they were right to assume more people disliked trump. The polls were wrong because voter turnout in many states was skewed toward trump supporters more than expected. Clinton supporters were not as strongly motivated to vote and this is how many states unexpectedly fell red. In America we had horrible voter turnout at 55% and this has been cited as a factor in Clinton not securing the electoral college.
Last election only 71% of voting age Nederlanders cast a vote. It is not nearly as bad as our elections, but there is always room for improvement and the more people who vote, the better chance a democracy has at representing the people. I mean what else do you have going on?
15/3/2017 A wonderful opportunity
The multiparty system is not perfect. As with each election there is a chance your party might not be in coalition, but with the crazy restructuring this year, there is also the chance that it might be.
One thing we do know is that when people do not all vote and do not vote for their true interest, elections can end with results that are not indicative of the nations true desires. With this election being so open, there is no reason to feel apathetic or worry about voting for a party more likely for coalition. If anything this is an opportunity to vote freely.
The major parties have all expressed they are unwilling to work with PVV. Since the largest percentage a party will receive is in the teens, that means there are a lot of mid-sized to small parties to choose from that could all possibly enter coalition.
The only reason I do not advise voting for people like Trump, Wilders, Le Pen, and Petry is that you do not know if it will be your last vote. When you vote for illiberal politicians to rule your liberal democracy there is no guarantee you will maintain your freedom to vote, pray, or even travel apparently.
Democracy is not perfect. I agree with Winston Churchill:
“it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…“
That seems about right. What matters is that people use their right and ability to vote to have their voices heard. Do not let a small minority be so loud that they drown out the rest. This is how you get a Trump in a few years time.
With an election as open as this one, there is no reason to be apathetic or vote tactically. This is like having the chance to stop Trump from happening. If apathy and tactical voting makes it seem like the country wants a more right wing agenda, that is what you will get. This is what we got in America and evidence still shows that it is not what we really wanted.
This is certainly a turning point for Dutch politics. Do you want to show that you truly support your party and your democracy, or do yo want to let the illiberal nationalism of some continue to grow and influence others? The choice is yours and the solution is simple, go vote Wednesday!